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Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Native water protectors complete 309-mile walk to Lansing in protest against Line 5 pipeline under Mackinac Straits

By Michele Bourdieu
With photos by Marshall Anderson*
and others from We Walk for Water (N'biish Nibimosaadaanaa)**

On March 30, 2019, Native water protectors, concluding a long walk from the Mackinac Bridge to Lansing, and their supporters walk down Michigan Avenue in Lansing on the way to the Capitol building to call for shutting down Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. (Photo © Marshall Anderson for Keweenaw Now)

LANSING -- Water protectors arrived on schedule in Lansing on Friday, March 29, after their 25-day walk from the Mackinac Bridge to Lansing in protest against Enbridge's Line 5 Pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

Departing on Feb. 25 from Levering, Michigan, a few miles below the Bridge, where a group of Anishinaabek had been camping in winter weather to protest Line 5, the Native American water walkers defied more inclement weather during their 309-mile trek to the Capitol building in Lansing, where they gathered on Saturday, March 30, in a peaceful demonstration of concern for the water.

Poster showing the water walkers' route courtesy "We Walk for Water" on Facebook.**

Nancy Gallardo, Indigenous Two Spirited Woman, was one of the original three walkers, along with Cody Bigjohn Jr. and Sarah Jo Chomin. Gallardo, 63, said she walked the entire 309 miles. She noted she is proud to be 63 and felt that, with Sarah Jo and Cody, their group of three represented all ages -- "All with the same message, SHUTDOWN LINE 5."

Nancy Gallardo, left, is pictured here with Sarah Jo Chomin and Cody Bigjohn Jr. on March 30, when they arrived in Lansing for the final mile of their walk. (Photo courtesy Cody Bigjohn Jr.)

Gallardo, who now lives in Grand Rapids, spent time last year in protest camps -- the camp at Cross Village and then the Anishinaabek Shutdown Line 5 Camp at Levering. She said she believes each individual is important to the care and maintenance of the Great Lakes.

"We are stewards not only of the Great Lakes but also of streams and rivers," Gallardo said. "Know where your drinking water sources are coming from. Educate yourself and importantly share that information."

Along their route, the water walkers invited supporters to join them for parts of the walk.

Dan Corn of Petoskey told Keweenaw Now he joined the group and walked more than 30 miles with them until they reached Rapid City, Mich.

Dan Corn of Petoskey, far right carrying umbrella, walks with the water protectors during the first part of their trek -- through the northern part of the Lower Peninsula. (Photo © Cody Bigjohn Jr. and courtesy We Walk for Water Facebook page)

"My participation was solely on the fact that I am a grandfather and felt that I had to help as much as possible, to protect our water and bring awareness for our future generations," Corn said. "They are the ones that will inherit our mess if we don’t take a stand and show our support for big oil accountability. I also have had some friends pass away over the past year or so and wanted to walk in honor of them as well, so I was filled with pride every step I took as each step was peaceful protest against Enbridge and every other company that threatens the well being of our natural resources and treaty rights."

He added, "The others walked many more (miles) than I did. I was just happy and humbled to have participated."

On Saturday, March 30, walkers were joined by other water protectors, some of whom drove long distances to Lansing to show their support.

Participants first gathered at Adado Riverfront Park in Lansing on Saturday afternoon and walked across Grand River and along the river to the Capitol building.

Beatrice Menase Kwe Jackson of Ionia, Mich. -- Midewewin Grandmother, Tsimphean Nation, Three Fires Lodge -- and former director of the Native Center at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., participated in the Lansing walk.

Beatrice Menase Kwe Jackson of Ionia, Mich., joins other walkers at the Adado Riverfront Park in Lansing, where they gathered for the walk to the Capitol Building on March 30, 2019. (Photo © Peggy Mcnew and courtesy Beatrice Menase Kwe Jackson)

"Many tribes were represented including people from Pennsylvania who were also with me at Standing Rock, South Dakota," Jackson said. "We were there to honor and protect our fresh waters from the Michigan Great Lakes. The Line 5 pipelines will only damage Earth's Eater supply. Oil spills like Kalamazoo will take a hundred years to clean up. Meanwhile our water is getting undrinkable. Protecting our fresh water is in everyone's best interest. Native people care enough to walk 300 miles, what will you do?"

Keweenaw Now guest photographer Marshall Anderson walked with the group to capture these views of the final mile in their walk for the water.

Water protectors begin their walk at Adado Riverfront Park in Lansing. (Lansing photos © Marshall Anderson for Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

Undaunted by the cold, damp weather, walkers cross the bridge over Grand River. Leading the walkers is Cody Bigjohn Jr., in red jacket.

 Another view of crossing the bridge.

This sign explains why water protectors did not complain about the rainy day.

Walking along the river toward the Capitol.

Leaders of the walk head up the wet Capitol steps.

This walker carried an umbrella with a message.

Chanting "Water is Life" and "Shut down Line 5," water protectors at the Capitol Building in Lansing display their banner calling for a shutdown of Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

Also joining the water walkers for the last mile of their walk was Lansing resident Sean McBrearty, campaign coordinator for Oil and Water Don't Mix, and Michigan program organizer for Clean Water Action.***

"The activism of the water walkers serves as an example to us all," McBrearty told Keweenaw Now. "In the fight to shut down Line 5, we are facing one of the largest and wealthiest corporate polluters in the world and we need people from across Michigan stepping up like these people have to protect our water."


* Guest photographer Marshall Anderson, originally from Gay, Mich., is now a resident of Lansing. He formerly worked as a news photographer for The Daily Mining Gazette.

**Click here to see more photos in the discussion on the We Walk for Water Facebook page.

*** Learn more about Line 5 on Oil and Water Don't Mix.
To learn about Clean Water Action in Michigan click here.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Attorney General Nessel finds Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority Law unconstitutional; Gov. Whitmer issues directive to halt actions in furtherance of PA 359

Attorney General Dana Nessel. (Photo courtesy

LANSING -- Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued her first formal legal opinion on March 28, 2019, finding the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority law, Public Act 359 of 2018, unconstitutional because its provisions go beyond the scope of what was disclosed in its title. Governor Gretchen Whitmer had sought the Attorney General’s opinion on the constitutionality of Act 359 in a request submitted on January 1, 2019.

In her opinion, the Attorney General concludes that certain provisions of Act 359 -- including those transferring all authorities related to a utility tunnel from the Mackinac Bridge Authority to the Straits Corridor Authority and requiring the Corridor Authority to enter into an agreement for the construction of a tunnel if a proposed agreement was presented by a specific date and met listed criteria -- are unconstitutional because they violate Article 4, Section 24 of the Michigan Constitution, referred to as the Title-Object Clause.

Specifically, the clause provides that "no law shall embrace more than one object, which shall be expressed in its title. No bill shall be altered or amended on its passage through either house so as to change its original purpose as determined by its total content and not alone by its title." [Emphasis added]

As the opinion itself notes, when describing the importance of the clause, former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cooley explained that "the framers of the constitution meant to put an end to legislation of the vicious character referred to, which was little less than a fraud upon its own merits …." Cooley was referring to legislation that didn’t give lawmakers clear notice of what they were voting on.

Finally, the Attorney General concludes in her opinion that "any court determination that Act 359 is unconstitutional would likely apply that decision retroactively, and conclude that the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority, its Board, and any action taken by the Board are void from their inception."

The Attorney General’s opinion process included public comments from more than a dozen organizations and individuals, as well as a review of the opinion by the office’s Opinion Review Board, which is comprised of eight senior assistant attorneys general with appellate writing experience.

Gov. Whitmer's response

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. (Photo courtesy 

On March 28, 2019, after reviewing the opinion issued by Attorney General Nessel, Governor Whitmer signed an executive directive instructing state departments and agencies to halt any actions in furtherance of the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority law, Public Act 359 of 2018.

"I agree with the conclusion reached by Attorney General Nessel," Whitmer said in a press release. "The Great Lakes are our most precious resource in Michigan, and because of their significance, I’ve instructed state departments and agencies to halt any actions in furtherance of this law."

Executive Directive 2019-13 directs state departments and autonomous agencies not to take any further action regarding Act 359 and to report to the governor’s legal counsel regarding actions taken since the bill was passed.

Oil and Water Don't Mix response

On March 28 leaders of the Oil and Water Don't Mix campaign to protect the Great Lakes from oil pipelines praised actions by Gov. Whitmer on Line 5 in response to the attorney general’s opinion and urged her to move quickly in decommissioning Enbridge’s troubled Line 5.

"The backroom deals creating Enbridge’s proposed oil tunnel couldn’t survive public scrutiny and now we know they can’t survive the rule of law," said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW (For Love of Water). "It’s time to focus on Michigan’s true energy future and protect Michigan’s Great Lakes and our economy from a Line 5 pipeline rupture. The path forward for Michigan is for Gov. Whitmer to immediately begin the process of decommissioning Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac."

Sean McBrearty, campaign coordinator for Oil and Water Don’t Mix, said the attorney general's opinion protects Michigan from agreements that only benefit Enbridge.

"The attorney general is rightfully wiping the legal slate clean and now Gov. Whitmer has the opportunity to put Michigan on a path that doesn’t lead to a disastrous outcome for the Great Lakes and Michigan," McBrearty said. "Her decision to halt all Line 5 activity is a significant and appropriate step forward and has our full support."