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Peaceful protests on Earth Day

Amber Shaide speaks about her experience working with Honor the Earth for Earth Day. (Nick Longworth / Enterprise)

Several environmental groups gather at headwaters of the Mississippi

How did you spend Earth Day, 2014?

Some planted a tree or picked up trash. Others raked lawns or cleaned up litter on the side of the road.

Some, though, joined in on a protest to “protect Mother Earth” from the Enbridge pipeline that is proposed to come through the area.

Members of the White Earth Reservation Council, Honor the Earth, and Friends of the Headwaters, as well as numerous onlookers, all joined together in a ceremonial presentation, peace pipe offering, and protest Tuesday morning at Itasca State Park’s headwaters of the Mississippi.

“Today is a good day to talk about this, being that it is Earth Day. If that pipeline were to come through where we are standing now and bust, what would happen to all of us? What would happen to the way we live? It would end up disappearing,” said Amber Shaide, a speaker from Honor the Earth who braved a shattered pelvis to speak at the event.

“I love Mother Earth, and I love to honor the earth. If the oil gets pumped through here, who knows what will happen to us. We all need to stand up for what’s right, and for Mother Earth. She made us who we are today,” Shaide said.

Barry Babcock from Friends of the Headwaters then spoke about the overall history of the park, from its Anishinaabe origination as “Elk Lake” to its settlement and protection from the logging and timber industry by Jacob Brower.

“We are honored to be invited here today. We all come here today in humility and respect for all of our Anishinaabe neighbors. The great overall history of the park is the Anishinaabe people. The beauty that we have in this park changed this man; he wanted to preserve it for generations to come. We are here to stand against this pipeline to protect Mother Earth, who sustains all life. We need to keep these lakes and these rivers clean,” Babcock said.

An offering of a sacred and ceremonial peace pipe to anyone who wanted to bless the land was then presented to end the event.

Overall, the event’s message was the unanimous opposition from the different groups to Enbridge’s proposed pipeline.

“To explain what we’re doing is to create awareness. We want everyone to know. Not just this region, but the whole United States. We need to always take into account the protection of our earth first,” said Robert Durant, Secretary Treasurer of the White Earth Nation.

“One of the things that the government is lacking is an environmental impact study. The ability of the government and the pipelines to do what I consider an illegal act in forcibly condemning (under eminent domain) properties to run a pipeline through our territories - without taking into consideration the impact of the cleanest water in the state of Minnesota and possibly the United States – is wrong. This water runs in all four directions. We cannot just standby and have this railroaded and not do a thing about it,” Durant said.

Durant sees the PuC extending their public comment period, which was supposed to close April 4, another six weeks as a step in the right direction.

“The comment period needed to be extended to give people the opportunity to stand up and do what is right. We need more people to get out there and get their comments in and wait for a real answer. They need to be answered individually and not brushed off as one answer. We’re not playing a game, and that is what they’re doing to us,” Durant said.

“In my opinion, a pipeline is more dangerous than a railroad or trucking,” Durant said.

Ultimately Durant would like the pipeline either stopped altogether, or at least re-routed away from the area. He also sees alternative energy as a possible solution.

“If they need to take a pipe through this, take a different route. Stay off of our territories, stay off of our water supply,” Durant said. “Personally, I wish they wouldn’t do it at all. We have to go green. Sure that’s a long-range plan, but we steadily have to go forward with that. Every day for us should be Earth Day. We do this together, and that’s the great thing about teamwork. We’re all instrumental in doing this.”

Nick Longworth
A graduate from St. Cloud State University, Nick photographs and writes a variety of stories for nearly every section of The Park Rapids Enterprise. His duties also include section layouts and online content submission.
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