White Earth prepares for first-ever Rights of Nature case filed in Tribal Court

December 8, 2021

On August 4, an action was filed in the Tribal Court of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota, by Manoomin (wild rice), the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and several tribal members, to stop the State of Minnesota from allowing the Enbridge corporation to use five billion gallons of water for the construction of the oil pipeline known as “Line 3.” This is the first case brought in a tribal court to enforce the rights of nature, and the first rights of nature case brought to enforce Treaty guarantees.

In the opinion of many, it is one of the most important tribal sovereignty cases to be filed over the past several decades. Frank Bibeau, Tribal Attorney representing wild rice and the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and Thomas Linzey, CDER’s senior legal counsel assisting in the case, presented a comprehensive look at this defining case and how it is expanding tribal sovereignty through the enforcement of the rights of nature and tribal treaty rights.

As the first rights of nature case to be filed in a tribal court (and only the second rights of nature enforcement case in the U.S.), the case has rapidly become the focus of national media, tribal attorneys, and environmental activists alike. The case has implications for tribes across the U.S., because any tribal nation which is a party to a treaty with the U.S. government could use this same mechanism to challenge permits issued on those ceded lands.

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