BLACK SNAKE KILLERS

The Anishinaabe-led fight against the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline. 


Black Snake Killers documents the Anishinaabe-led struggle against the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline — referred to by activists as the Black Snake — during the final 3 months of Line 3’s construction. Line 3 was built by Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline giant, to carry over 800,000 barrels of crude oil daily from Alberta, Canada, to a port in Superior, Wisconsin, USA. Along the way it crosses wide swaths of Anishinaabe territory, where treaties maintain Indigenous residents' right to live, hunt, fish and gather.

For almost a decade, Anishinaabe land defenders and their allies have fought Line 3, which has an emissions footprint roughly equal to 50 coal-fired power plants. They have attended public hearings, chained themselves to construction equipment to delay drilling under waterways, staged wide-scale protests and lived, sometimes for years, at resistance camps along the pipeline’s route. Throughout all of this, activists have been met with arrest, violations of treaty rights and frac-outs on their homelands.

The Line 3 pipeline crosses critical wetlands, forests and numerous waterbodies, including the Mississippi River, twice. A potential oil spill along the pipeline route threatens not just Anishinaabe lands and cultures, but the 18 million people that depend on the Mississippi for drinking water.

The struggle over Line 3 is just one of hundreds of Indigenous-led land and water defense movements ongoing around the world, against extractive industries.

Anishinaabe and many other Indigenous environmental activists worldwide argue that restoring land to Indigenous stewardship — thereby respecting Indigenous rights and keeping resources out of the hands of fossil fuel companies — is a key means of preserving biodiversity and protecting our planet from further environmental destruction.




Kiley Knowles rides her horse through the Shell River during a women water protectors demonstration against Line 3 – commonly referred to by activists as “The Black Snake.”
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Construction progress on Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline near one of its Mississippi River crossing points in northern Minnesota. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, there were 3 separate drilling fluid frac-outs at this river crossing site during July 2021 alone.


Over 18 million people depend on the Mississippi River for drinking water. 

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Quiiroi (left, Blackfoot and Taino) and Sonny (right, Iñupiaq) lead a protest against Line 3 in front of an Enbridge construction site.


Enbridge – the company behind Line 3 - is a Canadian multinational pipeline giant, responsible for the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill, one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history.

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A water protector stops construction by climbing onto equipment at an Enbridge drill site on the Red Lake River.


There are almost 2 dozen river crossings in the Line 3 pipeline’s path.


Each of these waterways risks contamination in the event of an oil spill. 

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Sasha Beaulieu's (Red Lake Nation) tipi stands at Red Lake Treaty Camp. Many of the indigneous leaders in the fight against the Line 3 oil pipeline are veterans of the Standing Rock struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and this tipi was gifted to Sasha during her time at Standing Rock.

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Water protectors from Camp Migizi lock together on top of a pipe, stopping construction at an Enbridge work site near the I-35 freeway south of Cloquet, MN.


Direct action tactics such as locking to machinery are commonly used by environmental activists to stop the encroachment of oil infrastructure across Turtle Island.

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De'Von Anderson (Ojibwe, Red Lake) holds a homemade mirror up to a police officer during a demonstration at Red Lake Treaty Camp.

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Water protectors Gabe (left) and Rainbow (right) hold hands while facing off with police at Red Lake Treaty Camp, a ceremonial and indigenous-led protest camp against the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline.


Over the course of the almost decade-long battle against Line 3, thousands of people have passed through the various resistance camps along the pipeline route, in order to support Anishinaabe treaty rights and indigenous land sovereignty.

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Sasha Beaulieu of the Red Lake Nation stands on a formerly submerged part of the Middle River, where Enbridge is pumping water for use in construction of Line 3.


Despite a historic drought which caused water levels in rivers across the Great Lakes Region to be extremely low throughout 2021, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources granted Enbridge a permit to pump 5 billion gallons of water from Minnesota waterways, further straining the wetlands and other freshwater ecosystems where manoomin, or wild rice grows, a food staple and sacred crop for the Anishinaabe. 

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Taysha Martineau of Fond du Lac stands alone in front of a police line while in ceremony.


The American Indian Religious Freedom Act gives Native Americans the right to worship through ceremonies and traditional rites, but Anishinaabe leaders were regularly interrupted by law enforcement while in ceremony on land that fell in the Line 3 pipeline’s path.


Half an hour after this image was taken, Taysha Martineau was arrested. 

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An armed member of law enforcement guards an Enbridge drill site on the Red Lake River in Northern Minnesota. Enbridge has made a slush fund available to the Northern Lights Task Force, a law enforcement coalition, prompting criticism that police branches are acting as private security for the Candian company while it builds the Line 3 pipeline across Anishinaabe land.

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A young boy from the Red Lake Nation swims in Red Lake, an indigenous sacred site and the 16th largest lake in the United States. A large portion of Red Lake is part of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, which is entirely owned and occupied by members of the Red Lake Nation, making it a sovereign territory within the United States.


Many miles of the Line 3 pipeline cross Red Lake Nation Treaty territory. 

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Taysha Martineau of Fond du Lac (right) and a comrade lock down to the gate of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz's residence, requesting a dialogue about the Line 3 oil pipeline.

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Taysha Martineau of Fond du Lac celebrates their birthday by locking themselves to the gate of Minnesota Governer Walz's residence, in protest of the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline through Anishinaabe territory

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Children swim in the Shell River at Shell City Campground, a protest camp against the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline led by Winona LaDuke and Honor the Earth.

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Jason Goward of Fond du Lac attends a zoom court hearing on his mobile phone, inside a yurt at Camp Migizi, a resistance camp along the Line 3 pipeline’s route. Jason is a former employee of Northern Clearing - an Enbridge contractor -who quit his job to fight Line 3.


Jason is now facing felony charges and a potential sentence of years in prison for locking down to construction machinery in order to delay work on the Line 3 oil pipeline.

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Anita Wolfe wears a "Stop Line 3" shirt on the steps of the Minnesota state capitol, during a public event where Anishinaabe tribal leaders gathered to request a nation-to-nation dialogue about the pipeline with Minnesota state government representatives.


Line 3 was built to carry tar sands from Alberta, Canada, to a port in Superior, Wisconsin, crossing a wide swath of Anishinaabe territory in the process. 

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