Mille Lacs and White Earth Bands Fighting Pipelines That Threaten Wild Rice

The Mille Lacs and White Earth bands of Ojibwe are fighting Enbridge oil pipelines that threaten their wild rice harvest.

The White Earth Band of Ojibwe and Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe are holding public hearings this week on two proposed oil pipelines that if built will cut through wild ricing lands.

The hearings on the Enbridge Sandpiper and Line 3 pipelines will be on June 4 and 5, according to Honor the Earth, the environmental organization founded by Winona LaDuke.

“The White Earth band had formally asked the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to hold a hearing on the reservation, and no hearing was held,” Joe Plummer, General Counsel for the White Earth Reservation, said in a statement from Honor the Earth. “We are holding our own evidentiary hearing to allow for the tribal members who will be most impacted by the proposed Enbridge pipeline corridor to be able to testify. State hearings fifty miles away from a community, in the dead of winter, and on short notice, did not constitute consultation.”

That hearing will be from 5–7 p.m. on June 4, regarding Line 3, a pipeline that brings crude down from the Alberta oil sands in Canada that Enbridge wants to relocate.

For her part, Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin has asked the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to postpone its vote on the Sandpiper Pipeline until consultation has been held on that tribe’s reservation.

“The Sandpiper Pipeline matter is of grave concern to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe,” Benjamin wrote in a May 27 letter to the commission. “This pipeline is proposed along a route that has great potential to result in an environmental impact on lands, waters and resources on or near the East Lake Community of the Mille Lacs Reservation. Our wild rice, in particular, is at severe risk of pipeline activity or construction that impacts the Rice Lake or Big Sandy Lake Watersheds.”

The $2.6 billion Sandpiper, also an Enbridge project, would transport crude from the Bakken fields of North Dakota to Superior, Wisconsin, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Benjamin also noted that the lack of consultation violated an executive order issued by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton himself.

“There has been no consultation with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe (or any other tribal government) and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, nor has Enbridge consulted with the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe,” Benjamin wrote.

The Mille Lacs band hearing is scheduled for June 5, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. at the East Lake Community Center on the reservation. Its goal is to collect information from both band members and environmental experts, the tribe said.

“The Enbridge energy corridor proposed will transect the watersheds of Rice Lake on the White Earth reservation and the Rice Lake and Sandy Lake territories of the East Lake community of Mille Lacs reservation,” Honor the Earth said.