From the Frontlines

Enbridge: Profits Over People

Water Protectors: People Over Pipelines

Biden: Profits Over People

By Leanne Grossman, chair, board of directors, Crude Accountability

On May 26, 2021, I returned from a trip to northern Minnesota where the Mississippi River glistens along bright green forest corridors running through the state. Indigenous women, young and old, are leading the struggle against the Line 3 pipeline that would bring a million barrels of tar sands a day from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. The proposed pipeline route crosses pristine wetlands, the land of the Anishinaabe people, and traverses the Mississippi headwaters to Lake Superior.[1] Water Protectors are fighting the project again now that the rivers and lakes are ice-free, and renewed pipeline construction threatens their vital watersheds. The People’s Treaty Gathering in Minnesota on June 5-8, 2021 drew together the Anishinaabe people and allied tribes and environmental groups to stand against Enbridge Corporation’s largest oil transit project ever. Over 200 tribes and groups have already endorsed the actions of the water protectors.

Image shows members of 1000 Grandmothers and Lakota and Ojibwe women holding signs outside of the Governor's mansion.
Members of 1000 Grandmothers for Future Generations join Lakota and Ojibwe women in protesting how the pipeline could affect their grandchildren’s well-being in front of the Governor’s Mansion. Photo credit: Peg Hunter.

For people who rely on the Mississippi River and surrounding forests for growing wild rice, fishing, and living sustainably on the Earth, this is an issue of Indigenous survival. It is not a symbolic fight, but the real thing. Will greedy colonization and broken treaties win out over Indigenous rights and livelihoods as has happened for hundreds of years in the United States, or will indigenous wisdom, treaty guarantees, and sovereignty prevail?

Enbridge says this is replacement pipeline, but don’t be fooled. 50% of the project is brand new pipe, which will be laid along a new route, crossing the Mississippi in 22 places. It will produce 193 million tons of CO2eq (greenhouse gas emissions).[2]

Enbridge is still cleaning up a major oil spill it caused 11 years ago in Alberta, Canada and another in the US. Enbridge says the company has provided jobs to several hundred native people. Indeed, it has, but when a corporation takes away a community’s traditional livelihood by polluting its waterways with leaky crude tar sands oil, those people must still feed their families. Nonetheless, many Ojibwe tribes stand unequivocally against the pipeline, including younger Ojibwe, who are on the front lines along with elders.

On this trip, Lakota grandmothers offered their wisdom to Fond du Lac members at Camp Migizi, most of whom are two-spirited. Being persecuted in multiple ways, they are able to astutely explain the interconnection of the economy, patriarchy, and Indigenous rights. They challenge the company daily, as do tribes in other camps where pipes are already being installed under the great Mississippi.

Image shows woman holding a sign that says "Listen to your grandma! Water is life."
Photo credit: Peg Hunter.

Some tie themselves to excavators; others urge the massive security forces not to use their weapons and to look inside themselves for their own humanity. In fact, four grandmothers showed up at one of the sites with four large mirrors to force the police and sheriffs to really take a look at themselves. These government forces are being paid and trained by Enbridge to the tune of $750,000!

On June 21, 2021, sheriffs entered the area on the river across from Welcome Camp where women water protectors sleep in tents at night. Law enforcement appears at odd hours and remains at the camp, which is a form of harassment and a potentially more serious threat. Similarly, in the Palisade camp, sheriffs are entering and patrolling now.

On June 24, 2021, Biden showed his true colors as a president who will stand with massive corporations against the people. He sided with Enbright, allowing the pipeline construction to go forward despite the fact that Enbridge has increased its water needs for this massive project from 500 million barrels of water to 10 billion barrels, and Enbridge spilled one million barrels of thick crude oil in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, which have still not been totally cleaned up. Crude oil sinks to the bottom of a waterbed making it considerably more difficult to capture. Line 3 will transport heavy tar sands crude oil.

One of 1000 Grandmothers who remains in Minnesota sent this by email following Biden’s decision:

“I am holding space. . . at the Welcome water protectors camp. . . .  Small bore drilling is going on under the lodge with constant floodlights at night and generators and construction noise nonstop. We can feel the ground shaking under us. Cops present off and on all the time.  Yesterday plain clothes cops with K9s [police dogs] showed up. So far minimal arrests here but unnerving to wake up with cops outside my tent.”

I do not know what next steps will be, but we know hundreds of people were arrested over the last couple of weeks, and native tribes need defense funds, so please donate directly to the lead organizer, Honor the Earth.

Crude Accountability stands with Water Protectors everywhere! Stop Line 3!

Note: Leanne visited Minnesota with the group 1000 Grandmothers for Future Generations.


[1], accessed June 23, 2021.

[2] Oil Change International,, accessed June 23, 2021.