Truthout, September 9, 2021
Amid record hurricanes, wildfires and droughts, battles are being waged over the fate of the Earth. Many of those battles are being fought by Indigenous people, and by others whose relationship to life, land and one another compels them to push back against an extractive, death-making economy that renders people and ecosystems disposable. On the front lines of the struggle to halt construction of Enbridge’s new Line 3 pipeline — which would bring nearly a million barrels of tar sands per day from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin — Water Protectors have locked themselves to excavators and drills, and overturned cars and barrels of cement, while also deploying aerial blockades, including elaborate tripods and tree-sits. In scattered encampments that run along a 300-mile stretch of pipeline construction, a culture defined by mutual aid, and a spiritual and physical struggle to defend the Earth, has held strong in the face of brutality and an increasingly entrenched alliance between police and the corporate forces fueling climate catastrophe.
I recently spoke with Giniw Collective founder Tara Houska, a citizen of Couchiching First Nation, over a shaky internet connection, as she held space at the collective’s Namewag Camp in Minnesota. The camp, which is led by Indigenous women and two-spirit people, was founded by the Giniw Collective in 2018, as Minnesota’s final permit decision on Line 3 drew near. Houska says she invited Native matriarchs, including LaDonna Brave Bull Allard and Winona LaDuke, among others, to initiate the effort. “We laid out our prayers and our songs to begin this phase,” Houska told me.
Since then, the Namewag Camp, says Houska, has been “a home for many people.” Some people have spent years at the encampment, while others have held space for months, weeks or even a few days. “It really depends on the person or persons that are coming through,” says Houska. The culture of the camp emphasizes direct action, mutual aid and Native traditions. “We’ve trained well over 1000 folks in non-violent direct action, decolonization, traditional knowledge and life in balance,” says Houska. People who call the camp home are committed to stopping the pipeline, but Houska says making a home at Namewag also requires a commitment to mutual aid as a way of life. “I think we’re trying to create a balance, a place that is more reflective of balance, and deep values that are very much needed in the climate movement, and also just generally in the world,” Houska told me, adding that, “the first structure that was built in this camp was actually our sweat lodge.” The encampment also includes a “very large, beautiful garden.”