Braving frigid temperatures and intense snowfall, a group of Red Lake Nation tribal members are now on their seventh day of a blockade of an Enbridge oil pipeline, which they say passes illegally through their sacred tribal land in northern Minnesota.
The occupation utilizes a pipeline safety law which states that if a person or thing remains situated above a pipeline for over 72 hours the pipeline must be shut off. The protesters hope that the demonstration will slow down the production of tar sands in Canada.
The encampment began on February 28th, with the 72 hour mark passing days ago. Though Enbridge has not yet "stopped the flow," Cobenais said in an email, the group "continues to stand the line."
“If you had a house and someone came squatting in your house, how would you feel about that?” said group spokesman Marty Cobenais of the Indigenous Environmental Network. He said the pipelines stretch under about 8½ acres of reservation land.
Enbridge Energy LP purchased these oil pipelines from Lakehead Pipeline, who originally built these pipelines in 1949 on Red Lake land without obtaining the permission of the Red Lake sovereign nation. According to Cobenais, Enbridge still does not have permission to have these pipelines.
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Nizhawendaamin Indaakiminaan, a group of grassroots Red Lake tribal members, allies and supporters have erected a traditional camp amidst the snowbanks above the Enbridge pipeline throughway. According to Tessa McLean from the Honor The Earth blog, the blockaders are residing in traditional teepees with a sacred fire burning around the clock.
Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. told reporter John Hageman, from the Bemidji Pioneer, that "the Red Lake band has known about this trespass for many years."
"We have had talks with Enbridge but nothing meaningful came of those talks," he said, "so the Red Lake band ordered them to vacate tribal lands and move their lines," to no avail.