Leech Lake Band opposes Line 3 pipeline through reservation

Band wants to counter misinformation about 'tribal interests' in the pipeline debate

Faron Jackson

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

Recently there has been a lot of misinformation surrounding Tribal interests regarding the Line 3 Public Utilities Commission process. “Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe” and “Tribal interests” are being used interchangeably to fit different agendas.  I would like to set the record straight with our Tribe’s position on the pipeline replacement proposals currently under consideration by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

Leech Lake Reservation is our homeland. The waters and the food provided by the land are the reason our people are here and how we have sustained ourselves spiritually, culturally and economically.  Water ties us together.  We cannot move or replace our Reservation if there is an oil spill disaster. 

Our people have lived with these pipelines running through our lakes and Reservation since the 1950s.  Multiple generations have witnessed how the pipeline companies and governments ignore our interests and continue to pump oil through our lands.  It has come to a point where pipes can no longer be safely put in this corridor.

We respect the Minnesota government and hope they share the sentiment and respect our Tribal Sovereignty when we say loud and clear the position of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe: we want pipelines to end and we will not allow another oil pipeline to be laid in our Reservation.

I am a government official, a father and an Anishinaabe man.  As a government official I am chosen to speak for my fellow Leech Lakers and deal with the ramifications if they don’t agree with me.  As a parent, I am allowed to speak for my Family, make decisions and deal with those consequences. But as an Anishinaabe man, I do not speak for all Anishinaabeg or talk about “Tribal interests” and group all Natives together.  This has been missing from this discussion since it began and is missing from most political discussions altogether.  The Leech Lake Band speaks for itself. Beware of special interests groups who are quick to tell you what the Anishinaabe want. 

There are three proposed options currently under consideration by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission regarding Line 3. The first, “In-Trench Replacement” option, is very risky and not fully vetted in the EIS. In particular, it burdens Leech Lake with two new vast construction projects; one to remove the old line and a second to replace it in the trench. This heavy machinery work would be done in the same 200-foot wide corridor as five other pipelines that would be still pumping light and heavy crude oil at roughly 2,275,000 barrels (95.5 million gallons) per day. Portions of this corridor have pipelines intertwined and crossing over one another, adding to the pollution risk.

The second option (which is supported by some environmental groups) is a “no build” option that would still require Enbridge to conduct an estimated 6,250 integrity digs to evaluate and replace weak portions of the existing pipeline, including six digs per mile across a 42-mile length of the Leech Lake Reservation. Once this “no-build” work is complete, the original Line 3 would be considered a new build and would be allowed to operate at the original volume and pressure, rather than the scaled back volume it currently operates. This “no-build” option would also leave the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Minnesota with the continued risks associated with a line that uses the same technology and materials as the pipeline responsible for the Kalamazoo oil spill disaster in 2010, which is still being cleaned up to this day.

The last option that before the PUC is the “preferred route” option and bypasses the bottlenecks and congestion associated with the current pipeline corridor.  This route would establish a new corridor for Enbridge through Central MN within the 1855 Ceded Territory.  What does this mean for the Leech Lake Band? The 1855 Ceded Territory is important to us.  The Leech Lake Band retains rights, a connection, and an interest in the management of the lands.

The Lake Reservation will always be our home.  Unlike a house, however, we can never rebuild or move if a disaster were to happen. I wish one of these options was truly a “no pipeline option” but that isn’t an outcome of any of these alternatives. Our stance as a Tribal Nation is to take care of the land on which we live, where we make our homes, pass on our teachings, and build new citizens.

Our land, our water, the manoomin (wild rice), and our Tribal Sovereignty are more important than any pipeline. NO LINE 3 THROUGH MANOOMIN STRONGHOLD.

For more information contact: Benjamin Benoit, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Environmental Director    

                                O: 218-335-7400, Benjamin.benoit@llojibwe.org

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