Local Projects: The Minnesota Water Protector Trip of St. Mary’s in St. Paul

This week’s ECN local-project spotlight features the pro-indigenous, pro-water work of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, MN, in partnership with Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light.

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According to a church press release, St. Mary’s received a grant for $5,000 for “a project to host a trip for members of non-tribal congregations to northern Minnesota to visit with Native congregations and Native water protectors at the site of the proposed pipeline in Minnesota, hosting a series of talks and events.” Just shy of 20 St. Mary’s parishioners took the trip on Memorial Day Weekend 2018, visiting the site of the proposed Line 3 pipeline.

The then-rector, the Rev. LeeAnne Watkins, explained in a website reflection why she feels called to stand with the Ojibwe against the pipeline:

“Many of you know that my grandparents built a natural gas business in Northern Montana, along the prairie that the Blackfeet once roamed freely. Some of income from that has enabled me to go to school, be trained for ministry, and has in a small way subsidized my life and the ministry we share. Someday, along with my brother and 4 cousins, we will inherit that company. So it’s hard for me to say anything at all from place of comfort or innocence on this topic. I wrestle with my role and my family’s role in the fossil fuel industry all the time.

“But a place from which I can solidly stand is as a daughter of colonizer immigrants, and as a citizen of Minnesota, whose people promised not to mess with the inheritance of the Ojibwe from whom we swindled the land. I’ve been reading books and listening to elders and learned just a bit about the shameful legacy of broken treaties and overt attempts to destroy a people. When I began learning, it was something that I thought happened in the past.

“But it’s happening right now. In my day, on my watch. And I refuse to be a part of that.

“The Ojibwe do not want the pipelines there. Not the old rotting one, not a new bigger one.  Leaks – and there will be leaks, there always are – will do incredible damage to their inheritance of healthy water and land. And as someone who tries to pattern her life after Jesus, and someone whose baptismal promises include respecting the dignity of every human being and working for justice and peace, I will fight those who wish to rob people from whom we have already taken so much.”

Thank you for your important ministry standing with the Ojibwe and with God’s creation, St. Mary’s and MIPL! Visit St. Mary’s website to learn more about their Water Protector Trip.

Full disclosure: ECN’s volunteer deputy editor was a member of the committee that awarded these grants. Both volunteer editors are now volunteers on the task force that will administer the next round of grants.

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