Editor’s Note: Civilization is destructive. It endangers everyone in its quest for development, including vulnerable human communities. We stand in solidarity with all efforts by communities to protect themselves and the natural communities they live in. The following is a press release by Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network International (WECAN). You can find the original statement here.
USA, May 25, 2023 — Today, Indigenous women leaders from the Indigenous Women’s Treaty Alliance, joined by over 150 organizations, representing millions nationwide, submitted a letter to the Biden Administration with an emergency request to decommission Enbridge Line 5 pipeline due to imminent threats of oil spills impacting the Bad River Watershed and the Great Lakes.
Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline was originally built in 1953, and continues to operate nearly 20 years past its engineered lifespan, transporting crude oil through northern Wisconsin, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and under the Straits of Mackinac. The letter to President Biden and representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency follows the advocacy of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa who submitted a court filing in May calling for the shutdown of Line 5 after showing evidence that record snowfalls, and heavy rains and winds have further compromised the integrity of the pipeline.
Due to recent flooding, erosion of a local riverbank has led to Line 5’s centerline to be within 11 feet or less of the river waters, creating an immediate threat. The letter notes that erosion from receding waters or the next rainfall could cause a “guillotine rupture” – a vertical break causing oil to gush from both sides, poisoning the Bad River watershed and Lake Superior, impacting the Great Lakes region which holds one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water, and provides drinking water for 40 million people in North America.
The letter points to the significant harms an oil spill would have on waterways, ecosystems, wild rice beds, and clarifies how it directly undermines Indigenous rights and Indigenous Sovereignty:
“Imminent pipeline ruptures at the Bad River in Wisconsin and into the Straits of Mackinac threaten our drinking water, fisheries, manoomin and cultural survival…Our sovereignty and treaty-protected rights to hunt, fish, and gather food and medicine are all at risk.”
Already, Line 5 has spilled over 30 times, dumping more than a million gallons of oil. Independent consultants have estimated clean-up costs for a crude oil spill in the Great Lakes at $1.878 billion.
The signatories urge President Biden to revoke the Presidential Permit and force Enbridge to cease Line 5’s operations, pointing to the Administration’s climate directives and goals.
The letter comes from Indigenous women who are advocating to stop Line 5, and is endorsed by local and national groups representing Indigenous groups, environmental organizations, faith groups, and more. Please see quotes from the initiating signatories of the letter below:
Aurora Conley, Bad River Ojibwe, Anishinaabe Environmental Protection Alliance:
“As a Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe member, I am calling on the Biden Administration to shut down Line 5 immediately. Our territories and water are in imminent danger, and we do not want to see irreversible damage to our land, water, and wild rice. We do not want our lifeways destroyed. The Ojibwe people are here in Bad River because of the wild rice. A rupture from this oil spill will irreversibly harm the Great Lakes and wild rice beds. This is unacceptable. We will not stand for this. Shut down Line 5 now.”
Jannan J. Cornstalk, Citizen of Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and Director of the Water is Life Festival:
“Our very lifeways and cultures hang in the balance as Line 5 continues to operate illegally in Indigenous territories and water. These are our lifeways– when that water is healthy enough that rice is growing– that not only benefits our communities, but that benefits everybody up and down stream. Allowing Line 5 to continue to operate is cultural genocide, and the Biden Administration must listen and shut down Line 5. That water is our relative, and we will do whatever it takes to protect our water, our sacred relative.”
Jaime Arsenault, White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer:
“We are urging the Biden Administration to revoke its Presidential Permit and shut down Line 5. We saw a multitude of preventable environmental tragedies occur in Minnesota with the destruction brought by Line 3. As a result – wild rice, watersheds, traditional lifeways and the wellbeing of Indigenous communities are still under constant threat. Right now, the Biden Administration has the opportunity to protect waterways, rice watersheds and lands threatened by a rupture of Line 5. Honor the treaties and the leadership of Tribes, and shut down Line 5.”
Rene Ann Goodrich, Bad River Tribal Elder, Native Lives Matter Coalition and Wisconsin Department of Justice MMIW Task Force Member:
“Line 5 crosses over tribal treaty territory and one of those ceded territories is my own reservation of Bad River. So the age of the pipeline, the danger that it brings to the environment is our biggest concern here. We have that need, we have that responsibility, we have that duty to protect our life givers. Our life givers are the earth, the aquifers underneath the earth, the women that are sacred water carriers, and water itself that brings life. As sacred water carriers we stand with the water, and urge the Biden Administration to take action and shut down Line 5 immediately.”
Carrie Chesnik, Oneida Nation Wisconsin, Founder of the Treaty Land Trust:
“We have an opportunity here to shut down the Line 5 pipeline, and protect what we all hold dear. We all have the responsibility and agency to act in a good way, to care for the land and waters. What our communities have known for a long time is that the water is hurting, Mother Earth is hurting, and pretty soon we won’t have clean water for our kids, for future generations. As a Haudenosunee woman, an auntie, daughter, and sister, I have an inherent responsibility to the water and our children. Every single one of us has agency and a responsibility to take action, honor the treaties, and protect Mother Earth. It is the time to be brave and courageous.”
Gaagigeyaashiik – Dawn Goodwin, Gaawaabaabiganigaag, White Earth-Ojibwe, Co-founder of R.I.S.E. Coalition, Representative of Indigenous Environmental Network:
“As a member of the Wolf Clan I have an inherent responsibility to protect the environment and the people. I want us to imagine a world where we are working as one team as we should be working together. The government has failed to protect the water in the past, yet there is an opportunity now to protect the water before irreparable damage occurs. Our treaties are being ignored and yet, treaties are the SUPREME LAW of the land. It is time to honor and respect the treaties as the supreme law of the land, as they were written and intended, and to listen to Tribes and Indigenous leaders calling for an immediate shut down to the Line 5 pipeline. We are the women of the Indigenous Women’s Treaty Alliance calling upon you to rise and to protect all that is sacred – shut down Line 5!”
Nookomis Debra Topping, Nagajiiwanong, 1854 Treaty Fond du Lac, Co-founder of R.I.S.E. Coalition:
“Nibi (water) is sacred, Manoomin is sacred, that is our life blood, that is us, that is why we are here. We will not allow any further destruction to our sacred ecosystems and water. Everyday the threat increases, allowing Canadian Corporation Enbridge’s Line 5 to continue operating is genocide! We’ve followed every process, Tribes and the Governor of Michigan have called for a shut down of Line 5. The science is there, the evidence is there. Deny Enbridge any further allowance to destroy Mama Aki (Earth), and shut down Line 5.”
Since 2022, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) has been honored to facilitate the Indigenous Women’s Treaty Alliance. In response to the call for action, Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) stated: “The Bad River Band continues to sound the alarm, and the Biden administration must listen and immediately shut down Line 5. The imminent danger of a rupture to Line 5 due to increased erosion on the Bad River threatens Indigenous Peoples existence and rights, biodiverse ecosystems, and the Great Lakes, which holds one-fifth of the world’s freshwater. The Administration has the necessary tools to cease operations, and must take action before it’s too late. The Great Lakes and local communities cannot be the next sacrifice zone.”