Nicolette Slagle, from the group Honor the Earth, clearly has her own views not only on what Native people deserve but also on how things should happen in Minnesota. This commentary is in response to Slagle's Nov. 5 column in the News Tribune, "Instead of Line 3, make U.S. global leader in green infrastructure."

As both a Native person and supporter of Line 3, I believe there needs to be a broader and better way to look at these issues. There is also a real opportunity for Minnesota to lead by bringing back civility and respect

Slagle, like too many others who actively oppose Line 3, seems to have decided what the outcome should be, regardless of any facts. She seems to find it acceptable when an agency or a decision supports her point of view and horrific when the opposite happens. She seems to feel that anything that conflicts with what she thinks is wrong.

Anyone who shares her point of view is apparently a hero, and the ends justify the means when it comes to advocacy. This apparently includes threatening Minnesota Public Utilities Commission staff members, bringing bullhorns to commission meetings, stopping unrelated road construction projects, and, yes, flying to Minnesota to stop traffic in Bemidji.

Loren Blackford apparently thought it made sense to fly from Washington, D.C., to Minnesota to go to Bemidji to block traffic. It still seems strange to me that Blackford, the president of the Sierra Club, would waste that much fuel to protest after the state Public Utilities Commission already unanimously approved Line 3. Others came to Minnesota apparently just to make sure the commission could not hold a regularly scheduled meeting.

People like me who know that Line 3 is important and who support the project are immediately dismissed because we dare to disagree with Slagle, Honor the Earth, and other opponents. She said in her commentary she did not like that there was a Minnesotans for Line 3 bus at the commission hearings parked across the street from the Honor the Earth bus. Her bus was OK, apparently, but one for a group from the other point of view was wrong?

People from across Minnesota who support the Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project came to hearings and meetings, just like people from Honor the Earth and the Sierra Club. Each side had its messages, signs, food, and coffee. I attended the meetings with others from United Piping of Duluth because not only do we support Line 3, we want to bring jobs and economic opportunity where it's needed - to our communities.

As a Native person and someone trying to create jobs for my community, I take great offense at anyone telling me or others what we "deserve." The idea we have to oppose Line 3 because Native people deserve "processes that seek their free, prior, and informed consent on projects that impact their lives and lands," as Slagle wrote, ignores the years of work, the thousands of hours, and the comments that have been shared and reviewed through the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's process.

I support the Line 3 project because it makes sense to replace something that is decades old and depended on each day. I support the project because it is a chance for my company to hire more people from White Earth and other tribal communities to do work that pays great and teaches a life-long skill.

Unfortunately, for Slagle and Honor the Earth, only accepting their ideas as true and ignoring things they disagree with seems to make sense - and anyone who disagrees with them apparently is wrong or misguided. What concerns me most is that this is leading to the hate and anger we now see almost everywhere.

If we really want to make Minnesota a global leader, as Slagle argued in her commentary, we should be the first to bring civility and respect back to issues like Line 3. This would send a powerful message that people from different communities and points of view can come together in a way that moves things forward - especially when we have different ideas.

Instead of perceiving someone or anyone who disagrees with you as a threat, we can together rise to a higher level. We can focus on what we share together at a time when we are all exhausted from an election campaign focused on ways to divide us. Doing this in a way that is part of Minnesota would truly be important leadership at the right time.

 

Matthew Gordon is vice president and director of operations for Gordon Construction in Mahnomen, Minn., and an enrolled member of the White Earth Reservation.