By Nancy Beaulieu
MN350's Northern Minnesota Organizer

Camp Firelight was an 1855 Treaty People Gathering and Prayer Occupation on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi in northern MN – June 8-14, 2021.

It all began with the We Are All Treaty People Gathering held on June 5-8, 2021, an event planned and supported by several grassroots and non-profit organizations, it was a beautiful, inspiring, and empowering gathering. We convened for three days in Waubun, MN. Native culture and treaty knowledge were shared to build understanding and respect for Native communities, treaties and our obligations as treaty partners were also discussed. Countless relationships were inspired & born, it was a beautiful three days.

Immediately following the Treaty People Gathering we, along with Jane Fonda, met at the Mississippi bridge near the LaSalle State Park where we marched, sang, and prayed for the Nibi. Soon after, we followed our hearts and occupied the Line 3 easement in a prayer ceremony. We invited our treaty partners/allies and held space collectively in peace and prayer. We asserted our collective treaty rights along with our right to freedom of religion and together we held space for eight peaceful days. We stopped construction for those eight days, I’m sure Mother Nature thanked us.

Our non-native treaty partners prayed with us and amplified our struggle and gave voice to our story. This story includes all of us, mitakuye owasin which means we are all related. We showed the world what it looks like to honor treaties and to live in peace as neighbors as the treaties intended. We followed our original instructions and became guardians of all that is sacred, we were protectors of the Nibi and keepers of the 1855 Treaty.

What those eight days accomplished…

We controlled the narrative for the eight days, denied Enbridge’s eviction notice with the sheriffs’ support, we also respected the sheriff during our occupation/defiance and held back the Northern Lights Task force twice. We exited under our own terms under the sole jurisdiction of the Clearwater sheriff’s department. Our occupation was in peace as we honored each other and the 1855 Treaty.

Fifty-one water protectors were cited with misdemeanor trespassing, some accepted a stay of adjudication, some cases were dismissed, and some of us are still waiting for dismissals. Asserting Treaties isn’t a crime and should never be tried as one. Treaties are the Supreme Law of the Land, Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution.

We feel hopeful, win or lose, we’ll continue to assert our Treaties, our sovereignty was never ceded.

The Firelight occupation was the beginning of what the new future looks like as treaty partners, a future we can all thrive in. The eight days spent together built everlasting relationships and continued We All Treaty People awareness, our good work continues as we continue to write our story. We hope you join us, we are a community.

The 1855 Firelight Encampment will be forever in my heart, I’ll never forget. Firelight was a loving & caring space I still hold dear to my heart. Miigwech for the courage and solidarity to those who stood with us and/or supported Camp Firelight. We couldn’t have done it without you, when we stand together we don’t stand alone. This is more than a pipeline, Treaties Matter and We Are All Treaty People.