I’ll always remember June 7. It was a clear summer day. My crew got an early start at the construction site at Twin Inlets, Minn. But at around 10:15, the day turned ugly.
Before we could react, protestors scaled the fence around the site. We were surrounded. They call themselves water protectors. I call them hypocrites. We tried to leave but some of my workers were briefly trapped. We finally made a break for it and got out – safely.
Then the protestors went to work. They vandalized one my employee’s private vehicles and then turned to the construction equipment I own. They slashed tires. Put sand in gas tanks and cut hydraulic lines on our heavy equipment. The message of intimidation was loud and clear – get out, stop working on the Line 3 pipeline project.
They claim to be helping Native Americans and protecting water. But I am a Native American, a business owner. The protestors did hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to my equipment.
Six of those working for me that day at Two Inlets were also Native Americans. They feared for their safety and their livelihood.
What you don’t see on the news or social media is the ugliness that has gone on with the replacement project this summer. Vandals spat and called us names, claiming to be helping the environment and protecting our Native American way of life. Many of them were white people from places far from Minnesota who have no idea about my way of life.
I don’t understand how you can use hatred and violence to justify protesting something.
My father didn’t bring me up that way. He started this construction company on the White Earth Reservation in Mahnomen, Minn., back in 1983, when there were few Native-owned businesses. We now have 200-plus employees and 30% of them are Native Americans. We have built schools, roads, bridges, water mains, storm sewers, commercial buildings and pipeline pump stations. Through hard work, we build a person’s pride and self-esteem while also respecting the land that is our home.
These protestors claim to represent all Native Americans in Minnesota. That’s not true. I care for our way of life, the water and wild rice just as much as they do. When Line 3 was proposed more than six years ago, I met with Enbridge, the company building the pipeline, because I wanted to make sure they would be respectful and were going to take care of the land the way I was taught, and the way I believe. They had worked closely with indigenous tribes in Canada and respected their people and the land.
Because of that, I supported Line 3 being replaced. The old pipe was rusting and in bad shape and represented a danger to the environment. Why wouldn’t anyone want an old pipeline replaced by a new, safer one? I understand that people want to go green with cleaner energy, but until that day happens, we need to make sure today’s pipelines are safe and reliable for everyone.
I figure without a pipeline, how do you keep the lights on and the economy moving? Pipelines are better than more big trucks on the road and long lines of railroad tanker cars. We all know what can happen to them.
Which brings me back to June 7… and many of the days after that.
Since then, these water protectors have chained themselves to pipes, called their Hollywood friends to sing and go on TV shows. They have thrown objects that looked like bombs onto construction sites, that turned out to be noise makers. They threaten my workers and tell them they wish they were dead, and that they hope their children and grandchildren will die.
This is all being done to intimidate and scare my people.
I know as a Native American that’s not what my culture stands for. Respect for things like the environment, water, wild rice, and clean air goes hand in hand with respecting people.
I ask these people to stop terrorizing others because you disagree with them. Stop vandalizing, hurting people and making a spectacle of yourself.
Let’s use our strength as Native Americans to hold businesses accountable. Let’s put our people to work and protect all the things we care dearly about. Let’s begin by working together, not against each other.
I am proud that my workers and I can say we built Line 3.