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Line 3 Resistance and Why Student Involvement Matters

Truthfully, if you told me you hadn’t heard about the recent developments surrounding Line 3, I wouldn’t be surprised. Few major publications have written anything about the projected start date of oil flow or the indigenous-led resistance on ground since around June of 2021.

The lack of reporting from major news giants confirms an unfortunate reality: reporters have mostly given up on Line 3 resistance and are leaving indigenous people and other water protectors to carry the burden of protecting our earth and demanding treaty compliance from the United States government. 

If you’re unfamiliar with Line 3, allow me to provide a briefing.

Line 3 was first proposed by Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline company, in 2014. Enbridge has a history of being responsible for the most significant inland oil spill in history back in 1991, thrusting 1.7 million gallons of crude oil into the Prairie River. Between 1999 and 2010, the Polaris Institute determined (using Enbridge’s data) there have been over 800 Enbridge spills resulting in the release of roughly 5 million gallons of hydrocarbons into the environment

Line 3 was first established in the 1960s, and Enbridge filed for a certificate of need and a route permit in 2015 for their Line 3 Replacement Project. Only 300 miles away from Standing Rock, Line 3 runs directly through the treaty territory of the Anishinaabe peoples in Minnesota. Since its replacement proposal, Anishinaabe peoples, local citizens, and water protectors from across the United States have been on the ground and at community meetings protesting Line 3 on the premise that it breaks treaty promises and is unnecessary and detrimental to the surrounding environment. ​​

Resist Line 3 speaks on the negative impact of Line 3 best. They say,“All pipelines spill. Line 3 isn’t about safe transportation of a necessary product, it’s about expansion of a dying tar sands industry. Line 3 would contribute more to climate change than Minnesota’s entire economy. Minnesota’s own Department of Commerce found our local market does not need Line 3 oil. We need to decommission the old Line 3 and justly transition to a renewable, sustainable economy. Line 3 would violate the treaty rights of Anishinaabe peoples and nations in its path — wild rice is a centerpiece of Anishinaabe culture, it grows in numerous watersheds Line 3 seeks to cross. It’s well-past time to end the legacy of theft from and destruction of indigenous peoples and territories.  

The climate effects of Line 3 are enormous — Line 3 will carry enough oil to produce about 170 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide each year, equivalent to about 50 coal power plants, or 38 million vehicles on our roads.

After 7 long years of protests and community hearings, it was announced that Line 3 would become fully operational on Friday, October 1st, 2021. The fight to protect the water and stop Line 3 hasn’t and won’t stop, but those who have been fighting for years are mourning the recent developments. 

With the start of Line 3 and Indigenous Peoples’ Day approaching on Monday, October 11th, it’s high time that students at Barnumbia think about how to contribute to indigenous led movements, like that of Resist Line 3, all the way from New York City. I had the opportunity to speak with Maya Stovall (any pronouns), a student organizer from Carleton College in Minnesota, who spent the summer living on the frontlines and protesting. 

I asked Maya, “What, in your opinion, is the best way for non-indigenous students to respectfully and consciously become involved or help organize in indigenous-led movements, like that of Line 3”?

They said, “I think doing the work to learn about colonization and [how] to decolonize and learn[ing] about [granting] land back [to its original inhabitants] is so important… [when existing in indigenous spaces it is] also [important to learn to be an] accomplice instead of an ally. An accomplice being somebody who shows up and helps in substantial ways. You don’t just show up and hold a sign then leave when it’s inconvenient for you to be there. You actually have to maybe put your body on the line and get arrested or… actually just invest in camp and invest in cooking a lot for people or doing security. Building up camp and building infrastructure, doing labor that people who live at the camp (especially indigenous people) don’t have the energy for since they spend a lot of emotional and physical labor holding down the frontlines and being faces of the movement. Just putting in the hard work in the way that is requested by BIPOC and indigenous leaders is super, super important. There are asks from indigenous leadership like working to stop the money to pipeline campaigns. If you have money and resources send that to camp because camp needs it. Showing up in ways that are requested by frontline people, people who are most harmed by state violence, by the climate crisis, is very important and doing the work within yourself to educate yourself and learn about your ancestry is very important as well.”

When asked if there was anything they wanted to relay to students who are passionate about helping in whatever ways they can they said, 

“I would just say to anyone super passionate about helping out (or not super passionate about helping out) that, we look around and [acknowledge that] the climate crisis is really upon us… like in Minnesota there were wildfires up in the boundary waters and Minnesota is supposed to be really water secure and there wasn’t enough water this summer and that’s really scary. There are wildfires in the west and hurricanes in the southeast, and our planet is not doing too well and a lot of that is because of settler colonialism and the fact that we extract from this land and treat land as a commodity and something to be abused and made money off of instead of respected and lived in balance with. Indigenous people know how to live in balance with the land, they know how to care for it and look after it. If we’re going to fight the climate crisis, indigenous sovereignty, land back, and solidarity is so so so important and we have to show up for each other across class and color, have to show up to the frontlines, and have to throw down in our communities whenever we can because it’s crunch time and everything that we can save is worth saving.” 

So what could this look like for students at Columbia and Barnard who want to take action but can’t make it out to the frontlines? 

Maya gave a pretty simple answer, “Showing up [to protest in front of] politicians and telling them to denounce Line 3 or showing up to banks like Wells Fargo or Chase and telling them to stop investing in Line 3 are very doable and productive things… There’s also support that folks can do [through] fundraising” like hosting a bake sale or sticker sale and sending money directly to the frontlines. 

The recent news and lack of reporting can be incredibly discouraging, but that’s why it’s so important to choose to follow and listen to indigenous-led movements and leaders and truly take action when it is asked and how it is asked. Also, however you choose to act shouldn’t stop after Indigenous Peoples’ Day ends or after the upcoming American Indian Heritage Month (November). Climate justice (or rather injustice) has affected and will continue to affect us all. True collective action is the only way to protect our futures and our planet’s. 

Genevieve Cabadas

Columbia Barnard '24

I am a sophomore at Barnard double majoring in Sustainability and Human Rights and minoring in Philosophy. I'm passionate about the intersections of human rights and law both within the United States and abroad. Outside of class, you can find me in a bookstore or at the nearest farmers market buying sourdough bread. I'm also a vegan and love cooking, so finding new recipes and places around NYC to eat is a must.
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