Local activists mail book, pen letter urging Biden to stop Enbridge Line 3
Lakes area activists are turning to the power of storytelling as they urge lawmakers in the highest echelons of power to halt the Enbridge Line 3 replacement project.
Virgie Bundy and Roger Grussing, two activists associated with MoveToAmend, an organization critical of the Citizens United vs. FEC ruling by the Supreme Court, mailed a children’s book enclosed with a letter to Congressman Pete Stauber, R-Hermantown, Gov. Tim Walz, and President Joe Biden.
Using the allegorical children’s book, “We Are Water Protectors,” to illustrate their point, Grussing and Bundy penned a letter urging lawmakers to stop Enbridge Line 3 on environmental, humanitarian, and economic grounds. Enbridge, a Canadian company, is currently undertaking projects to replace an aging oil pipeline that runs from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, through more than 1,000 miles of pipeline, to facilities and refineries across the Midwest. On account of weather, the project has been paused, which Grussing and Bundy said is an opportunity for lawmakers to act in the interest of constituents.
“This is a common story. This is the #MeToo moment for Indigenous people who were and are robbed of their personhood,” said Grussing during an interview Friday, May 14. “This is what happens when corporations are judged to have the same rights and needs as people. They have the privilege of spending as much resources and speaking as loudly as they want, because they are persons protected by the Constitution. What is the Constitutional rights experience of the Indian community? One has the power, the other does not. The power of money tramples on the personhood of people without finance.”
Much like the Dakota Access Pipeline, Keystone XL Pipeline, and other controversial oil pipelines, the push to replace Enbridge Line 3 represents the overbearing, abusive presence of corporate power in American life, Grussing said, and it’s the rights of the marginalized and the poor that get sacrificed first for the sake of profit. This is especially poignant, Grussing said, when one considers how water is the fundamental building block of all life. Enbridge Line 3, he said, threatens water reserves throughout its route in Canada and the United States.
“President Biden, this is the time to intervene,” reads the letter by Grussing and Bundy, a former minister and retired elementary teacher respectively. “As people of faith, we feel that destruction of God’s creation for foreign profiteering oil industries is not right — don’t you? We need to put people and environment above economy and profit. We want YOU to join us in putting faith into action.”
Grussing and Bundy also included a scathing indictment of Enbridge and its practices, citing a well-documented history of pipeline failures — including the current Line 3 — over the decades that have counted among the worst ecological disasters in the United State’s history. They also criticized what they claim are disingenuous statements by Enbridge in terms of the pipeline’s environmental impact, it’s benefit for union workers, efforts to work cooperatively with local communities and other false promises by the Canadian corporation.
The manifold threats of oil pipelines take physical form of a mythical black snake in “We Are Water Protectors,” by Carol Lindstrom, a member of the Anishinaabe/Ojibwe community, and illustrated by Michaela Goade of the Tlingit/Haida community in Alaska. Centered around an Ojibwe prophecy that speaks of a black snake coming to contaminate the water and harm Mother Earth, Lindstrom and Goade weave a visual narrative of ancestral teachings and striking images that blend the floral and the celestial — all of which is deeply grounded in Ojibwe culture.
The simple story tells of a warning passed down through the generations to beware of a black snake. Then, the narrative portrays the resolve of people, young and old, to oppose the looming threat of the black snake in order to protect their home. It is noted by the author and illustrator in their preface that the black snake is a widely known cultural touchstone that speaks to the current environmental threat in the minds of many Native Americans.
For their part, this is hardly the first time Grussing and Bundy have dipped their toes into activism.
They participated in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests that embroiled Standing Rock, North Dakota, in 2016-2017, and both of them have been active working with indigenous pastors and reservations in the Dakotas to improve infrastructure. More recently, they’ve been proponents of efforts to repeal Citizens United, but for decades prior to that Grussing and Bundy were active in labor issues, affordable housing initiatives, Wall Street protests, opposing police brutality, and the battle for African-American civil rights in the Twin Cities all the way back to the ‘50s and ‘60s.