Another good week in a busy activist’s life. Last Friday, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) gave Water Protectors another win as they issued a decision on Enbridge’s 401 Water Certification application: denial without prejudice.
“In June, the Court of Appeals found the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) inadequate, and MPCA cannot issue a 401 Certification until the Public Utility Commission (PUC) deems the EIS adequate. In addition, the MPCA required additional information regarding three primary areas – oil spill response modeling in the Lake Superior Watershed, a pre- and post- construction monitoring plan for aquatic resources, and a revised proposal for mitigating more than 400 acres of forested wetlands that will be impacted during construction.”
This means that Enbridge will need to re-apply for a 401 Certification once they have all the proper documentation and response prepared. It also means that the US Army Corps of Engineers cannot issue their permits which rely on approval of the 401 Certification.
The same day, the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) put a stop to Enbridge’s Mainline open season in the name of fairness. There is some speculation that the CER (previously the regulatory arm of the NEB, National Energy Board, which in years past generated concern with their seemingly too-close ties to and favorable treatment of the petroleum industry) may be acting in hopes to be seen as more principled than the NEB. And I’ve received technical analysis from a friend who believes it is a vote of “no confidence” in the long term future of the Canadian oil industry and particularly the Tar Sands. Regardless, this too is something to be considered by Minnesota’s Public Utility Commissioners as they proceed with the ongoing saga of Enbridge’s Line 3 proposal.
It seems Enbridge is facing opposition wherever they turn. And tomorrow will reveal the PUC response. If you’re local, please come out to support the Intervenors and Opposition Parties to the proposed Line 3 Tar Sands pipeline. We’ll need allies to stand with us as past experience shows Enbridge will be funding stooges to take up seats in the room to prevent the presence and engagement of Water Protectors.
Magically, these two announcements came just prior to Water Protectors from around the region gathering in Duluth, Minnesota for a powerful celebration of our work together and preparation for continued efforts to Stop Line 3.
The Gichi Gami Gathering was the culmination of an idea that originated from MN350’s Andy Pearson. This powerful organizer and a boatload of environmental groups and individuals were led by Indigenous members of the #StopLine3 cause to create a beautiful, loving, powerful gathering. Skip Sandman opened the ceremony with good words and prayer. Then Sheila Lamb led our rally of speakers on topics associated with Line 3:
This past week has been so full!! And this coming week is too! But I’m hopeful to get some good information out to you all as I get this quickly posted.
On the 17th, I joined Nancy Beaulieu and Gaagigeyashiik Dawn Goodwin as we attended the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council meeting. Their newly selected Executive Director, Shannon Geshick, did a fine job leading the meeting as various Boards, Committees, and State Agencies presented information and ideas for consideration by the Executive Board. As I understand it, this Board is made up of the Chairperson for each Nation (or their representative) and this meeting included, as a result of an Executive Order by the Walz administration, representatives from all State Agencies meeting as “ambassadors” from the State seeking counsel.
Affirms that the State of Minnesota recognizes and supports the unique status of the Minnesota Tribal Nations and their right to existence, self-govern, and possess self-determination.
Directs state agencies to recognize the unique legal relationship between the State of Minnesota and the Minnesota Tribal Nations and respect the fundamental principles that establish and maintain this relationship.
Requires all state agencies to designate Tribal Liaisons that will be able to directly and regularly meet and communicate with the Agency’s Commissioner and Deputy and Assistant Commissioners in order to appropriately conduct government-to-government conversations.
Mandates tribal-relations training for all state leaders and other employees whose work may impact Tribes.
I was impressed by the level of humility expressed by many of the state agency representatives. It seems this group understands that this is a meeting between the State Agencies and the Tribal Nations living within the borders of what the US has designated to be the State of Minnesota. While some may question the “extra attention” being given to Minnesota’s Indigenous leaders, Peggy Flanagan made clear that this administration is simply doing what is legally required. It seems to me that a great turning is coming where Tribal Rights, as set forth in the Treaties signed by the U.S. Government, are finally being honored in the way they were intended, with Nation to Nation consultation and communication.
I was especially impressed with Mary Cathryn Ricker, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education. Education and Health Care were two of the most critical issues addressed at this meeting and, along with the work of the Commissioner of Human Rights Rebecca Lucero, I feel much needed attention was given to the Tribal concerns. To give a taste of what the Tribes are facing: One shocking point discussed was that data for the Cass Lake school system went from showing 1100 Native students to 1 – Yes, only ONE! – revealing systematic issues that will require redress by this administration. [And yes, it was assured that all educational funding was correctly applied as the erroneous data was discovered.] There are many initiatives being carried out between the Tribes and the State and it felt like this work, while massive in scope, will be getting some much needed attention.
I next attended the 9-18-19 Minnesota Environmental Quality Board with Willis Matteson, Mike Tauber, Jim Williams, Kathy and Rod Hollander, Jim Doyle and some other fine concerned citizens. [And I can’t say enough about how excited I am to get to know Mike and Jim better in the future – what a couple of great guys! And thanks to Willis for a ride to the Cities!! Look for an upcoming blog on my bus adventures while being car-less there… ] We were happy to run into Winona LaDuke in the lobby as she finished up several days of work in the Cities. And soon after we also met Laura Bishop, Commissioner of the MN Pollution Control Agency, as she headed through the lobby. Gave her one of my handmade cards I’d brought for the meeting!!
On the MEQB agenda were their plans for Fiscal Year 2020-2021, adoption of the MEQB Rule changes (as recommended by the Administrative Law Judge who oversaw this year’s public comment hearings regarding said changes, and which I blogged about in June), authorizing an EQB Environmental Review Implementation Subcommittee, a decision on the Fillmore Solar Project, and an update on their 2020 Water Plan, They also announced their MN Environmental Congress on December 3rd this year. I made comments during the FY20-21 Plan as they have offered an “Emerging issues placeholder” and spoke to the need to deny Line 3 and asking them to do all they can to #StopLine3. I’m hopeful there is something the MEQB can do to ensure Minnesota considers the climate impacts of Line 3… as the MN Public Utilities Commission has failed to do so.
Next I supported the MN Strikes Back Youth Climate Strike and you can see some good photos from the event in case you didn’t make it. I livestreamed and you can go to my FB to see the footage. I was amazed at the organizing skills of these young people but even more impressed by their words, which MPR covered. With speakers covering many topics from climate justice to fears and frustrations to hopes, I was especially struck by the comments regarding what we call this Generation… Generation Z. As if they are the final generation for humanity, which they may well be if we do not act with more urgency, we have called them Gen Z. But they declared they will be “GEN GND”, the Generation for a Green New Deal. I am hopeful they will succeed in their mission.
Saturday I headed down about noontime and met with Alina and enjoyed some quiet talk as we awaited the return of the group that toured Winona’s Hemp and Heritage Farm that morning. [Having gotten home from the Climate Strike about 3:45 AM, I decided to skip that part of the adventure but I look forward to seeing it one day soon!] We had lunch as we listened to Winona LaDuke encourage these faith leaders to do all they can to Stop Line 3 and encourage climate justice that includes recognition of the Treaty Rights of the Anishinaabeg. We then headed out for the Lake George pipe yard visit so that people are aware of the pipe yard location. If Enbridge continues to get approvals from state agencies to build their Tar Sands pipeline, we will want to have people ready to stop this work.
Next I followed to the Wild Rice Tour given by Gaagigeyashiik Dawn Goodwin. She honored me by asking that I assist with her presentation at Upper Rice Lake, just around the corner from the Harn, and it was a joy to hear her speak again. She shared stories of her life and the life of the Anishinaabeg. I was most impressed by the birds that seemingly echoed and enhanced her words with their actions. We were able to observe several ricing parties as she spoke of the Manoomin. She took us also to Lower Rice Lake and the spring where she gathers water.
We headed back in time for dinner and a talk on Treaties by Bob Shimek. I was enlightened by his words and thrilled with his gracious sharing of all the time we needed for questions, even though we lost power as his talk began. It was quite eerie how the storm dramatized the time, though I’m sure Bob would have rather had his talking points more readily available!
Sunday’s Headwaters Vigil brought the event to a close as faith leaders spoke to the importance of protecting our sacred water. After gathering at the Mary Gibbs Visitor Center at Itasca State Park, we proceeded to the Headwaters as a group where we began with Indigenous ceremony. Gaagigeyashiik led us as we prayed together for our water. I watched as the MMIW Staff (seen in the photo above, carried by Lorna Hanes) moved to each leader, seeming to give honor to them. Other faith leaders spoke, sang, and prayed: Ruhel, a Bangladeshi Environmental Activist, (check out Ghandi Mahal in Minneapolis for great food!) called us to prayer sharing a Muslim path; Hassed (sorry if this spelling is incorrect!) led us in singing a Jewish chant, Karen Hutt of the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis shared a short but moving sermon on the intersectionality of environment and race; Shodo Spring, a Soto Zen Priest, shared of us being both the created and the creators, as she too chanted for us in the Buddist tradition. But for me, the most moving piece was Joe Meinholz sharing from the Christian tradition.
As someone who carries religious baggage from multiple bad experiences in the Christian church, I was hesitant to trust the message. I was pleased as Lorna and the MMIW Staff, moved between me and the minister as I felt a protection with this positioning. [It was a deja vu experience from the previous day where she’d walked between me and a crazy-acting dude reading from the bible on the steps of the Capitol after the Youth Climate Strike participants has dispersed.] But I was graced by Joe’s words. I am hopeful to see them published somewhere so that all can be healed by them. His humble acknowledgement of the good-intentioned harms caused by Christians, specifically mentioning the boarding schools, in their interactions with the Indigenous, brought me to tears. His blessing continued as he spoke and went a good way to helping me feel as if we may me able to heal all the rifts in this world. It was beautiful to watch as he closed and Lorna spoke some words into his ear, pointing up at the Eagle flying high above us, that came as he spoke. Many were in tears.
Joe was the first person I hugged and thanked following the ceremony’s close with an Indigenous Water Prayer. It was a long, warm, healing hug for us both. I am so grateful to this human for his kind and healing words.
I cannot put into words the healing, hope, encouragement, and blessing I gained from this entire week of activism. The memories and stories of this week will carry me a long way forward as I continue my work and as I continue to learn where I can best be of help in the movement.
I wish for you all an understanding and peace that helps us as we work to save our home planet for our continued existence.
We started the morning with a stop in Bemidji to renew the Truck tags and were in and out in under 3 minutes! In hindsight, perhaps that was a sign to how magical the day would be.
We then headed north toward International Falls where that evening, we’d see a show that Prudence Johnson put together as a thank you to the community for and from the Oberholtzer Foundation. As someone whose been to Mallard once, it is always a joy to meet fellow Mallard Island friends. And did I ever!
Since the Oberholtzer event would begin with an Art Show at 4 PM, we decided we’d duck across the border and see Canada for lunch. I figured it would be similar to my past crossings into Canada where we go from Industrial to Green. But this time, it was all industrial… The large paper company in International Falls gave a great stench fouling the air as we waited in line to cross the border to the north.
Did you know it costs $7 to cross into Canada at International Falls? I didn’t even think about possibly having to pay more to come back into the U.S. but I was pleased to find a free re-entry when we returned a couple hours later. 🙂
Once we arrived on the Canadian side, it seemed there was still a lot of industry but there was a nice greenway strip between the Rainy River and their railroad and industrial area. Regardless, Canada still felt different from the US… in a good way. Houses were small and tidy, stores seemed less obtrusive in the landscape, and I don’t recall a huge amount of billboards. It seemed a quieter, less in-your-face place, where things move at a more human pace. We did stop at a convenience gas mart to warm up our lunch of rice and brats and purchase a chocolate milk (in a carton as I’m working to not buy any drinks in plastic these days). I noted a customer coming in for cigarettes and I asked how much cigarettes are in Canada. “Twenty dollars,” was the reply. When I noted there were lottery tickets, I asked how much a ticket cost. “Six dollars,” said a woman. As my mouth dropped open in amazement, she followed up with, “Welcome to Canada!”
The other noticeable thing from the Canadian side is that, while you may have houses along the river, they are buffered from the river by publicly accessible space… whether a thin grassy area with a picnic table or a large park. Across the river, you can see all the private property of the Americans along the river. A friend explained to me that Minnesota is a state with much private ownership of land along water, whether river, lake or stream. It makes sense in a winner-take-all economy like ours. I mean, why need all that money – way more than the other guy – if you can’t outright buy everything for yourself?
And, speaking of that, one of the most interesting sightings on our short visit was of these little boxes in the yards, boxes I thought were Little Free Libraries, until I noticed they all looked the same… On closer inspection, they are actually basic necessities shelves with items like canned/boxed food, toothpaste, feminine pads. They call them Blessing Boxes. How nice. Perfectly Canadian.
We stopped by Point Park before we headed back stateside and found a half dozen tents and several RVs in the park as people enjoyed the last days of summer. The park area was largely empty though with only a couple dog walkers. I did love the bear-proof garbage cans through all the public spaces we saw.
As we crossed back over, I was a bit nervous. I have not crossed the border back to the states in over a decade I don’t think but have heard horror stories of power-drunk officials making life difficult. The young man at the booth was pretty laid back and felt more like a friend welcoming us than the Canadian official who’d questioned us on the journey out of country. That guy wasn’t mean or bad, just more officious and questioning. All the things you must declare… alcohol, tobacco (or did he say cigarettes?), firearms, [sounds like a government department or something, eh?] and, these days, cannabis! Of course we didn’t have any of these things but I wondered at this list of top concerns. I thought it gave insight to what Canadians think of us Americans. A bunch of drunk, smoking, gun crazy potheads! 🙂 The guy coming back asked where we lived, how long we were in Canada, and why we were there. Perhaps it’s just that we’re too old, white, and boring. Or maybe it’s my change in outfits from “Love Water Not Oil” black t-shirt to fancy dress for the art show? [I decided to change clothes at the Rainy River lunch stop as it was getting too warm for a long-sleeve black tee.] I was pleased to find no issues with returning stateside.
The Oberholtzer event was outstanding. The Art Show featured Mark Granlund, Mary Ludington & Karen McCall. Each artist was fascinating in their own way. I loved Karen’s photos and could tell several were taken on Mallard. It was lovely to talk with her and the others about our experiences at Mallard. My haunting experience was a big hit with them! Mary’s work was wonderfully detailed to showcase her subjects (insects!) and her process was truly intriguing. But my favorite part of meeting Mary to talk about her work was also realizing that she knew me too! This is the same Mary Ludington that organized the talk by Peter Brennen earlier this year AND she is also Kevin Kling’s partner! When she said this as I asked how she got connected to this event, it triggered my memory from probably a decade ago when I sent my first ever thank you card for Kevin to… Mary Ludington, his manager! I don’t know why my brain gets overwhelmed by these realizations of connectivity but it always amazes me to see pieces connect. And Mark, who was, along with Prudence, also the week’s Mallard Caretaker for the group presenting on stage that evening, had a watercolor-like Gouache that he used to create beautiful landscapes. He explained to me that it was a medium that allowed for more solidity in the work than the more translucent watercolor.
Side find: as I wrote this blog and noted the links for the artists, I loved this opening line by Mark in his bio: “I am fascinated by humans and our great capacity to invent meaning and then continually adapt meaning for our changing purposes.” Indeed. I think this is why Tarot so matches life every time I have done a reading. Again, connections… we seem geared to make them. Yet how do we become as divided as we have as humans in recent times?
We ended up having a quite extensive conversation with Mary, who I shared a bit about Mark Lundholm with as we chatted. We were discussing the F-word, and of course I got so distracted by explaining his humor technique that I then forget to share the whole reason I brought him up in the first place which was… “WORDS”! Mark does this bit about how words only have the power we give them – sorry I couldn’t find a clip for you as it’s really well done. But I’ve always remembered that bit and it has given me lots of peace over the years as I contemplated the word choices that cross my path or my lips.
After delivering Mary back to the event, we scoped out the tables of merch in the hallway. I noted a book Fawn Island by Douglas Wood and realized he might be the guitar player we saw in the hallway earlier – the person who didn’t get a photo on the event flyer but looked to be in the show. (There were several of these, including Karen McCall and Marian Moore who sang along with Prudence.) Later I was able to introduce myself for a groupie shot!
Super nice guy. And we met all sorts of nice people that evening. I connected with a watercolor artist in Big Falls and perhaps one day we will spend some time crafting together… one never knows how all the connections we make will one day pan out. And it was lovely sharing stories from Mallard with those who have experienced it.
It was finally time for the show! We had music and stories from some of Minnesota’s finest. Prudence created a beautiful night for everyone as we laughed at the jokes, immersed ourselves in the music, and soaked up the joy. Kevin’s stories always delight and were balanced by Winona LaDuke reminding us to ponder how much is enough and to consider all of our relations as we move forward into the future. She displayed the first hemp rope made in Minnesota in almost 100 years. And we all learned that there are viable solutions to many of our issues, if only we care enough.
I was thrilled to meet Claudia Schmidt via this event. A beautiful, spirited human being who oozes love, unity, compassion, and hope in all her songs. She has a diverse array of sounds she’s developed over decades of performance and she retains a childlike energy as she sings and plays, encouraging us to clap and sing along. Be sure to check out her archived shows on her site. Reminding me of Annie Humphrey, I enjoyed Claudia’s stories of how the songs came to life as much as the music she shared.
I had asked Mary if they’d seen Northern Lights during their visit to Mallard. I recall that we saw them multiple times back in 2016. Our group even had a system of ringing the bell at the Wannigan to let others know if they arrived in the middle of the night! But Mary noted it had been rainy for most of their week. So I was delighted as Dan and I drove home that evening watching Northern Lights dance in the sky. We hoped that the Mallard guests were enjoying them on the pontoon ride back to the island. I was tickled to hear from Mary that they had seen them too!
All-in-all, it was a magical day. I even saw a shooting star (likely a piece of space junk burning up on re-entering our atmosphere – we humans even pollute space!) as Dan and I pulled off on a side road to enjoy the aurora borealis. I am truly grateful for Prudence Johnson and the whole crew for a wonderful evening of entertainment and enlightenment that will stay with us for a long time to come. I hope via the links, you all can enjoy a bit of the art, words, and music of these amazing humans who I love. And I hope that we all continue to enjoy them when our paths cross with theirs in days to come.
I am proceeding on my path to better understand myself and my place. A big part of this past week’s lessons come from interactions I had with folks around the Anthropocene River Journey.
The Mississippi River is what really brought us to our current living arrangements. The Mississippi River, the Indigo Girls, the trees, and the water as shared in my blog from two years ago. And the Mississippi is what we’re fighting for, in part, with the years of work opposing Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 project. And the Mississippi again comes calling with new friends to meet along my journey.
The kick-off for the Journey included a gathering of a few dozen people largely from Berlin, Germany and the Twin Cities, but also Chicago and other places along the Mississippi River. The woman who invited me to join the group was perhaps the best part of it all: Shanai Matteson.
This amazing woman is doing so much for the sake of our water and I was delighted to spend some time sharing stories with her and fellow activist Rita Chamblin. And I look forward to finding more time with her as it seems we have some interesting commonalities. While we had quite different childhoods, we share common experience as women, mothers, activists, and artists, which should allow for much interesting discussion and perspective sharing. I anxiously anticipate the possibilities that await us.
After some story-sharing and flag-making, we headed out to Coffee Pot Landing where Dawn Gaagigeyaashiik Goodwin shared about her path. We stopped also at the place where the Mississippi River crosses under Becida Road (Clearwater County 40). This is where the group shot was taken and a couple chose to cross the Mississippi again. Part of the group headed back for a canoe workshop and a handful of us followed Dawn to the Artisan Spring at Big Bear Landing on Lower Rice Lake. It is always a wonder to stand at this landing and look out on the prairie of wild rice hiding the lake from view.
It was truly a wonderful day of connecting with fellow humans, making some new friends, and sharing the blue-skied, sunny day on the River and in the Woods. And I encourage you to take in the next portion of the Anthropocene River Journey: Field Station #1Stop: Sediment, Settlement, Sentiment: The Machinic River September 20-21 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM at the St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center 1 Portland Ave Minneapolis, MN 55401.
Activities will include:
Walking tours and site visits of the Upper Harbor Terminal site (September 20, 1-4pm) and the Ford Dam (September 21, 1-4pm) with the park’s Superintendent John Anfinson (NPS), Roopali Phadke, Morgan Adamson and Bruce Braun
Sound installations by Monica Haller, Max Ritts, Michi Wiancko, Judd Greenstein, Sebastian Müllauer, and others
Original films about the Mississippi River and the headwaters region by Andrea Carlson, Tia-Simone Gardner, John Kim, Jenny Schmid
An Anthropocene workshop with Jen Caruso
Discussions with Mike Hoyt and Molly Van Avery about their Illuminate the Lock 2018 art piece
Live music with IE (others TBA)
Interesting aside (for me, old co-workers, Indiana friends, and sister Water Protectors anyway): As I read through the various links on this Mississippi River Journey project, I found this interesting one below with a link to my past and present. I began my career in steel at Inland Steel (Arcelor Mittal since consolidation) which was minutes from this Whiting facility. I even considered buying my first house in Whiting. Anyway, this short film gives insight to the Tar Sands investment – largest private investment in Indiana history – $4.5B to convert the Whiting Refinery, which is related to my current occupation, working to #StopLine3. Really interesting short piece on how Northwest Indiana is an “industrial colony of Chicago”. Also speaks to the divestment of BP from Renewables to Tar Sands. How does one get to a place where this is a “good business plan”?