By Jay Lieberman
MN350 Communications Volunteer

Last month, at the invitation of Minnesota Indigenous leaders, my wife and I attended the Treaty People Gathering (TPG) on the White Earth Reservation. We spent three days learning, singing, praying, practicing, and then protesting against Line 3. It was a remarkable experience.

The first full day at the TPG was busy. First, we learned about treaties, the binding formal agreements that are critical in the fight for Indigenous rights and climate justice. Next, we learned about the treaties that the Anishinaabe people signed with the US government and the government’s violation of those treaties. We learned new songs about the struggle to stop Line 3, including one in Ojibway thanking Nibi, the water. We were trained in our legal rights and what to do if we were arrested. Indigenous elders led us in prayers that gave thanks for the beautiful land, water, and creatures it’s our responsibility to protect.

Treaty People Gathering. Image: Native News Online.

During the afternoon, we were asked to think deeply about how our commitment to stopping Line 3 would translate into action: Were we ready to risk arrest, or would we prefer to play a supporting role? Once we decided on our roles, we practiced our actions for the following day.

The 2,000 activists at the TPG included Native Americans from a number of tribes, as well as non-Indigenous organizers from all across the US and as far as Chile. Standing in line for meals, I talked with many veterans of the battle against Line 3 who were very excited to be in Minnesota, supporting our Indigenous relatives by directly confronting Line 3 construction, some of them for the first time.

The next day, we drove out to the Mississippi headwaters in a mile-long car caravan. At the action site next to the river, Anishinaabe elders conducted a water ceremony and elders, water protectors, and noted activists like Bill McKibben and Jane Fonda spoke about the importance of the battle against Line 3. Then we moved into action, one team chalking a big message to the world on a bridge across the Mississippi headwaters and another setting up a prayer camp on an Enbridge easement where a huge drill is scheduled to tunnel under the Mississippi River. At a separate site, water protectors shut down construction for two days at a pumping plant by bravely locking themselves down to equipment, fences, and a boat they used to block access to the site.

Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, I was taught that nature could provide an endless supply of whatever we needed for our “modern standard of living.” I’m sorry to say that I believed that for far too long. Now I believe the land, the water, and all living creatures are sacred, and fighting to protect them is the only way we’ll build a livable future. During my three days at TPG, I had the honor of talking, learning, and taking action with thousands of people who also believe that to be true.

The battle against Line 3 continues all across northern Minnesota. I urge everyone who can to go to the frontlines, view all that Enbridge’s greed could destroy, and then stand shoulder to shoulder with our Indigenous relatives in their fight to protect the sacred.

Learn more about MN350’s Stop Line 3 campaign.

Jay Lieberman is a retired Agile software development coach. He likes vegetable gardening and volunteering in media relations for MN350.