During the Sept. 6, 2015, Pipe Out! Paddle flotilla protest, canoers and kayakers near the south end of the Mackinac Bridge call for shutting down Enbridge's Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)
ST. IGNACE, MACKINAW CITY -- Native and non-Native protesters spent the day before Labor Day on both sides of the Mackinac Bridge to call for shutting down Enbridge's Line 5, the 62-year-old oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac, and to call attention to treaty rights violations by state and local land deals that permit mining in the Upper Peninsula.
At the north end of the bridge, protesters gathered at the I-75 rest stop near the bridge and timed their walk to the bridge for 9:06 a.m. on 9/06/2015 in order to counter State Sen. Tom Casperson's naming the day "Michigan Mining Day" (906 is also the area code for the Upper Peninsula).
Native and non-Native participants march toward the north end of the Mackinac Bridge on Sept. 6, 2015, carrying signs calling for protection of the land and water threatened by mining projects in the Upper Peninsula, including the proposed state land deal for Graymont limestone mining. Leading the march and carrying the Tribal Education Staff is organizer Martin Reinhardt. The group chose this day to counter State Sen. Casperson's declaring the day (9/06) "Michigan Mining Day." Many in the group later joined protesters at the south end of the bridge for the Pipe Out! Paddle protest against Enbridge's Line 5.
Martin Reinhardt, Anishinaabe Ojibway citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and assistant professor of Native American Studies at Northern Michigan University, who organized the gathering at the north end of the Mackinac Bridge, said he considered the event a "protect" rather than a "protest" -- to protect the Great Lakes and treaty-ceded territory:
Antoinette (Toni) Biron of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., who happens to be Reinhardt's mother, attended the event and participated in the walk to the bridge.
"I'm glad this is happening," Biron said. "I lack understanding (about the issues) and I'm sure other people do too. I don't see it as a fight. I see it as a re-education."
Reinhardt's brother Scott was also on hand to lead the singing and drumming that preceded the walk:
Hundreds of cyclists happened to be crossing the Mackinac Bridge at the same time as the "9/06" event. Some joined the march when they learned the reason for it.
Joining the walk to the north end of the bridge was Zoe Jackson of Lansing, a member of MICATS (Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands), who said she originally came up to support the flotilla protest at the south end of the bridge.
"I heard about the flotilla and I also heard about this event (on the north side) in conjunction with that," Jackson said.
Zoe Jackson of Lansing, a recent Michigan State University graduate, holds a sign showing her solidarity with Upper Peninsula residents opposed to the Graymont and other U.P. mining issues. Jackson, a member of MICATS, originally traveled to the bridge to protest the Enbridge Line 5 and ended up participating in both events.
Sault Ste. Marie (Mich.) residents Nancy and Ryan Nichols and Jennifer Payment also attended both events.
"I'm speaking for the environment that doesn't have a voice," said Payment. "These waters don't have a voice without us."
Payment also commented on Graymont's proposed limestone mine in the U.P.
"The chemicals that they use get into our surface water, our ground water," she said. "They also leave limestone deposits in the ground water. Leave that where it belongs. Leave Nature as Nature."
Displaying signs at the north end of the Mackinac Bridge are, from left, Nancy Nichols, Jennifer Payment and Ryan Nichols -- all of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Later they joined the Pipe Out! Paddle event at the south end (Mackinaw City).
Displaying a "Shut Down Line 5 Pipeline" sign, Nancy Nichols said, "They definitely should fix the aging pipeline before an extreme disaster happens."
Ryan Nichols held a sign saying "Stop Ecocide!"
"That's pretty much what we're doing to planet Earth," Ryan said. "We could reach a tipping point with climate change. We've overshot the earth's carrying capacity."
Nancy and Jim Haun of Skanee said, "We came from Skanee because we feel it's important to show our support for Mother Earth and the other people who are here."
Phil Bellfy of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., a citizen of the White Earth Nation (of Minnesota), who is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against DNR Director Keith Creagh over the Graymont issue, also participated in the walk to the north end of the bridge. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are asking for an injunction against Graymont, based on treaty rights guaranteed by the 1836 Treaty of Washington.
"Keith Creagh has no right to negotiate with Graymont over the exercise of our treaty rights," Bellfy said.
In the most recent ruling, the judge dismissed the case for lack of standing. Bellfy said one problem is they are trying to do the lawsuit without the aid of attorneys because of prohibitive costs, but they would welcome help from an attorney willing to work pro bono.
"We haven't given up," he added.*
Kathy English and her husband, Al English, of Trout Lake, Mich., have been fighting the Graymont limestone mining proposal and state land deal (sale and land exchange of more than 10,000 acres) also participated in the two protests.
"The protests seemed to be well attended, however, we encountered much complacency when trying to talk to people about what the legislators and politicians are trying to take from the people!" Kathy commented in an email to Keweenaw Now. "It is very disconcerting to see how they are trampling on Treaty Rights and Consent Decrees agreed to in good faith hundreds of years ago! Does anybody's word and signature mean nothing anymore?"
Kathy and Al English of Trout Lake walk toward the north end of the Mackinac Bridge with an inspiring message from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"It is time for the People to look around and see actually see what is happening!" Kathy added. "They need to become involved in any way they can! They need to look at their 'representatives' who really are not 'representing' the People, and work for wide sweeping change!"
Margaret Comfort of Michigamme made this sign expressing her own love of the U.P.
Miguel and Anita Levy of Chassell show support for both land and water issues with signs they carried in the walk to the bridge. They also participated in the Pipe Out! Paddle event in Mackinaw City.
More drumming and song follow the walk to the north end of the bridge.
Pipe Out! Paddle Protest's message: "Shut Down Line 5!"
Shortly after 10 a.m. many of the participants drove across the Mackinac Bridge to join the Pipe Out! Paddle protest against Enbridge's Line 5, which took place in Colonial Michilimackinac Park, Mackinaw City. The paddlers were calling on Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Schuette to shut down Line 5 in order to prevent a catastrophic Great Lakes oil spill.
Participants in the Sunday morning flotilla return to shore. Another group went out in the afternoon.
Danny Fox and Scott Kelley of the Little Traverse Bay tribal group helped bring to shore the large Jiiman (tribal canoe, pictured above right and below), which holds about a dozen people. The Jiiman is used on inland lakes in the summer to give tribal youth experience with water activities, they said.
Helping to bring in one of the largest tribal canoes, called a Jiiman, are Little Traverse Bay members Danny Fox, left, of Alanson, Mich., and Scott Kelley, right, of Petoskey. Joining them (in hat) is Ellis Boal, active Green Party member, of Charlevoix County, who holds an anti-fracking sign.
Ellis Boal, Green Party activist, displayed his anti-fracking sign on the beach and collected petition signatures against fracking in the Lower Peninsula.
"I'm here for the fracking, which is a separate issue, but a related issue," Boal said.
He added he is also concerned about the pipelines under the Straits.
Matt Kern, left, and Sairy Franks of Traverse City display signs expressing their concern for the Great Lakes, treaty rights and land issues such as Graymont.
Matt Kern and Sairy Franks of Traverse City expressed their support for Native groups defending treaty rights.
"I think it's important that the U.S. stick to its agreements that it made with Native nations," Kern said. "I think that if we're going to seriously work toward healing the Great Lakes we need to follow the leadership of Native people."
Sairy noted she sees obvious concern that an oil spill from the pipeline is going to affect everyone, but first and foremost these are Native waters.
"We want it gone," she said of Enbridge's Line 5.
Native people are guaranteed fishing rights in the Great Lakes through treaties, Kern added.
"There should be no threat to Native fishing," Kern said, "and the pipeline could wipe out those fisheries."
Daabii Reinhardt, Martin Reinhardt's daughter, right, of Marquette, joined kayaker friend Wayland Willis-Carroll of Elk Rapids after the morning flotilla.
Kayaker Wayland Willis-Carroll of Elk Rapids, representing the Little Traverse Bay Band and the Grand Traverse Bay Band, said he participated in the flotilla especially because of the pipeline.
"It could burst and our whole ecosystem would be destroyed," he said.
Joining him on the beach was his friend Daabii Reinhardt, Martin Reinhardt's daughter and a student in physics at Northern Michigan University. Daabii said she believes all the issues of concern at the protest are equally important.
"I think it's important to shut the pipeline down and end the Graymont sale," Daabii said. "There are other ways we can get energy without destroying our environment."
Martin Reinhardt (standing) joins protesters on the beach during the Pipe Out! Paddle flotilla at the south end of the Mackinac Bridge (which can be seen at left).
Following the first flotilla, several tribal and environmental leaders spoke at a press conference in Colonial Michilimackinac Park.
Here are some video clips of their presentations:
Since the protest, some progress has been made on the pipeline issue, though not to the point of shutting down Line 5. On Sept. 23, 2015, US Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow (MI) introduced the Pipeline Improvement and Preventing Spills Act to ban shipping of crude oil by vessel on the Great Lakes and require a comprehensive, top-to-bottom review of hazardous pipelines in the region. This legislation would also assess the current status of oil spill response and cleanup plans, require ice cover be part of worst-case scenarios in response plans, increase public information about pipelines for local communities, and require the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to consider new criteria for identifying areas at high risk for a pipeline spill.***
* See Phil Bellfy's Idle No More Web site for details and updates on this lawsuit. See also our March 18, 2015, article, "Native American groups seek injunction against MDNR on Graymont land transfer proposal."
** While Enbridge conducted an emergency response drill in the Straits of Mackinac on Sept. 24, 2015, Aaron Payment and other tribal and environmental representatives spoke at a protest in Bridge View Park (on the north side of the Mackinac Bridge) again calling for Line 5 to be shut down. The protest was organized by Food and Water Watch. See the Sault Ste Marie Evening News Sept. 25, 2015 article, "What if there was an oil spill?"
See also the Oil and Water Don't Mix Facebook page.
*** Click here to read more about this proposed legislation on Sen. Gary Peters' Web site.