Saturday, September 16, 2017

3rd annual Pipe Out Paddle protest against Enbridge's Line 5 under Mackinac Straits attracts Native, non-Native water protectors

By Michele Bourdieu

During the Sept. 2, 2017, third annual Pipe Out and Paddle protest against Line 5, Enbridge's 64-year-old pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac, Native and non-Native water protectors gather near the Mackinac Bridge with their kayaks and canoes in a tight group to display their banners and sing songs about the water. (Photo © and courtesy Miguel Levy)

MACKINAW CITY -- The third annual Pipe Out and Paddle protest against Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac on Sept. 2, 2017, attracted a large crowd of participants -- Native and non-Native -- many of whom paddled in a flotilla a good distance out on the Straits near the Mackinac Bridge. Jostled by the waters of Lakes Huron and Michigan, they held high their banners saying "Shut Down Line 5" and "Water is Life," attracting the attention of cars crossing the bridge, whose drivers honked in support.

Sharing a double kayak, Miguel and Anita Levy of Chassell paddled with the flotilla and captured some of the action for Keweenaw Now.

Miguel Levy recorded this song sung by water protectors during the kayak protest against Line 5 near the Mackinac Bridge. (Video © and courtesy Miguel Levy)

"The water was rough, but it was exciting," Anita said, noting the big waves as well as the solidarity among the paddlers. "One kayak overturned, but they were rapidly rescued efficiently."

Miguel, who coordinates the Indigenous Peoples' Day Campaign group that sponsors events on indigenous rights at Michigan Tech and in the local community, said he learned a bit of history while the kayaks and canoes gathered together in solidarity out in the Straits.

"One of the elders talked about the history of the Ojibwa people moving to this area," he said. "They were facing the Lakota, and then the women devised the drumming as a way of making peace."

Participating in the drumming and singing during the protest was Martin Reinhardt of Marquette, Northern Michigan University (NMU) professor of Native American Studies. Here he introduces a song to honor an eagle that was wounded and rescued during the day:

During a press conference following the flotilla launch, Martin Reinhardt, NMU professor of Native American Studies, announces the rescue of a wounded eagle and joins the Drum in singing a song to honor the eagle spirit. (Videos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

Reinhardt told Keweenaw Now he was encouraged to see so many water protectors participating in the Pipe Out Paddle event, as well as Michigan candidates who spoke during a press conference during the event.

"The presence of the young eagle and the round dance were very special and highlighted how the protection of water is so much part of Indigenous traditions," he noted. "It was also good to hear from some of the folks who are including water protection as a central part of their political campaigns for the governor's office or the legislature."

Native drummers and singers were an important part of the event.

Also attending from Marquette were NMU students Nathan Frischkorn and his friend, Zoe Person. Both are majoring in environmental studies, and Nate has a second major in sociology.

Nathan (Nate) Frischkorn, right, and Zoe Person made the trip from Marquette to participate in the Pipe Out Paddle protest near the Mackinac Bridge on Sept. 2. Nate also organized a march through Mackinaw City that afternoon. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated)

Frischkorn said he came to the protest because Enbridge's aging Line 5 poses a serious threat to the Great Lakes.

"I came here because the Great Lakes represent 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water, and there is a 64-year-old pipeline running through the middle of our most important natural resource," Frischkorn said. "There are a lot of problems with [Line 5]. It's deformed and missing protective coating. It's just a matter of time before it leaks."

If it leaks the economy of this billion-dollar tourism area will be destroyed, he added.

"Who's going to go to Mackinac Island if there is an oil spill here?" Frischkorn asked. "Also, from a civil rights aspect, these waters are protected by treaties. Tribal fishing rights would be affected if there was a leak. So whether you're looking at it from an environmental, economic or civil rights standpoint, this pipeline makes no sense."

Kayaks, canoes launch flotilla on the Straits

As the kayaks and canoes set out on the Straits from the beach in Michilimackinac State Park in Mackinaw City, supporters on the beach chanted and cheered them on.

Paddlers launch their kayaks and canoes, including large tribal canoes known as jiimans, in a flotilla as the 3rd annual Pipe Out Paddle protest against Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac begins on Sept. 2, 2017. Supporters on the beach chant, "Shut down Line 5!" and "Mni Wiconi!" (Water is Life). (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Mary Pelton Cooper of Marquette, a member of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) joined June Thaden of Traverse City, a member of Oil and Water Don't Mix, on the beach.

"The Upper Peninsula needs to be more connected to the northern Michigan groups," Cooper said. "The students have helped."

Mary Pelton Cooper of Marquette, left, is pictured here with June Thaden of Traverse City. Both support the activist organization, Oil and Water Don't Mix, which has been calling for the shutdown of Line 5 since 2013.*

As the flotilla of kayaks and canoes moved closer together in solidarity and raised their banners, beach supporters continued their chants.

Shannon Abbott of Grand Rapids is joined by two of the youngest protesters -- Aliazah Paquin, 6, and Isaiah Paquin, 5, of Petoskey -- in chanting on the beach. Anna Fisher of Lansing adds a shaker accompaniment to the chants. Many participants wear blue clothing to show their concern for the water.

Rachel Pressley of Madison, Wis., whose background includes water quality and geology, was visiting family members in the area and joined the protest.

"I'm here to support the shutdown of Line 5," she said. "The infrastructure is incredibly old, and it's not a question of if it fails but when."

Robin Barney Lees of Wabana, left, a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and Merry Rose of Bliss, Mich., join the water protectors on the beach.

Robin Barney Lees of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa said she was asking for prayers.

"I'm asking people to give prayers to those people that are responsible for taking out this pipeline (Enbridge)," she said. "Our prayers are to guide them because water is life and we can't live without it."

Shirley Johns, left, of the Eastern Band of Cherokee joins Sue Swain of the Traverse City-Petoskey area in displaying signs that express their concerns.

Dallas Goldtooth, a member of the Lower Sioux Nation in Minnesota and one of the Native American leaders at the Standing Rock protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline earlier this year, came from Chicago to join the Pipe Out Paddle event.

Pictured here with Dallas Goldtooth are, from left, Nadine Cook of Indian River, Mich., originally of South Dakota and the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux tribe; Sayokla Williams of Oneida, Wis., a member of the Oneida Nation; and Sayokla's daughter, Yohnyah Williams.

"It's always been clear that Enbridge has no regard for the quality of life of the communities and waters along their pipeline routes," Goldtooth noted. "Line 5 is no different."

Later in the day, Goldtooth spoke during the press conference:

Dallas Goldtooth compares the Pipe Out Paddle event to Standing Rock, noting both are part of a larger movement of people power -- to tell a different story.

Kayaks and canoes return to the beach.

Water protectors enjoy a delicious feast for lunch, provided by tribal organizers and volunteers.

Following the lunch feast, Pipe Out Paddle organizer Jannan Cornstalk, center, of Petoskey, announces a protest march and other activities planned for the afternoon. Cornstalk is a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

Preceding the press conference, jingle dress dancers from the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians are accompanied by drumming and song.

Speakers at press conference call for shutting down Line 5

Percy Bird, Jr., and Tom Shomin, councilors of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, spoke to the press conference audience about the importance of unity, voting and putting pressure on elected officials to make them aware of the dangers posed by Line 5.

Percy Bird, Jr., reminds members of the audience of the importance of voting for government representatives who care about the water, not those who are allies of destructive companies like Enbridge. Tom Shomin continues the message, noting the importance of speaking out, not keeping silent, about environmental concerns. "Silence kills," he says.

Another "veteran" of the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, Lee Sprague of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, spoke to the audience about the need for green energy to replace the fossil fuels running through pipelines.

Lee Sprague reminds the audience they must teach younger generations to protect the water. He notes also they must have a plan for green energy in place once the battle against the pipeline is won.

Aaron Payment of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., tribal chair of the Sault Tribe, gave an overview of his involvement in the Line 5 pipeline issue:

Aaron Payment, Sault Tribe chair, speaks about tribal opposition to Line 5 and Enbridge.

Dana Nessel, a prominent Detroit civil rights and criminal law attorney, who is a Democratic candidate for Michigan Attorney General, stated why she is running for that office and why she will call for shutting down Line 5 if elected.

Dana Nessel tells the press conference audience that the number-one priority for the office of attorney general is shutting down Line 5 because of the threats it poses to the environment.**

Another Democratic candidate from Detroit, Bill Cobbs, who is running for Michigan Governor, spoke about his commitment to working for the citizens of Michigan -- and the water, Michigan's future.

Bill Cobbs, Democratic candidate for Michigan Governor, says he will shut down Line 5 if elected.

The organizers of the Pipe Out Paddle event recommended support for Senate Bill 292, legislation that aims to shut down oil pipelines in the Great Lakes, which was introduced by State Senator Rick Jones of the 24th State Senate District, and House Resolution 51, introduced by State Rep. Yousef Rabhi of House District 53. HR 51 calls for ending the 1953 easement and shutting down Line 5.***

Andrea Pierce, one of the organizers of the Pipe Out Paddle event, who is a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and administrator of Idle No More Michigan, told Keweenaw Now she was very happy the event came together so well.

"I wanted to bring unity -- we are all fighting against the same corporation, Enbridge," Pierce said. "In bringing so many different organizations, people and Tribal Governments together, we will empower ourselves with allies. We need to foster these relationships, support each other and our events. We are Stronger Together!"

During the press conference, Andrea Pierce, an organizer of the Pipe Out Paddle event, announces information available about Michigan House Resolution 51, which calls for the shut down of Line 5, and Michigan Senate Bill 292, which aims to shut down oil pipelines in the Great Lakes. Pictured at right is co-organizer Jannan Cornstalk.

Pierce asks that those who care about the Great Lakes contact their representatives in the Michigan House and have them support House Resolution 51, which calls for the shut down of Line 5, and contact their state senators to support Senate Bill 292.***

"The Michigan Constitution calls for us to protect the Great Lakes, and the current Governor and Attorney General are NOT doing their job!" Pierce added. "We the people must make our Government do their job!"

Editor's Notes:

* Learn about Oil and Water Don't Mix and how you can become involved by visiting their Web site.

**According to the Detroit Free Press, "Nessel, a Democrat, became the first candidate to announce a run to succeed Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Midland Republican who can't run for reelection because of term limits. He's widely expected to announce a run for governor." See "Attorney Dana Nessel, known for defense of same-sex marriage, jumps into AG's race."

*** State Senator Rick Jones  and State Rep.Yousef Rabhi also spoke at the press conference; but, unfortunately we missed their talks. However, thanks to Paul DeMain of Indian Country TV, you can view videos of both legislators speaking at the Pipe Out Paddle event:
Click here for Sen. Rick Jones. For the status of SB 292 click here.
Click here for Rep. Yousef Rabhi. For the status of HR 51 click here.

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