Debra Topping has been harvesting wild rice near her home on the Fond du Lac Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota for thirty-eight years. Around late summer, she skims the shallow lakes where it grows, using two lightweight wood batons, called "knockers," to pull the stalks of grass over the canoe, and swatting the husked tips, the "spikelets," into the boat.
The seeds are protein-rich and nutty in flavor. Topping sometimes cooks them inside a pumpkin, with sweet potatoes and squash--her grandsons favorite dish. An uncle once told Topping that the family needed 100 pounds of finished wild rice per year for each person. In practice, she says, it's more like four times that much--enough to share with the community during feasts, ceremonies, and funerals.
"Wild rice is why the creator put us where we're at, as indigenous Anishinaabe people," she tells The Progressive.
Parts ofthe fine 3 Pipeline, which Enbridge hopes to abandon after installing an entirely new pipeline, coming out of the ground on the Fond du Lac reservation.
Topping speaks hastily, en route to a Minnesota Public Utilities Commission public hearing on Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands pipeline. Larger than the infamous Keystone XL pipeline, the project threatens to decimate the wild rice lands so foundational to Toppings culture and family life.
"As a mother, a wife, and most importantly a grandma, I need to protect this food source for our future generations, because that's who we are as a people," she says. "Without it--that's genocide."
Some activists The Progressive spoke to are calling Line 3 the "alternative Keystone" for providing tar sands oil a route out of landlocked northern Alberta. It will snake across the Canadian border, clip a corner of North Dakota, and traverse Minnesota before arriving at Superior, Wisconsin, where the oil can then be shipped to Gulf Coast refineries via other pipelines and routes.
But unlike Keystone XL, Line 3 has largely escaped public attention, thanks to Enbridge's branding of the project as a "replacement" of an existing pipeline. This is despite the fact that it will diverge drastically from the old route through northern Minnesota, and could double the amount of oil Line 3 transports per day (it will have a daily capacity of 915,000 barrels of diluted bitumen).
This makes Line 3 not only larger than Keystone XL (which will have a capacity of 830,000 barrels per day) but the same type of oil will flow through it--a matter of grave concern to...