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WINONA LADUKE: Observations from the proposed Enbridge pipeline route

Winona LaDuke speaks against Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project before the final public meeting regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Statement outside of the Sanford Center. (Pioneer file photo)

I am counting butterflies this week. From the back of a horse, I’ve been surveying the territory of northern Minnesota. It’s a land of wild rice, milkweed, berries, bergamot and life. It’s a slow pace, and what I notice is there are not that many butterflies. In fact, there are not that many of any insects. This is my fifth year riding and canoeing the proposed route of the new Enbridge pipeline project to see what is out there and show that I value this world.

The truth is we have become a people who live in a box -- not only a house, a housing project, a city, but a computer, a phone, and a box of our own social limitations. When we stick in our manmade world of things, I fear that we lose our hearts to the world.

Over 99 percent of GMO acreage is already engineered by chemical companies to tolerate heavy herbicide use and/or produce insecticide in every cell of every plant over the entire growing season. That’s why a lot of the monarch butterflies are gone.

Scientists blame a phenomenon known as Nature Deficit Disorder. In his 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods,” Richard Louv talks about the five hours a day we spend in front of the television, and the children we keep inside. One consequence is that children have limited respect for their natural surroundings. Louv writes, “An increasing pace in the last three decades, approximately, of a rapid disengagement between children and direct experiences in nature…has profound implications, not only for the health of future generations but for the health of the Earth itself.”

So, let me tell you what it looks like this week. The butterflies are in small numbers, but the deer, plants and wild rice look good. I’m not sure how the pollination is going because of the plunge in the number of pollinators. There are milkweed plants waiting for the monarchs, but no monarchs in sight.

I did, however, see a couple of bumblebees, and in one of our cars we found a dead bombus. This rare rusty-patched bumble bee is likely to be further endangered by additional mining and pipeline proposals. Bombus affinis is a friend of the chokecherry. If they are not pollinating, does that mean there are going to be fewer chokecherries?

The great Lakota leader Mathew King once said, “the only thing sadder than an Indian who is not free, is an Indian who does not remember what it is like to be free.” In many ways, that’s true now. For the Anishinaabeg to be free is to make maple syrup, harvest medicines, net fish, harvest wild rice and live the life of these northwoods and lakes.

The sound of the horse nation on our land, reminds us of the larger life around us. I see the few monarchs, the quietude of our lakes, and am grateful.

I am interested not in diminishing my relationship with nature, but in restoring it.