By Kathleen Cairns

I wanted to go to the Treaty People’s Gathering because tribal leaders asked us to come. The water protectors, many of whom are Anishinaabe women, wanted our help to stop construction of Enbridge’s tar sands Line 3 pipeline through treaty land and the Mississippi headwaters. All of us have a job to do to preserve Mother Earth.

The farm where the Treaty Protectors Camp was set up on the White Earth Reservation was most often used for music concerts. The first thing I noticed was all the dragonflies. There were no mosquitos because of the dragonflies.

Training for action began on Sunday with a history lesson on treaty rights. Original agreements have been mostly violated in one way or another. “What good is a right to fish if you can’t eat the fish?” We learned songs; we learned about our legal rights. We practiced a scenario of action and chose the level of risk we were willing to take. We formed affinity groups. (Mine was mostly members of 350 Madison.) The many of us, over 1,000 persons, got hot, sweaty and dusty and drank lots of water.

Monday, the day of action, was long; mine began at 4:45 a.m. I was a driver for those who would get arrested. We did not know each next step until it was necessary, requiring our trust and commitment to each other. We were anxious. Those in my car ran off quickly down the road to the main site while I waited for hours in the hot, dusty car. I got a ticket from the county police for being in a “turn lane” onto a small road. A Homeland Security helicopter flew at tree level warning everyone to leave and kicking up lots more dust. Those in my car never came back, of course. After 4:00 p.m. police cars and a police bus arrived, and I left to drive back to camp. A severe thunderstorm in the night flattened some of the tents at the camp.

The next morning, we found out who had been arrested, who was still in jail, and what the bigger picture of the action looked like. Some people stayed to provide support as people were released from jail while some went to continue occupying the construction site. I left for home with a new love for this beautiful boreal forest, the lakes, and these people. It was a hard, but precious experience.

[Photo: Ron Turney for Indigenous Environmental Network]