Indigenous Activists Take Line 3 Fight to the United Nations


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The U.N. has demanded the U.S. respond to allegations of Indigenous rights violations related to the pipeline construction. Tiffany Bui reports.

Tiffany Bui reports:

In late March Indigenous-led organizations asked a United Nations committee to take action against the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline.

The Giniw Collective and Honor the Earth argued that the construction of the tar sands pipeline violated numerous rights of the Anishinaabe under an international convention against racial discrimination.

In a win for advocates, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination wrote a letter to the U.S. requesting a response to these allegations.

Kate Finn is the executive director of First Peoples Worldwide, which helped bring the case in front of the UN. Finn said the letter is a key step in acknowledging that the pipeline construction has caused harm to the Anishinaabe.

“It really does plainly state these human rights violations,” said Finn. “And we can take this letter to businesses and to financial institutions and to insurers to say ‘here are the violations that are attendant to Enbridge’s pipeline.’”

The U.S. has yet to make a response viewable by the public, as of the writing of this story. And Finn doesn’t expect there will be one.

Still, the United Nations’ attention to Line 3 has raised awareness to an international level.

Keri Iyall Smith, a professor of sociology at Suffolk University, said it is not uncommon for Indigenous people to turn to the United Nations after exhausting all their legal options at the local, state and federal level.

“I like the words that Walter Echo Hawk uses,” said Smith. “He calls it ‘the courts of the conqueror.’ And it's very logical that it's hard for Indigenous peoples to win in the courts of the conqueror, in the courts of the settler state. More frequently, what does happen is Indigenous peoples need to lean on that international support and international pressure to assert their rights.”

Line 3 began operating at the beginning of October; activists say they will continue fighting for Indigneous cultural and environmental rights.

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