First “Rights of Nature” Enforcement Case Filed in Tribal Court to Enforce Treaty Guarantees

This is a press release from the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights.

Action filed against Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to Stop Diversion of 5 Billion Gallons of Water for Enbridge “Line 3” Pipeline.

WHITE EARTH, Minn. – On August 5, an action was filed in the Tribal Court of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota, by Manoomin (wild rice), the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and several tribal members, to stop the State of Minnesota from allowing the Enbridge corporation to use five billion gallons of water for the construction of the oil pipeline known as “Line 3.”

This is the first case brought in a tribal court to enforce the rights of nature, and the first rights of nature case brought to enforce Treaty guarantees.

In December 2018, the business committee of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe adopted a “rights of manoomin” tribal law, which recognized wild rice as having the rights to exist, flourish, regenerate, and evolve, as well as inherent rights to restoration, recovery, and preservation.

The rights of manoomin law is the first tribal law to recognize legal rights of a plant or animal species.

This action was brought to enforce both the rights of manoomin (pursuant to the tribal law), as well as Treaty rights held by the tribe and tribal members. The Treaty rights, recognized in the 1837, 1854, and 1855 Treaties with the Chippewa and U.S. government, guaranteed the rights of the tribe to gather wild rice and other aquatic plants from public waters on Treaty lands.

Plaintiffs assert that the diversion of 5 billion gallons of water for an oil pipeline will interfere with both the rights of manoomin, as well as the rights of tribal members to use Treaty lands to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice.

Frank Bibeau, lawyer for the plaintiffs, stated, “The State of Minnesota is ignoring its treaty obligations and tribal laws in allowing the Enbridge corporation to take five billion gallons of water for the construction of the pipeline. This action is about upholding manoomin’s right to exist and flourish as established by tribal law, and about Minnesota’s legal obligations pursuant to the Treaties signed with the Chippewa. All we are demanding is that those Treaties be honored, and manoomin recognized as having the sacred status as recognized by tribal law.”

Mari Margil, the Executive Director of the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights (CDER), who assisted with the drafting of the tribal law, explained, “This is the second rights of nature enforcement action filed this year, and the first filed by a tribe seeking to enforce those rights in tribal court. These corporate giveaways that destroy ecosystems and species, and violate Treaties, must stop. It’s time to pull the plug on Line 3 and other pipelines across the country that are a clear and present danger to communities and the planet.”

The action was filed in the White Earth Band of Ojibwe’s Tribal Court, and the complaint will be served on Minnesota officials.

One thought on “First “Rights of Nature” Enforcement Case Filed in Tribal Court to Enforce Treaty Guarantees”

  1. I suggest you read PUryear who reads rights through Schopenhauer.

    “I argue that Schopenhauer’s ascription of (moral) rights to animals flows
    naturally from his distinctive analysis of the concept of a right. In contrast
    to those who regard rights as fundamental and then cast wrongdoing as a
    matter of violating rights, he takes wrong (Unrecht) to be the more
    fundamental notion and defines the concept of a right (Recht) in its terms.
    He then offers an account of wrongdoing which makes it plausible to
    suppose that at least many animals can be wronged and thus, by
    extension, have rights. The result, I argue, is a perspective on the nature
    of moral rights in general, and the idea of animal rights in particular, that
    constitutes an important and plausible alternative to the more familiar
    views advanced by philosophers in recent decades.”

    Inerting rights is the only way we are going to win these. Not trying to assert rights after the damage is done or in the process but BEFORE! I have not gotten any traction in 3 years of doing this. I hope you can as I like your writing.

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