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Guest Opinion: Don't do it Crow Wing County

Winona LaDuke of environmental activist group Honor the Earth speaks to a gathering hosted by the Brainerd chapter of the League of Women Voters on Thursday. Zach Kayser/Brainerd Dispatch

On Feb. 20, Beltrami County commissioners approved a request for the sheriff's department to develop a mutual aid agreement in anticipation of a Dakota Access-like opposition to the proposed Enbridge Line 3. Crow Wing County should think before leaping to do the same thing.

This decision sends a message that protecting the rights of corporations over the rights of people is acceptable. It is troublesome, because many of us were at Standing Rock and experienced extreme violence at the hands of police, military, paramilitary and other forces upon us.

Northern Minnesota is not North Dakota; we neither have the oil interests slathering our politicians (one would hope), nor do we have the hatred for native people that earned North Dakota the nickname "the Deep North." Or do we? Now is the time, Crow Wing County to decide if you are willing to seize people's land, and shoot at them, to ensure the profits of a Canadian oil pipeline company. Now, is the time to make a decision not to do that.

Let me remind the county of what happened. A total of 1,287 officers from 25 counties in North Dakota, 20 cities and nine states, which include Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, assisted Morton County during the DAPL controversy, according to Morton County Sheriff's Department. Will you be asking Morton County to come here to join you?

Hundreds of people were injured, as they were attacked by dogs, had rubber bullets and percussion grenades lobbed at them, freezing water and a host of other propellants. People were sprayed with gases, had toxins dropped on them from planes, On Backwater Bridge, 21-year-old New York resident Sophia Wilansky's arm was blown apart by a concussion grenade. Her father Wayne told reporters, "The police did not do this by accident—it was an intentional act of throwing it directly at her. Additionally police were shooting people in the face and groin, intending to do the most possible damage... ."

Tigerswan, a paramilitary security force, was brought in directly from the Middle East to fan fires, and many people's lives have been changed, forever. The company that owned one third of the Dakota Access pipeline is Enbridge.

The Water Protector Legal Collective reports 854 people were arrested. These people, not unlike the valve turners, were and are teachers, librarians, doctors, movie stars, veterans, priests, and politicians. They are like us. And all of us, know that this is the time we have to protect our water.

Minnesota does not have to be North Dakota. In fact, it does not have to approve the permit for the pipeline: Minnesota's own Department of Commerce (DOC) declared last fall that Line 3 wasn't needed on solid economic and environmental grounds. What more does the decision-making process of this state's Public Utilities Commission need in June other than to just follow the DOC's direction? County commissioners and representatives can say No. Rep. Steve Green in District 2B, who considers himself a White Earth Tribal member, should protect the Ojibwe from a bad pipeline decision and say no as well.

No pipeline approval, no major encampment of Water Protectors, no need for guns, no need to shoot your neighbor, or their children. That's what this about.

And for you Crow Wing County, I need to ask you one more time, if you want to shoot me to protect the profits of a Canadian pipeline company, which boasts the two largest oil spills in US history? Do you want to shoot the citizens of Minnesota, Anishinaabeg people and our Water Protectors because we want to protect the water? That's what this is about.

Winona LaDuke is the co-founder and Executive Director of Honor The Earth, a Minnesota-based environmental justice organization led by indigenous women, dedicated to protecting indigenous homelands and resources, and empowering communities with energy independence through renewables.

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