A large group gathered at Women’s Club in Minneapolis Saturday, February 25, to laud the advocacy of hundreds of people who are protecting water rights, treaty rights, wild rice, land restoration, the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence, as well as legislators who are creating policy on behalf of Indigenous needs.
Taysha Martineau, founder of Camp Migizi — which worked to protect waterways from the Line 3 oil pipeline — was one of many speakers, and touched on an aspect of shifting cultural norms that Minnesota Women’s Press and Changemakers Alliance are focused on: defusing patriarchal violence, in an inclusive way.
“Choosing to fight against Line 3 was one of the hardest choices of my life. I knew I had to arm myself with the knowledge and ability to protect my children,” Martineau said. “Women make the movement. Women such as Mysti Babineau and Mary Kunesh helped me realize the dangers of [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women] MMIW and continue to do the work to draw awareness and ensure that the fights we have on the frontline are brought into places where legislation can be made to make us safer.”
She noted that activists and advocates are creating an Indigenous-led domestic abuse intervention program.
Former Enbridge employee Jason Goward said: “Being a man isn’t the toxic norm we are taught by colonized society. … As a pipeline contractor I was celebrated. As a water protector, I was shunned. But nothing came close to the pain of the women of the Line 3 fight who endured miscarriages, abuse, and even death threats. I am proud to be a warrior who placed my body on the line for the elders and the mothers and the treaties. I owe it to future generations to learn from my mistakes.”
Goward added: “I learned that by helping others I can heal myself. [I chose] to heal, uplift the generations that came before me — including my mother who survived boarding schools — and recognize that the land is sacred. Water and women are one and the same. They deserve our love and protection.”
One of the elders — a non-Indigenous woman from Milwaukee — who was injured by law enforcement during the resistance to pipelines was Jill Ferguson.
She said: “You don’t have to have been on the front lines. You don’t have to have been injured. If you were there one day, a weekend, a month — we all have untreated [post-traumatic stress disorder] PTSD. Not just me because I was injured, but all of us because we saw what happened to our Mother Earth, to our sacred waters. When you feel the earth tremble, you have PTSD. When you leave camp and go home, and you walk through your front door, it’s not home anymore. You left home back at camp. You left your family at that camp. I want everybody who was a water protector … to be gentle to yourself.”
Ferguson added: “You come home depressed. You feel hopeless. So the next thing I want to say is, this shit isn’t over.”
A mother from the Little Earth community in Minneapolis talked about the resistance they have built to the teardown of the nearby Roof Depot, which threatens to release arsenic into “our farm, our soil, our water, and where we raise our children. It’s also going to affect us if they put the parking ramp up that the city wants. That will bring in [hundreds of] large diesel vehicles. The city is trying to say their plan will not affect us. We have lost children from asthma attacks and from mysterious heart conditions. My granddaughter is three years old and she suffers from asthma. That’s how I became involved.”
Senator Mary Kunesh spoke about the importance of recognizing “the full circle of not only the lands that we live on, but the generations that came before us, and the historic trauma that they endured. We are here today, the remnants of our ancestors, doing the work that they weren’t able to do for so long.”
Kunesh reminded people in the audience about the hearings by the Public Utilities Commission years ago, when “women like Misty Babineau and others talked about the fears they had at bringing all these men [pipeline workers] into their communities [which has a history of increasing murders and abuse of local women]. They were laughed at, they were sneered at, they were humiliated and put into tears. And lo and behold, a few years later, exactly what they said happened. We can’t let that happen anymore.”
Winona LaDuke introduced her new co-executive director, Krystal Two Bulls, who will be taking more nationwide action with Honor the Earth initiatives, including supporting the new green economy. She said the event was hosted to celebrate the people who have supported oil pipeline resistance through local waters.
“People came out day after day, people provided us food. A lot of people took a lot of arrests. A lot of people were really traumatized, as I was, by what the state of Minnesota did to us, and what Enbridge did to us, and I just want to say I don’t forget. I just want their pipelines out. Here we are at the end of the fossil fuel era, and 75 percent of the tar sands are coming into the country with a bunch of dirty pipelines. All the assets are in Canada, and all the liabilities are here. That’s not smart. That’s not smart for Minnesota, not smart for Wisconsin or Michigan. We’re just saying no.”