WASHINGTON – Newly elected legislators from Rochester, Duluth and Moorhead were among eight Minnesota lawmakers who spoke in opposition to the Line 3 tar sands pipeline Sunday near Palisade, where its construction would cross the Mississippi river. Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth led the group, along with 50 water protectors and activists, around the site, stopping at a prayer lodge she and other Indigenous leaders built recently in the line of construction. LaDuke and the legislators discussed the catastrophic climate impacts of the pipeline, the health risks of bringing in out of state pipeline workers during a pandemic, and the need to respect Native American culture and treaty rights.
“The historic preservation officers are told that they can look at things which are dead. I said ‘We’re not dead.’ The Anishinaabe people are a living culture,” LaDuke said. “The state says they want to respect Indigenous knowledge. It would be good if they actually respected it. I told them, ‘You all are looking for pot shards, but we’re still here.’ ”
Legislators emphasized a duty to future generations. “It’s not just about what we do right now. It’s affecting the next generations,” said Representative-elect Heather Keeler of District 4A in Moorhead. “I believe that when we leave it’s our responsibility to hand down Mother Earth in the best form that we found her if not better.”
Sen. John Marty of District 66 in Roseville said, “We have an obligation to our kids and grandkids and to our tribal neighbors, and their kids, and grandkids.”
“We have a moral imperative to do our part of mitigating the damage of the climate crisis,” said Senator-elect Jen McEwen from District 7 in Duluth, “If this happens right now while we are at the helm of these decisions, history will not look kindly on us.”
Others urged Gov. Walz to heed the advice of climate scientists and health experts. Rep. Sydney Jordan from District 60A in Minneapolis spoke of her own relatives who were sick with COVID-19 but turned away from overflowing hospitals and about the health costs of fossil fuel emissions. “Gov. Walz has tried hard to make good decisions for people’s health. I’m hoping Gov. Walz can be a real health leader and make the decision to stop this pipeline.”
Senator-elect Erin Murphy of District 64 in St. Paul said, “We must invest as swiftly as possible in green energy and the technologies that will protect our climate and create skilled union jobs for Minnesotans. It’s a fresh path that includes all of us.”
Legislators also discussed that the majority of Line 3 jobs were going to out of state pipeline workers. “I think often people believe that if we’re going to protect Mother Earth that means we don’t care about jobs. The reality is we still very much care about jobs, just not jobs that are affecting us so negatively,” said Senator-elect Mary Kunesh of District 41 in New Brighton.
Finally they emphasized the importance of their visit to the site. “I came up here to see the construction for myself, to bring that back to the Legislature and to fight for justice and protect the environment. It’s about justice and fairness,” Representative-elect Liz Boldon of District 25B in Rochester said. Senator-elect Lindsey Port of District 56 in Burnsville agreed: “It’s our job to amplify the voices of you all here and take that back to St. Paul.”
This post was originally published on Radio Free.