Three Athens County Women to Stand with Indigenous Water Protectors in Minnesota

Athens, Ohio, 6-22-21––Three Athens elders will travel to northern Minnesota this week in support of Indigenous women-led water protectors who are resisting construction of an enlarged tar sands pipeline that would take a new route through tribal lands.  The women released a statement explaining why they feel called to make this journey:

“We stand in support of all who are trying to stop construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline because it would greatly increase flow into the U.S. of Canadian tar sands, a sludge with the same carbon-heavy crude oil as the recently canceled Keystone XL pipeline would have carried. This new section of pipeline will go under more than 200 waterways and cross Mississippi River headwaters twice.  Construction, as well as likelihood of leaks, endangers resources, including wild rice, that are critical to survival of the region’s tribal communities.” 

The statement by Claudia Sheehan, Anne Sparks, and Judy Smucker continues, “Tribal communities have been putting their bodies in harm’s way for over seven years to end pipeline construction and transport of tar sands through their homelands. Last week more than 1500 people gathered to protest Line 3. Over 200 were arrested for peaceful actions to honor Indigenous Peoples’ treaties and protect our earth. Science tells us that our earth is at a tipping point. Yet our politicians subsidize fossil fuels and block clean energy, refusing to act responsibly and require use of cleaner and safer energy sources.”  

“Why do we continue to allow our water to be poisoned?” asks Anne Sparks.  “We cannot allow this pipeline to move forward.  Everyone must know that “Water is life,” as the Standing Rock collective taught us. We cannot allow our children’s future to be sacrificed for short-term corporate gain.”

Judy Smucker, a grandmother, asked, “We tell our children we love them, but do our actions match our words?” She continued, “We say we love our children, but we continue to use gas and oil and single-use plastic, a product of gas and oil. Knowing what may lie ahead for the next generation is heartbreaking. How can we leave this crisis on the shoulders of our children?  We must end the fossil fuel era now.” 

Claudia Sheehan declared,  “As deeply concerned citizens, it is our duty and an honor to support Indigenous Peoples in claiming their treaty rights and protecting our earth and the ways our planet provides for all of us. Some may dismiss us as radical, but we are not radical––we are aware: Research shows that children are already ingesting plastic in food and water. We are acting on our love for our children and grandchildren; we are takingresponsibility for the future that we will leave them. We have to make the right choices now! No, we are not radical; to do nothing is what is extreme, a radical denial of reality.”

The women were brought together for this effort through Athens County’s Future Action Network (ACFAN) and the March 29 Athens Line 3 solidarity rally. They will travel in a Prius, “though we would rather be traveling in an all-electric car or by train, powered by solar or wind, which is a practical possibility if we all demand it,” they stated.