Vanessa Warheit
6 min readJun 11, 2021


Day 2: Action!

As we rose early and drove out to the action area, our little band of UU ministers was filled with adrenaline and determination. A police car blocked the road shortly before the designated action spot, and we all held our breath as the officer standing there asked us where we were headed. Lindi, behind the wheel and calm as ever, told him we were going to a prayer ceremony. He smiled broadly and told us to go on through. Not the response we were expecting, but we definitely all breathed a sigh of relief.

Our first stop was at the LaSalle Recreation Area, where the interfaith contingent had organized a public prayer circle, led by Anishinaabe spiritual leader Jim Bear Jacobs. Clergy from all faiths — Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Baptist, UU, and Anishinaabe — shared short prayers and songs.

Mary Lyons shared her deep wisdom and hilarious sense of humor with us in the prayer circle.

One of the native elders reminded us that tears are water, that we start our lives in water — and that the water we drink today was drunk by the ancestors who signed the treaties, and even by the dinosaurs who became the bitumen in Line 3. We are linked by water to time immemorial.

After the prayer circle, we walked down the road to meet up with the rest of the march.

There were about 1500 people, all of us carrying signs and singing — and it suddenly felt familiar, just another march among the many I’ve joined over the years. It was peaceful and cheerful.

Lindi and Mary and Nancy left me at that point to go up to the front to the high risk group, and the group carrying a banner next to me generously offered to let me join them. (After chatting for a few minutes with these new friends, we realized we’d actually worked together, remotely, on Rise for Climate Jobs and Justice three years ago!)

Eventually we reached the bridge, where the prayer ceremony was happening in a tent set up by the side of the road. I joined my friend Ambrose to get closer — worried at first about risking arrest but gradually realizing there were only two police cars and the risk seemed increasingly small. We sat down in the grass and listened to the ceremony.

Afterwards, people got up and began moving toward the bridge, where the art group had created a chalk sign on the roadway. It was a pretty small bridge, and a small sign that read “Mississippi River.” Yes, that Mississippi River.

Then suddenly I heard a familiar voice from the tent — and sure enough, there was Bill McKibben.

Next up was Jane Fonda, looking amazing and getting the crowd fired up:

It was hot on the pavement — probably in the high 80s — and a group of people had gone down to cool off in the river. My family is from Iowa, where the Des Moines and Mississippi Rivers meet, so the Mississippi I know is close to a mile across. The idea of getting in this little gentle creek of a Mississippi was irresistible. Plus I was really hot.

The water was so cool and refreshing!

Ambrose’s mom is from New Orleans — so he decided he had to get in too.

Ambrose and friends singing “Wade in the Water” in the Mississippi headwaters

As we were putting our shoes back on, I looked up to see Winona LaDuke preparing to get in the river. Since we were under strict instructions to get permission before taking pictures, I approached her first, to say hello and introduce myself, and I thanked her for what she is doing. She smiled and thanked me for being there. Then I asked if I could take her picture. “Let’s take one together!” she said, putting her arm around me.

Meanwhile, the arrestable group had moved out into the marsh area on the other side of the bridge, occupying a boardwalk conveniently laid out by Enbridge for the construction machinery it would need to start drilling underneath the river.

View from the bridge — water protectors are beginning the encampment on the horizon.
I met Robin Wonsley on the bridge. She’s running for Minneapolis City Council.

Eventually Lindi and Mary reappeared on the road, and we met them with jubilant hugs and smiles. The only police presence was still just two sheriffs and their cars — who were surprisingly cordial, and even helped to protect some of the protestors on the side of the road from a hostile driver. We heard rumors that all the police had gone to the other action — which we later learned resulted in hundreds of arrests — but we had no cel service and at the time still didn’t know what might be happening there.

Lindi told us the group on the boardwalk had decided to spend the night, to begin an occupation to stop construction at the site, and that she wanted to join them. While some folks stayed to continue occupying the space, others were heading out to get their camping gear and bring back supplies. Mary and I considered joining them, but in the end we decided we were too exhausted. We all returned to the interfaith camp to pick up Lindi’s overnight gear, and Nancy gave Lindi a ride back out to the occupation at the headwaters.

Our cabin at Northern Pines camp, where I met Mike Troutman from Minneapolis.

So I finally got to relax a little, and swim in the lake, and meet a few more people in the interfaith contingent.

At dusk we had an interfaith circle to debrief on the day’s events.

A woman named Deb from Michigan told us about Line 5, another terrible pipeline project.

The organizers with Interfaith Power and Light and Greenfaith encouraged us to return home and let everyone in our communities know about Line 3, and to also get involved with local pipeline fights. They pointed out that we were like the headwaters of this movement; now it was up to us to grow it into a mighty river.

Send an email or postcard: Ask President Biden to Stop Line 3.

Learn more and get involved.



Vanessa Warheit

Program Director & Climate Solutions Advocate. @ClimateReality leader. Creator of @worsethanpoop & @insularempire. #Ω