A judge has dismissed charges against three Native American women for their efforts to disrupt construction of the Line 3 pipeline, citing what the “dominant culture” did to “try to eradicate our indigenous neighbors.”
Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline replacement project was completed in 2021 despite years of protests from environmental activists, who locked themselves to and vandalized equipment, shut down roadways, trespassed, and, in some cases, threatened violence.
Tania Aubid, Dawn Goodwin, and Winona LaDuke were facing various misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor charges such as trespassing, unlawful assembly, harassment, and public nuisance in connection to a Jan. 9, 2021, protest in Aitkin County, Minn., which saw activists occupy a Line 3 worksite and block traffic on U.S. Highway 169.
Charging documents claim Aubid recorded herself as she yelled at the construction workers that their “worst nightmare has come true.”
“Get nervous little boy. You don’t belong here,” she allegedly yelled.
On Thursday, District Court Judge Leslie Metzen dismissed all charges against all three women.
“In the last 20 years I have come to a broader understanding of what we, the now dominant culture did to try to eradicate our indigenous neighbors. We moved them by force and power and violence off the land where they lived for thousands of years. To make peace, we signed treaties with them that promised many things they never received,” Metzen wrote in a memo accompanying her order.
“When they had been forced to live within reservation boundaries, we stole their children; forced them to attend boarding schools where their language, long hair, spiritual beliefs, and contact with their families were forbidden. Many of them died from disease, violence, and some probably from a broken heart. I know only enough of this history to wonder how those of us in the ‘dominant culture’ could ever have thought any of these actions were okay or justifiable,” she continued.
Metzen described the actions of the defendants as an “expression of their heartfelt belief that the waters of Minnesota need to be protected from damage that could result from the pipeline.”
“Their protest was expressed by performing a jingle dance and beating a drum,” she wrote, saying the defendants are “respected members” of their communities.
LaDuke is a prominent environmental activist who ran for vice president twice on the Green Party ticket and led the organization Honor the Earth until her resignation in April when Honor the Earth was ordered to pay $750,000 to a former employee in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
“In the interests of justice the charges against these three individuals who were exercising their rights to free speech and to freely express their spiritual beliefs should be dismissed,” Metzen concluded. “To criminalize their behavior would be the crime.”