Reflections From the Frontline: Solidarity with the Indigenous Movement to Stop Line 3

Two weeks ago I followed the call of the Giniw Collective, an Indigenous and two-spirit led camp on Anishinaabe land, to join the frontline resistance to the patriarchal violence of constructing yet another pipeline on Indigenous land. Crossing under 22 rivers and 200 bodies of water, the construction of Line 3 by Enbridge, a Canadian multinational corporation, is nearing completion, causing so much damage to the land and water, all for a dying tar sands industry.

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Over the past three years more than 700 people have been arrested for taking action as ceremony, for putting their bodies on the line, for locking themselves to machines to stop the construction of Line 3. These actions have made it clear that when you put your body between the land and the machinery, the violence lands on you. Tara Houska, member of the Couchiching First Nation and a founder of the Giniw collective says, “Standing with life requires us to be strong and brave. We aren’t going to stop the climate crisis comfortably. People should educate themselves not only about the issue, but what we can do about it. Recognize that when we engage in personal sacrifice, we are sending an incredibly powerful statement, not just to the decision-makers, but to each other. We’re saying that we’re willing to stand with the earth, and to stand up for someone who hasn’t been born yet.” On the day of our action when 10 of us were arrested, the police, paid by Enbridge, used “pain compliance” on people locking down—a form of torture that applies great force on extremly sensitive pressure points on people’s nose, arms and necks, designed to force them to give up their commitment to protect the water and the Earth from further pillage. They continue to use these techniques on other Water Protectors. 

In jail my comrades and I experienced the dehumanization of being strip searched, surrounded by concrete, locked down in individual cells. I was separated from the women in our block who, when they found out we were water protectors, held up fists of solidarity and shouted “we love you” through the tiny door windows. My solidarity deepened with so many Indigenous, Black, POC and poor folks held in the grip of the brutal prison industrial complex. Our trans comrades were kept in solitary per jail policy. Our collective bail was set at $70,000. Leaving the jail, we embraced each other in tears and saw the damage of police violence that left some of our loved ones with half their faces paralyzed. 

As the struggle to stop Line 3 continues, the repression has only worsened. Indigenous leaders have been maced in the face, violently thrown to the ground, hit multiple times with rubber bullets. Over 80 folks now face felony charges for non-violent actions, and the bail amounts keep increasing by thousands of dollars. 

Back on Ohlone land, my daughter’s elementary school teacher has to choose daily between having the kids outside to protect them from COVID or inside to protect them from toxic wildfire smoke. So many forests all around us are burning and it’s only August, with predictions of fires lasting through December. Holed up in my house with the air filter blaring, Corrina Gould, local Ohlone elder calls out over Zoom for rematriation, Indigenous women-led work to restore sacred relations between Indigenous people and their ancestral land, honoring matrilineal lineages as a way of tending to the land, in opposition to patriarchal violence.  Living amongst the smoke and pandemic, manifestations of living out of balance, these efforts give such hope. Here the West Berkeley shellmound is under immediate threat and will be a critical fight for us all.

The need for healing is everywhere. To rebuild the fabric that holds all of us together in care and wholeness. I’m often overwhelmed by my own limits and the amount of work that lays before us. But in every community there are places we can easily intervene. White folks need to move the resources our settler ancestors gained from pillage and exploitation back to those who can teach us how to live in right relationship with the land. Not as charity, not even as reparations alone, but in recognition of our stake in the creation of the livable future for all our babies and their babies.

Spending just two weeks at Line 3, I saw a glimpse of the world we want: so many land defenders committed to go beyond what’s needed and engage in care deeper than what’s required, and two-spirit and trans leadership redefining gender where patriarchy can find no root. Surrounded by love, so much can heal. Let’s find our strength to stand up to power, stop participating in the forces of destruction surrounding us, put our bodies on the frontlines, and trust in our collective ability to fumble awkwardly and compassionately toward healing and a return to right relationship with the Earth.  Protect the Sacred. Defend Life. It has begun.

Here are ways you can learn more and take action to support the struggle at Line 3: