Winona LaDuke and Six Elder Women Arrested at the Shell River

July 20, 2021 By Rebecca Kemble

On July 19 seven Elder women, among them Honor the Earth director Winona LaDuke and Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative reporter Barbara With, were arrested for trespassing as they sat in lawn chairs on the banks of the Shell River praying and hoping to put a halt to Enbridge’s horizontal directional drilling under the river stressed by a historic drought.

Cheryl Barnds, Mary Klein, Winona LaDuke, Kelly Maracle, Kristin Razowsky, Patricia Weber, and Barbara With face off with sergeants and deputies from Rice and Stearns County on Enbridge’s easement to the Shell River July 19, 2021. Photo by Citizen X

Dozens of water protectors in canoes and on horseback stood in solidarity with their action to stop the construction of Line 3, a pipeline that could bring 760,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day across 340 miles of the upper Mississippi River basin in northern and central Minnesota on the 1855 and 1854 Treaty territories of Anishinaabe peoples.

Water protectors sing and witness the arrests of the seven Elders at the Shell River on July 19, 2021. Photo by Citizen X

This action comes two weeks after Enbridge caused a “frac-out under the Willow River, spilling 80 – 100 gallons of drilling fluid into the river. According to Utility magazine, when a frac-out occurs, “the drilling fluid itself may not be toxic, but the fine particles can smother plants and animals, particularly in an aquatic environment.” This is of particular concern for the rivers already stressed out by drought.

Rivers across the Upper Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes Basin where Line 3 is proposed are running extremely low, many of them in critical condition, according the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Because of this, the DNR has suspended some of the permits granted to Enbridge in June to withdraw 5 billion gallons of water for construction and drilling activities. However, Enbridge can still withdraw water from other areas and truck it in for drilling.

To install Line 3, Enbridge proposes to make a total of 22 river crossings, 5 of them under the Shell, a river that is home to wild rice beds, small mouth bass, trout, clams, mussels, dragonflies and many other species. Water protectors have been camping at Shell City Campground for the past two months to learn more about the river and the historical and cultural significance of the area, to monitor the health of the river, and to document the impact of the drought and the impact of local irrigation systems. When the river dropped 8 inches in one day, monitors discovered 62 deep water pumps installed along the river to serve the corporate potato farms that have overtaken the area. 

Wild rice beds at one of the five locations on the Shell River where Enbridge proposes to drill. Photo by Rebecca Kemble

Last week over 200 people joined LaDuke, actress Marisa Tomei and V (formerly known as Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues) for ceremony, a paddle down the Shell and a feast at camp. Addressing the gathering LaDuke expressed her dissatisfaction with how Minnesota’s regulatory agency granted the water withdrawal permits saying, “Enbridge doesn’t own the river, neither does the DNR.” She and others have called upon people to come to Line 3 to defend the water and the treaty rights of the Anishinaabe people who live there.

On July 5, 2021 Sundance singer Hoka Wicasa talked about the harassment from a nearby militia camp and asked for more allies to come to camp to witness and protect. Video by Rebecca Kemble

Since the beginning of 2021 more than 500 arrests have been made on Line 3. Minnesota law enforcement has been planning counterinsurgency actions for several years with the establishment of the Northern Lights Task Force. One condition of Enbridge’s construction permit required by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission was to deposit millions of dollars into a fund to reimburse law enforcement agencies for their services on Line 3, turning public law enforcement agencies into de-facto private security firms for Enbridge. These arrests are overwhelming county courts with bloated dockets and virtual hearings.

The seven Elders arrested yesterday will spend a second night in jail with their bail hearings scheduled in Wadena County Court for tomorrow at noon. At least five other people were arrested on the banks of the Shell River today. They will not likely be the last. For more information on Line 3 activities go to

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