FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, August 11, 2022
Nizhoni Begay firstname.lastname@example.org
Claire Glenn email@example.com
From left to right: Bill Daniell, Claire Glenn, and Steve Way. Photo credit: Bee Kakac.
Treaty People Gathering Activists Argue to
Dismiss Charges in Hubbard County
Hubbard County, Mnisota – On Wednesday, August 10, two climate justice activists appeared for an in-person pretrial evidentiary hearing in Hubbard County seeking dismissal of their charges. Bill Daniell and Steve Way, along with dozens of others, were charged with misdemeanor “public nuisance” and misdemeanor “unlawful assembly” for their presence at the Indigenous-led Treaty People Gathering occupation of the Two Inlets pumping station, a critical component of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline threatening Anishinaabe sovereignty and the health of the Mississippi’s headwaters.
During the hearing, the activists’ legal team presented evidence and had an opportunity to question law enforcement as well as the manager of the PUC-Enbridge escrow account that paid for police to arrest protestors across the State of Minnesota during Line 3 construction. Hubbard County Investigator William Schlag testified that he had no knowledge and had received no training regarding Anishinaabe treaties and reserved rights. During his testimony, he referred to a conversation he had 10 days after the Treaty People Gathering arrests with Winona LaDuke, member of the White Earth Band of Anishinaabe and internationally renowned Indigenous rights activist. Although she shared with him concerns that Hubbard County was not respecting treaty rights and that Line 3 posed dangers to the community, he testified that he took no steps to investigate these claims or monitor Enbridge’s Line 3 construction.
"Considering that the US Constitution recognizes treaties as supreme law of the land, it is deeply troubling that local law enforcement has received no training on treaties and treaty-reserved rights. How can you claim to uphold the law if you don't know what the law is?" said Claire Glenn after the hearing.
The charges for Daniell and Way stem from arrests at the #StopLine3 Treaty People Gathering (June 5-8, 2021), in which thousands of Water Protectors journeyed to Anishinaabe lands, Northern Minnesota and 1855 Treaty territory, to support the Indigenous-led movement against Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline. The occupation at Two Inlets was met with significant law enforcement response. The Department of Homeland Security sent a helicopter to rotor wash protestors, flying low and kicking up clouds of sand and dust.
In June 2022, Daniell and Way filed motions asking the Court to dismiss their charges on several grounds. They argued that their arrest and prosecution violated their Due Process and Equal Protection rights, because law enforcement acted at the direction and behest of Enbridge, a foreign multinational pipeline corporation. Exhibits filed with the Court on Friday indicate that Enbridge paid more than $8.6 million to Minnesota law enforcement during Line 3 construction, including more than $500,000 to the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office alone, through a controversial escrow account. Daniell and Way and their attorneys argue that the escrow account created strong financial incentives to criminalize Water Protectors while allowing Enbridge to operate with impunity. They argue that those present for the Treaty People Gathering were lawfully present as invited guests, allies of Anishinaabe Water Protectors lawfully exercising their inherent Indigenous sovereignty and treaty-reserved rights retained in the 1855 Treaty.
“This is not about me and Steve; this is about the collective. We have an opportunity to build awareness around Enbridge’s Line 3 and the injustices committed against Indigenous peoples and their allies,” said Bill Daniell.
In the 1855 Treaty, Anishinaabe peoples ceded land to the United States, but retained rights to hunt, fish, gather manoomin (wild rice), and engage in cultural and religious practices. As stated in the United States Constitution, Article VI Section 2, “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”
Enbridge is a Canadian fossil fuel corporation that owns the Line 3 tar sands pipeline. Line 3 snakes from Canada to Minnesota, crossing wild rice fields (manoomin) central to Anishinaabe traditions and hundreds of rivers, lakes, and wetlands, including the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Enbridge has a history of spills that indicate the likelihood of future spills. There have been at least 28 documented frac-outs from the Line 3 pipeline, with more suspected and unreported. The construction of the Line 3 pipeline has caused irreversible environmental damage along its route.
Line 3 also brought concerns of increased rates of violence against Indigenous peoples where fossil fuel companies have camps of workers called “mancamps.” Proximity to these mancamps threatens the safety of Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirit peoples, and relatives.
“Climate change should be everyone’s number one issue. I do this work for my grandchildren,” said Steve Way.
Born out of the #NoDAPL movement, The Water Protector Legal Collective is an Indigenous-led legal nonprofit that provides support and advocacy for Indigenous peoples and Original Nations, the Earth, and climate justice movements.
The Civil Liberties Defense Center uses litigation, education, legal, and strategic resources to strengthen and embolden movements that seek to dismantle the political and economic structures at the root of social inequality and environmental destruction.