‘A living connection to the history’: Protecting Tribal traditions in Minnesota

Enbridge’s now-complete L3R Tribal Cultural Resources Survey the largest of its kind

It started with a 66-mile stretch. Then it was expanded to a 201-mile corridor.

Eventually, it encompassed all 337 miles of Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project route across northern Minnesota—the largest Tribal cultural resources survey ever attempted in the energy industry.

“A project like this has never been done across Tribal communities or energy companies. They really set a precedent,” Jim Jones, a Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe member and a project manager for the survey, recently told Minneapolis radio station WCCO.

“A tribal survey of this magnitude, with so many tribes involved—this is the first time it has occurred,” Jill Hoppe, the Fond du Lac band’s tribal historic preservation officer, told the Minneapolis StarTribune.

Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project, a safety and maintenance-driven project, represents a $2.6-billion private investment in Minnesota. It includes meaningful economic opportunities for Minnesota Tribes—including a $100-million commitment to Tribal affiliation work opportunities, and the identification of more than 100 Tribal-owned or Band member-owned businesses for contracting opportunities during the project.

The L3R project is about more than economics, however—it’s about engagement, inclusion and respect.

The L3R Tribal Cultural Resources Survey, led by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, saw representatives of nine Tribes participate directly through survey work, and more than 30 Tribes in total involved via consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Line 3 Replacement Project (U.S.)
The L3RP, with a US$4-billion American component, will help ensure that Minnesota and the surrounding region are connected to secure, reliable and growing supplies of North American crude.

While the survey project began as a 66-mile recommendation from the USACE, and Tribal feedback led to a 201-mile Corps requirement, Enbridge chose to pay for a survey of the entire L3R corridor across Minnesota and North Dakota—covering the cost of surveyor wages, technical archeological inventories and documentation, while also working with private landowners to provide access.

Work is now substantially complete, after beginning in late 2017. Among the discoveries have been potential stone tools, apparent human-made mounds, pottery and arrowheads, and a possible hidden Dakota village described in Ojibwe oral histories.

L3R project changes have been made to avoid sites of potential cultural significance, and Tribal monitors will be hired during the project’s construction phase to ensure cultural resources are protected.

“It’s more than a job. When you hold a piece of pottery in your hand, for a split second, you are in the space of someone who held it two or three or 10 thousand years ago,” Todd Defoe, a Fond du Lac band member who performed survey work, told the StarTribune.

Jones, previously the cultural resources director with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, used both oral histories from Tribal elders and GPS technology to hunt for these cultural resources.

“There is a living connection to the history,” he told the StarTribune. “We need to hear the voices of traditional people when we start talking about archeology. That’s what makes this project unique.”