Protecting Sacred Waters: Mobilizing Indigenous and Western Meanings of Science and Spirituality in the Battle over Line 3

Since 2013, a group of indigenous women calling themselves the Ginew Collective have led a growing resistance movement of American Indian activists and allies against the construction of an oil pipeline through Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) territory in northern Minnesota.  Led by women and featuring groups of predominantly white and American Indian ethnoracial identities, their resistance is fueled by a mixture of indigenous and Western perspectives on science and spirituality, providing an ideal empirical context in which to explore how actors of varying social and spiritual identities combine scientific and religious perspectives to form meaningful individual and collective action.  How do American Indian actors of minority religious and ethnoracial backgrounds use scientific and spiritual meanings to form identities, construct group boundaries, and mobilize individual and collective action in the fight against oil pipeline expansion through Anishinaabe territory in northern Minnesota?  To what extent do American Indian perspectives on the relationship between science and spirituality converge or diverge with those of their white allies?  And what role do different racial, religious, and gender identities play in shaping how individuals and groups approach the relationship between science and religion in the United States?  Assisted by a team of undergraduate research assistants, I will conduct in-depth interviews, participant observation, and digital content analysis of the Stop Line 3 movement to advance our understanding of how scientific and spiritual beliefs, identities, and discourses are mobilized to guide action across different types of social actors and settings, particularly in understudied religious and ethnic minority group contexts.  As such, this project is designed to expand our understanding of scientific and spiritual meaning-making beyond dominant expressions and tightly-bound definitions of religion, and beyond narrowly delimited definitions of scientific organization and practice.  Because it involves actors carrying both dominant Western and marginalized indigenous identities, and because these actors invoke a combination of scientific and spiritual meanings in their attempts to resist oil pipeline expansion and recalibrate the relationship between corporate-scientific and grassroots-spiritual perspectives on climate change and environmental protection, learning from this movement offers a compelling opportunity to build on recent advances in the sociology of science and religion.