PARK RAPIDS, Minn. — An Indigenous group is protesting efforts by the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office to block access to a private parcel adjacent to the Line 3 pipeline replacement project.
According to a release from the Giniw Collective, sheriff’s office personnel served notice at 6 a.m. Monday, June 28, at the Namewag camp that the sole entrance to the property was to be barricaded.
“This is a blatantly unlawful attempt to target and repress Indigenous-led efforts to defend our land and water,” said Tara Houska with the Giniw Collective. “The state of Minnesota appears to not understand treaty law, it also seems Minnesota doesn’t understand U.S. property law either.”
The Giniw Collective describes itself as “an Indigenous women- and two spirit-led collective to protect the land and water.”
The sheriff’s office acknowledged in a news release that their personnel had posted a notice at the entrance to the Namewag Camp on Hinds Lake.
The release states that the property is owned by the Switchboard Trainers Network, and that members of the camp have been driving through county tax-forfeited land on a trail closed to vehicular traffic to access the camp.
Only two of approximately 40 vehicles left the camp when the notice was posted. “Members of the camp are allowed to exit the camp in vehicles,” the release says, “but vehicles are not allowed to cross county land to get back into the camp.”
The Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office adds that the county ordinance applies only to vehicle traffic, and that people may travel on foot or access the property from Big Buck Drive, a public roadway.
In a letter to Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes, Executive Director Frank Bibeau wrote on Monday that the 1855 federal treaty with the Chippewa people gives Chippewas “superior, federal, perpetual” rights in common areas across northern Minnesota, regardless of their nation or tribe affiliation.
“The primary place for Chippewa to exercise off-reservation treaty rights and usufructuary activities are public lands and public waters, using public roads, which is where most of the east-west pipeline corridor is located in Minnesota,” Bibeau wrote.
Bibeau alleged that the county’s notice violates Chippewa treaty rights and due process of law.
He enclosed documents showing that on May 22, 2018, Hubbard County conveyed a 33-foot-wide easement to Winona LaDuke to enter, exit and connect utilities to the property.
A copy of the easement attached to Bibeau’s letter does say that the easement is “germane only to the above-described parcel” and “will revert to the state in trust in the event of non-use.”
Hubbard County Attorney Jonathan Frieden says he sees no basis for Native American treaty rights to be at issue as Bibeau suggests.
“A few years ago,” Frieden said, referring to 2018, “Hubbard County issued/granted an easement for vehicular traffic over a trail. The easement was reviewed and approved by the Hubbard County Board. Pursuant to the easement granted and Hubbard County policy, it was not transferable to subsequent purchaser/owners of the parcel without application and approval of the Hubbard County Board.”
Frieden noted that the property was sold after the easement was granted, and the owner, a corporation, failed to apply for the easement. As a result, the easement for vehicular access ceased.
“Hubbard County routinely enforces unauthorized access to its properties, to include the blocking and barricading of unauthorized access to trails,” he said. “That enforcement happens even more so when the unauthorized access is by a large number of vehicles on a trail not designed for vehicular traffic.”
Frieden noted that the land in question abuts a public road, allowing for legal access without the easement being an issue.