Mary Annette Pember
Indian Country Today

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination asks U.S. leaders to look into allegations that the construction of Line 3 in Minnesota infringes on the rights of Anishinaabe people.

In the Aug. 25 letter, leaders of the U.N. committee requested a response from the U.S. by Oct. 15 to allegations that it violated Anishinaabe treaty rights, including the right to free, prior and informed consent, the rights to health, culture and right of security and freedom from violence in allowing pipeline construction to continue.

The committee is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Adopted in 1963, the convention “solemnly affirms the necessity of speedily eliminating racial discrimination throughout the world in all its forms and manifestations and securing understanding of and respect for the dignity of the human person.”

In March, Kate Finn, executive director of First Peoples Worldwide, filed a petition with the U.N. on behalf of Honor the Earth and Giniw Collective.

“When U.S. policy inadequately considers the rights of Indigenous Peoples, international mechanisms such as the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination are crucial to prevent the devastating impacts that cannot be undone once they occur,” said Finn in a press release from Honor the Earth.

“The letter from the Committee plainly articulates the allegations of rights violations attendant to Line 3 and the ways in which the actions of the U.S. government fail to respect those rights and, in turn, perpetuate racial discrimination,” she added.

“We are grateful that the United Nations has responded to our request and recognized the incalculable harms from the Line 3 expansion to the Anishinaabe people, treaty territory and the manoomin wild rice,” said Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth.

LaDuke, a citizen of the White Earth Band of Anishinaabeg, added, “We hope that the United States takes the U.N committee inquiry seriously and meets the deadline for the response. Support for Line 3 from the Biden administration and the State of Minnesota has led to a worsening situation for people, water, land and our sacred wild rice.”

Opponents to the Line 3 project have exhausted nearly all court challenges to Enbridge’s 337-mile pipeline that traverses Ojibwe treaty territory in Minnesota. Opponents, water protectors and supporters, however, continue to pressure President Joe Biden to cancel the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water permit issued for the project. An appeal in federal court is still pending.

The White Earth Nation’s tribal court filed a rights of nature lawsuit in the name of wild rice against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The state agency is asking a federal court of stop the suit.

Water protectors vow to continue the fight through protests and actions calling attention to the risks to the environment and violation of treaty rights.

Last week, over a thousand water protectors gathered at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul and later marched to Gov. Tim Walz’s residence. Police arrested several people.

On Aug. 30, U.S. representatives Ilhan Omar, Betty McCollum and several other state leaders sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking for his urgent intervention in stopping the pipeline. The letter, signed by 63 Minnesota state legislators, expresses concerns over violations of treaty rights, ongoing violence against Indigenous women and the environmental impacts of the pipeline on wild rice as well as hunting and fishing.

According to Enbridge spokesperson, Juli Kellner, the pipeline is 90 percent complete. 

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