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Arts & Culture ᐊᔨᐦᑐᐧᐃᓐ

Artists and activists release a song and video to fight Line 3 pipeline

BY Ben Powless Jun 5, 2021

Police arresting Elders. Native women drumming outside in the cold Minnesota winter. The long, winding Mississippi River. Forests being chopped down as a pipeline is installed. 

These are scenes familiar on nightly news broadcasts, but they become even more poignant and powerful as the setting for a new music video. “No More Pipeline Blues (On This Land Where We Belong)” has been released to support the efforts of Indigenous communities trying to prevent the construction of Line 3, Enbridge’s oil pipeline stretching from Alberta’s tar sands through Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Minnesota, and across 200 bodies of water, including the Mississippi River.

Overlaying these powerful visuals are songs and spoken-word pleas from Bonnie Raitt, the Indigo Girls, Winona LaDuke, the Day Sisters, Mumu Fresh, Pura Fe, Soni Mareno, Jennifer Kreisberg, and Joy Harjo, the United States’ first Native poet laureate. 

participants released the song on Earth Day, April 22, to raise public awareness and urge US President Joe Biden to stop construction on the controversial pipeline, which received a permit in November after six years of regulatory battles.

“‘No More Pipeline Blues’ beautifully illustrates in music, singing, spoken word and images the threats of a totally unnecessary tar-sands pipeline at the end of the age of Big Oil,” said LaDuke in a statement. LaDuke is a prominent Indigenous activist in the US, who previously ran for vice-president, and who has been a central figure in trying to stop Line 3. “But it also illuminates the sacredness of our environment, and yet more destructive, historical impacts to Indigenous culture.” 

Keri Pickett, who directed the music video, said the intent is to depict a resistance led by Indigenous women. Pickett called it a “sacred, creative and non-violent way” to oppose the destruction that is a result of the pipeline’s construction. 

“To me it’s not a music video, it’s a documentary video with a song,” she observed.

Initially Pickett was approached by Larry Long, who wrote and composed the song about the struggle but hadn’t been able to visit the frontline. Pickett said she wanted to use footage from the Line 3 protest and then decided with LaDuke to add spoken-word pieces. 

Eventually, the two got the Indigo Girls on board, and reached out to Harjo, who added her poem. Picket then combined footage from three different sources to make the song and accompanying video a reality. 

Pickett says she hopes that if people are moved by the song and the issue, they will contact President Biden to ask for a stay and full environmental review, which would stop pipeline construction until the court cases are completed. 

The footage features protests and arrests in a harsh winter landscape. “If 250 people have been arrested under brutal winter conditions, you know what’s going to happen in the summer,” Pickett hinted.

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.