Spirit of the Buffalo camp set up Wednesday near Gretna, Man.
An Indigenous prayer camp has been set up near the Canada-U.S. border along the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline in an effort to stop construction of its replacement.
There were five people at the Spirit of Buffalo camp near Gretna, Man., 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg, shortly after noon Wednesday.
Geraldine McManus, a Dakota two-spirit person at the camp, says they can see the crews working on the pipeline on the U.S. side of the border, where the pipeline replacement received approval on June 28.
“We’re standing about 10, 15 feet away from them, so we’re putting ourselves right on the line,” McManus said. “We’re not letting them cross into Canada.”
The Enbridge Line 3 replacement has received approvals in Canada and construction has begun in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Construction in Manitoba is anticipated to start in August and facilities construction in the right-of-way has already started, an Enbridge spokesperson said.
Enbridge officials say the pipeline, which was built in the 1960s, is deteriorating and needs to be replaced. Current capacity is 390,000 barrels per day, but the new 36-inch pipeline will restore it to its former capacity of 760,000 barrels per day, the company says.
The original 34-inch pipeline will be deactivated and left in place, which Enbridge says causes less damage than removing it.
Line 2 Maintenance
Company officials are aware of the protest camp, an emailed statement says.
“A number of individuals are observing our Line 2 maintenance work site near the Canada-U.S. border. Safety of our workers and others present near the site is our Number 1 priority,” says the email from an Enbridge spokesperson.
“Enbridge respects people’s right to express their views safely and in accordance with the law.”
McManus, who was part of the Standing Rock protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2017, says the group arrived at their camp site at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“I just grabbed a group of people really fast and just said, ‘You know what? We can’t wait no more,'” she said.
The group, which is receiving support from the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition, has lit a sacred fire and there’s continuous prayer.
“What we’re doing right now is just holding space,” McManus said.
A farmer has told them they are near a firing range where people shoot toward the encampment, but they aren’t moving, McManus said: “They’re going to have to drag me off here and I don’t know how they’re going to be able to do that.”
The land they are on is Crown land and Indigenous land, she says, and Indigenous people have been given the task of protecting the part of the world they call Turtle Island.
“The earth that I walk on right here, this is my mother. I love her, I respect her and I’m going to protect her in any way that I have to,” McManus said.
The government needs to stop dealing with corporations that are destroying the water and the earth, McManus says.
“Politicians are pushing it through for the sake of money,” she said.
“What are we going to do with all that money when we have no more clean water, when Mother Earth is so polluted from these spills and all these leaks in these pipelines?”
Indigenous people fighting to protect the land have allies of every nationality, McManus says.
“We just all, as Canadians, need to get in front of this line,” she said.