There is a battle brewing in the woods of northern Minnesota.
Over sixty years ago, a greedy oil corporation buried multiple petroleum pipelines under land belonging to the sovereign Red Lake Indian Nation without obtaining permission. This was a blatant violation of law and of the sovereignty of the Red Lake band of Ojibwe people. Colonialism takes on many forms, and in this case, it was a filthy corporation: Enbridge Inc.
The people of Red Lake are standing up and demanding that Enbridge terminate the pipelines and remove them from their land. These pipelines are a mere three feet below the surface and since negotiating with these eco-criminals hasn’t borne fruit, members of this northern Minnesota reservation have decided on direct action. As of six days ago, a group of indigenous folks and allies have set up a camp directly above the pipelines, complete with a tepee and a sacred fire that has been burning continuously for over five days.
I never thought that I would say the words protest and chopper in the same sentence. On our first day at the camp site, an Enbridge-contracted helicopter flew over and then landed on the site. It was retrofitted with a camera. We were also instructed by Red Lake Police that we weren’t allowed to have open fires or vehicles over the pipelines. But this is a direct action and the police aren’t going to dampen the resolve of the community.
There is a small media team comprised of veteran activists that is always on site ready for documentation. Also present at all times are members of this sovereign native nation, as well as other supporters.
I have seldom experienced the outpouring of love and support that I have seen here. Indigenous people from different reservations have been stopping by to talk, share stories by the sacred fire, donate wood to keep us warm and feed us delicious meals. I am learning to survive in frigid temperatures. One night it dropped to minus seven degrees!
Because of all the positive energy flowing into the encampment, most of us have had spiritual experiences. From seeing faces in the sacred fire and feeling the sense of an ever present being in the woods, to breaking down during a pipe-smoking ceremony and being welcomed on the first day by an eagle circling overhead. No matter what, these experiences have strengthened my resolve to continue fighting with oppressed people everywhere and to document all I can to help publicize that which the mainstream media won’t.
An elder remarked on our first day there that once a long time ago many natives stood up for their struggle and were joined by a group that dressed in all black and said that they were there to support the native people. When asked who they were, they simply said, “We are anarchists.”