I stood by the Shell River. Looked at her good. She’s a beauty. Deep and wide here, right before she joins with the Crow Wing.
For generations, she was a path of Anishinaabe from Lake Superior to Hudson Bay. The old people used to travel by river, using the power of the water to move their jiimaanan, canoes. Where I live by Shell Lake, the river is small, but she’s mighty. She comes out with a rush from the lake, brilliant with the shine of the sun on the water. Waasabiik.
She meanders southeast toward towns like Menagha, or Minikaag (the place where the blueberries grow), Minnesota, and then joins up with the Crow Wing River. Nishtuau. Big rivers, and rivers getting bigger. But before that, if you go down by Duck Lake, you can see the river crossing.
That’s where Enbridge plans to drill, and put 915,000 barrels of oil underneath the Shell. The Shell River gets crossed four times by Enbridge’s Line 3; four out of the 65 river crossings. We will cross our fingers for her.
After all, she’s not as remote a river crossing as the Willow, or Moose Rivers. All of those rivers are put at risk by the Enbridge Line 3. This is where there is no pipe, this is where the wild things are. Enbridge’s Kalamazoo Spill lasted 17 hours before Enbridge closed the valve. This pipeline gushes about 20,000 gallons a minute in a leak. New pipes are not better than no pipe. Ugh.
It’s like that Joni Mitchell song, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone … pave paradise and put up a parking lot." We don’t get out much these days. It's a beautiful world out there, she’s worth protecting.
This is how it works: First they cut the forests, then they dig the trenches, blow through a few burial mounds, and some bears dens. And, then the pipe comes, and the drill. It’s brutal. And oil is not good for water.
The north, Giiwedinong, is a beautiful land full of life. Some of those relatives have four legs, some have wings, and some are in the waters. That’s to say that this is where the wild things are. There are bears, wolves, otters, beavers, butterflies and frogs; all things that belong here. This is where we live, and it’s worth something to us.
Worldwide, Indigenous peoples represent 4% of the world’s population, but live with 75% of the world’s biodiversity. Indakiingimin, the land to which we belong.
The skies are dark, and the stars are brilliant, even the northern lights —waawaate, where the spirits are dancing. That’s something you can’t see everywhere.
How about, we keep things out of where the wild things live? Things like pipelines and mines, even 5G. The whole world doesn’t need 5G. Sometimes, just listen to the ice crack on the lake, or maybe hear a wolf howl, that’s good enough.
Who stands up for the wild things? Who stands up for the Shell River, the Mississippi, the Willow River and the rice? Someone needs to. A global movement called the Rights of Nature, has taken hold in constitutions, in reaffirming the rights of rivers and mountains. In July 2018, Bangladesh became the first country to grant all of its rivers the same legal status as humans. From now on, its rivers will be treated as living entities in a court of law. New Zealand recognized both a river and a mountain, the Bolivian and Ecuadoran governments recognized Mother Earth as an entity.
In Minnesota, the White Earth Ojibwe recognized the right of wild rice to continue in perpetuity in 2019. The Rights of Nature movement challenges the legal framework which characterizes nature as a passive resource to be owned and used and replaces it with a means for nature to protect itself.
Nature has rights, and that includes the right to exist uninterrupted by 5G and pipelines, the right to be free of oil and garbage. We stay in our place and they, the wild things, in their world. That way, we don't get in trouble, like, viruses crossing and such. It turns out that if you mess with the wild things, you can get a pandemic-this one for instance came from bats in China, The United Nations reaffirms that the encroachment onto biodiversity is a core cause of health, ecological and economic disaster. Next time leave them alone.
In the meantime, Enbridge is gunning for the Shell River. The tribes and citizens are trying to stop the oil in court and with their bodies. The courts continue to shut down pipelines, this one is not yet to court.
Let’s remember the Shell. She’s a beauty, I wish someone would protect her.
Winona LaDuke is executive director, Honor the Earth, and an Ojibwe writer and economist on Minnesota’s White Earth Reservation. She is also owner of Winona's Hemp and a regular contributor to Forum News Service.