Minnesota’s Seventh District Court found that Honor the Earth, a prominent anti-Line 3 environmentalist group, may have violated human rights.
Honor the Earth (HTE) may face “potential criminal and civil liability for human rights violations” stemming from its treatment and alleged sexual abuse of a former employee, the court says. This determination came after HTE attempted to dismiss legal action brought against it by the former employee in question, Margaret Campbell.
HTE is headed by activist Winona LaDuke, whose efforts to halt the construction of the Line 3 replacement pipeline have earned personal visits from Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and countless headlines across Minnesota news outlets.
However, both LaDuke and her organization have a controversial history of maintaining relationships with alleged sexual predators.
Campbell previously worked for HTE before she filed a complaint with the Department of Human Rights in 2016 claiming that she was sexually harassed by LaDuke’s right-hand man, Michael Dahl. Campbell says the abuse occurred in 2014 and 2015, and LaDuke refused to take her complaints seriously.
LaDuke appeared to attempt to discredit Campbell’s accusations on the basis that Campbell is “non-native,” a claim she made during an August Native Roots Radio interview.
In addition to alleged abuse against Campbell, court documents also detail claims that Dahl abused underage boys.
Despite the severity of Campbell’s accusations, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights determined in 2018 that her claims were too old for any further action. However, the Minnesota Seventh District Court is now reviewing Campbell’s accusations.
Recently, HTE claimed before the court that because Campbell was an “at-will” or contract employee, it should not be held liable if she was indeed abused. Further, the group argued that “her dissemination of the sexual abuse allegations to the public were premature, and an internal employment and human resources issue,” per a court document.
The court does not seem to share this opinion. These factors do “not excuse HTE from potential criminal and civil liability for human rights violations,” the court said. It went on to cite LaDuke’s “failure to take Campbell’s allegations against Dahl seriously, threats of litigation … and creation of a generally hostile work environment.”
This swirling abuse controversy that has surrounded HTE for years has not put a damper on the positive media coverage the group receives from the mainstream media. NBC recently featured LaDuke front and center in an Earth Day article titled, “See the women over 50 fighting to save the environment.”
Bonnie Raitt, a Grammy-winning member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, also teamed up with HTE recently to present her new track, “No More Pipeline Blues.” The music video that accompanies the song shows LaDuke and her protesters taking physical measures to halt pipeline construction. The video was promoted by Rolling Stone.
Meanwhile, proponents of Line 3 say it is both safe and fair to the communities involved. The project, originally commissioned by former President Barack Obama, aims to replace an aging and unsafe line with a newer one, per the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Further, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa — who control the land through which the line will pass — say they’re happy with the project and feel it will bring them economic benefit.