NEAR WRENSHALL, Minn. - One day after the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline gained state approval at a hearing room in St. Paul, protesters gathered outside on a hazy Friday morning, June 29, in southern Carlton County.
They stood on railroad tracks along the state line - the fenced and completed end of Enbridge Line 3 in Wisconsin over their shoulders and a pipeline easement into Minnesota overgrown with vegetation in front of them.
"This is the battle line right here," said Winona LaDuke, executive director for Honor the Earth. "We just want them to know they're not going to cross this border. We're going to put down the black snake."
LaDuke added that her group and others would use regulation, litigation and protesters to prevent and disrupt work along the roughly 340 miles of proposed Minnesota pipeline which would connect Alberta tar sands with the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wis. Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa tribal member Jim Northrup III led the group of a dozen-plus protesters in prayer.
"It's not easy to do what we do," he said, adding that there were no accidents in nature and that all along the proposed route are habitats, foods and medicines worth fighting to protect. Protesters walked along Military Road carrying homemade banners which looked like the masts and sails of tall ships and bore slogans such as "water is sacred" and "protect our future."
A lone St. Louis County Sheriff's Office deputy drove through the scene prior to its commencing and did not stop. There was no pipeline activity in sight as work along the Wisconsin section of Line 3 has been completed.
Last summer, protesters describing themselves as water protectors conducted a series of direct actions which found them locking onto equipment at work sites outside Superior. There were several arrests for misdemeanors, but no conflicts of the sort that erupted in North Dakota during the Standing Rock Indian Reservation protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016-17.
"This is Minnesota's Standing Rock," LaDuke said.
Shanai Matteson, of Aitkin, brought her two young children to the state line. It's something she does when she attends meetings and hearings to remind policy makers that there are people who don't have a voice, she said.
She also likes her children to see the protests.
"It lets them see there are people who want to protect the water and their future," she said.
Generations of Matteson's family grew up in Palisade, a small community located near Big Sandy Lake and along the proposed route.
"It's a very wet place," she said, "not a great place to put a pipeline for lots and lots of reasons."
LaDuke told the assembled protesters to expect a protracted two-year fight. Groups like hers and others will contest the 29 state and federal permits Enbridge still needs to secure, she explained. LaDuke also said legal cases would be made on other grounds, too, including the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's apparent dismissal of the counsel from other state officials and agencies which had previously made decisions and declarations contradictory of the need for the new proposed Line 3 pipeline.
"We are discouraged and embarrassed by the state of Minnesota," LaDuke said. "But at the same time I'm standing here with water protectors, of which there are thousands."
A previous version of this story contained an error. Line 3 would end at the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wis.