Geraldine McManus is a Two-Spirit Dakota woman of the Bear Clan. She is the driving force behind the Spirit of the Buffalo Camp, a prayer camp in rural Manitoba on the US/Canada border that sits on top of where Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline runs. Scott Neigh interviews her about about her opposition to Line 3 and about the camp.
The Line 3 pipeline runs 1700 kilometres from Hardisty, Alberta, to the town of Superior in Wisconsin. It originally came into service in 1968, but in a multi-billion dollar project, the aging pipeline is being replaced by a new pipeline that will allow capacity along the route to expand by 375,000 barrels per day. The Line 3 project has received all necessary approvals from both US and Canadian regulatory authorities, and is currently under construction.
It has received far less media attention than many other pipelines, but given the urgency of the climate crisis and the risk of spills and the harm they do to land and water, Indigenous and environmental groups have been actively opposing the Line 3 project – perhaps more actively in the US, but in Canada as well.
Geraldine McManus has a long history of involvement in standing up for justice. Along with many other things, she supported land struggles in British Columbia in the 1990s, took part in the Winnipeg component of the national wave of actions targeting Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada offices a couple of years ago, and was centrally involved in the land defence camp at the Standing Rock reservation in the US protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016. Inspired by the lessons of Standing Rock and by a spiritual call to take this action, she and some supporters initially set up the Spirit of the Buffalo Camp in the summer of 2018.
The company claims that the camp is not, in fact, blocking any work that is necessary for their Line 3 expansion project. McManus concedes that this may be the case, though she is far from certain. One key piece of evidence that makes her think she may be blocking the work despite what the company says came as the weather turned cold in the fall. There was some discussion among supporters about whether to continue the camp, but as its sole full-time resident the decision rested with McManus. Originally, she thought that maybe she would leave, and as part of that process they took down the teepee and the miner’s tent that were part of the camp. As soon as that happened, she noticed a distinct uptick in the presence and activity of Enbridge personnel nearby. That was part of what inspired her to stay and to work with her support team to winterize the camp.
Regardless of whether the camp is serving as a blockade, McManus feels that it is doing important work. Given that it is an action that she has taken under a call from spirits and from ancestors, she is comfortable not being able to clearly predict its impacts. She also feels that the act of a Dakota person reclaiming a little piece of Dakota land, as part of the opposition to the pipeline, is in any case a powerful one. And she sees an important component of all land defence camps, hers included, as being the ways in which they can become a centre and a focus for education and dialogue. For her, among the most powerful results of the Standing Rock camp was how it brought together people of many different nations and many different cultures, providing a way for them to act for a common purpose in defence of the earth, and allowing for non-Indigenous people to learn from Indigenous peoples.
McManus’ current goal for the Spirit of the Buffalo Camp is for it to shift into a more explicitly educational mode, under the banner of becoming the Environmental Injustice Education Lodge. She expects that allies in Winnipeg will bring groups of students and other youth to learn at the camp in 2019.
While donations to support that work and the camp more generally are welcome, she encourages people around North America to get involved in whatever energy justice or environmental justice work is happening in their local communities. Most of all, she encourages people to visit any land defence camps that are happening near where they live – to sit with the land defenders, to eat with them, to speak with them, to learn from them.
Image: Used with permission of Spirit of the Buffalo Camp.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact [email protected] to join our weekly email update list.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.