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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Ancient underwater tribal cultural site discovered in Mackinac Straits near Line 5

Jiimaan (Anishinaabek canoe) and trolling motor. (Photo © and courtesy Philip Hutchinson)
 
MACKINAW CITY -- On June 25, Judge James Jamo struck fear into the hearts of many in Michigan when he stated that the State of Michigan’s ability to fulfill its "duty to protect public trust lands" was compromised "as a result of (Enbridge’s) failures." The harsh reality of this statement inspired a small group of women to answer the call to protect water and land. Their discoveries may fundamentally shift what's allowable for Line 5 moving forward -- or at least that's the hope.
 
One of the most significant ancient underwater archaeological sites in the Great Lakes may have been discovered in the Straits of Mackinac just a short paddle west of Enbridge Line 5.
On September 23, 2020, a small crew headed onto the Straits of Mackinac in fog so thick they couldn’t see the Mackinac Bridge. Using a remote operated vehicle (ROV), the team explored an area just west of Line 5. Their video captured at least one submerged cultural site. This stone circle is consistent with other underwater and terrestrial finds near Grand Traverse Bay, the Alpena-Amberley Ridge in Lake Huron and on Beaver Island.
 
Potential cultural site observed with side-scan sonar in late summer 2020. Note circle of stones that may have been placed in this arrangement about 10,000 years ago, near the end of the Ice Age, when the area would have been above water. (Photo courtesy Terri Wilkerson)
 
If these other cultural sites are so well known, why hasn’t a full archaeological survey been done on the bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac? Given the imminent danger Line 5 represents, water protectors call for the immediate halt to all oil flowing through Michigan and a complete archeological survey of the lakebed in the Straits.
 
Sovereignty enacted
 
Most of the individuals in this determined team of water protectors are Michigan tribal citizens. Investigating our ancient cultural sites is an enactment of our inherent sovereignty as indigenous peoples, as well as our reserved treaty rights. The treaties dispossessed us of most of our lands -- but not our rights, which were explicitly reserved in the treaties by our chiefs.

Despite their sovereign, treaty-protected rights, tribes have rarely been consulted or involved with decisions that impact their waters and historic territory. Consequently, tribes are increasingly turning to legal action to protect their rights and the environment in general. Tribal citizens are also engaging with environmental groups, Michigan citizens, and legislators alarmed by the growing threats to our natural resources.

In the June hearings regarding the latest damage to Line 5, Judge Jamo repeatedly asked why there hasn’t been an independent look at Line 5 and said he "clearly felt I did not have credible, reliable information." So, water advocate Terri Wilkerson started building support to gather just that. In September, Wilkerson hired a survey boat in preparation for getting an independent look at Line 5. While investigating the Straits bottomlands, the vessel’s side-scan sonar inadvertently revealed a potential  site.
 

Terri Wilkerson during the Sept. 23, 2020, exploration. (Photo © and courtesy Terri Wilkerson)
 
Three of this core group of female water protectors are tribal citizens -- Andrea Pierce and Robin Lees, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBBOI), and Kelly Willis of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. In Anishinaabe culture, women protect the waters. These women are not representing their tribes in any official capacity but are advocating as women empowered under ancient tribal protocols.
 
Wilkerson is a Pinckney resident -- mostly retired after 30 years as a real estate broker to focus on water advocacy, social justice, and making democracy work for everyone by helping to start a League of Women Voters chapter in Livingston County where she lives.
 
Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) on Jiimaan canoe. (Photo © and courtesy Adam Zwickle)

The ROV and sonar findings seem to show that Line 5 runs through precious, ancient cultural sites. Findings are now being reviewed by an underwater archeologist. Though these sites are now underwater, approximately 9,000 years ago the Great Lakes water levels were much lower, and evidence of human habitation encircles the northern tip of the Michigan mitt.

Circles. (Photo © and courtesy Fred Harrington, Jr.)

Jiimaan canoe

When side-scan sonar revealed the potential cultural site, the female water protectors reached out to Fred Harrington, Jr. Harrington is a Navy veteran, LTBBOI tribal councilman and citizen, and professor emeritus. He offered to use a community canoe named Jiimaan, which means "they are kissing" in the language of the Anishinaabek (Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi).
 
Fred Harrington on Sept. 23, 2020, a foggy day of cultural site exploration. (Photo © and courtesy Terri Wilkerson)

 
Paddlers "practicing" with the ROV and the Jiinaan. (Photo courtesy Terri Wilkerson)

This wooden watercraft was built in 1999 as an act of cultural sovereignty by members of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians community in the Petoskey area. It has been used for activism, youth education, and community paddles ever since.

A Jiimaan (tribal canoe) participates in the Sept. 3, 2016, Pipe Out Paddle protest against Line 5 near the Mackinac Bridge. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy Miguel Levy)

Scott Wyzlic, a Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians tribal citizen, assisted with towing and surveillance from his 21-foot fishing vessel, Inchworm. Scott’s Anishinaabe name is Ossokeh Ahninii.

Water protectors secured a letter of support from Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians for their efforts to get an independent look at Line 5.

Grave concerns about Line 5

Line 5 is a 67-year-old, anchor damaged, deteriorating pipeline that originates in Canada. As it takes a 645-mile shortcut through Michigan before returning to Canada with about 95 percent of the nearly 23 million gallons of oil it carries, Line 5 passes through more than 23 counties and over 400 Michigan waterways. However, the area where Line 5 crosses in the Straits of Mackinac is the most vulnerable to an oil spill. Here, for about 4.5 miles, Line 5 becomes two 20-inch oil pipelines which run under the water just west of the Mackinac Bridge.

Even a small spill would likely impact 37 miles of shoreline. A large one could impact 722 miles of shoreline. This comparison shows 3 different spill scenarios and the ping pong nature of how water acts in the Straits. The Great Lakes supply the water to over 40 million people and are the backbone of Michigan’s tourist economy.

A contractor for the Coast Guard estimates that a clean-up of 30 percent of an oil spill here would be the best case scenario. This assumes there is daylight and waves of less than three feet, and no  ice as they are not fully prepared to handle an open water spill when the Straits are iced-over.

As Lester Graham of Michigan Radio recently reported, "Even if you shut the valves on either side, there’s close to 388,000 gallons of oil in each pipeline (of the 2 sections of Line 5 in the Straits). If both pipelines were damaged, you could see an oil spill nearly as big as the Enbridge Line 6B spill in the Kalamazoo River ten years ago. It was one of the biggest inland oil spills in the country."

Enbridge, Inc. is the Canadian Company that operates Line 5 because of an easement granted by the State of Michigan in 1953. The 12 Federally recognized Tribes of Michigan were never consulted nor did they give permission for the granting of this easement. Enbridge is responsible for the top two largest inland oil spills in the United States -- Line 3 which broke in 1991 near Grand Rapids, Minn., spilling over 1.7 million gallons of oil, and Line 6B that broke and contaminated the Kalamazoo River watershed in 2010 with over a million gallons of oil per the EPA. The Michigan spill spoiled 35 miles of river and shore badly enough that they were closed for two years. State and federal documents show that Enbridge has been in violation of the easement rules for years. On June 19, 2020, Enbridge was ordered to pay $6.7 million in fines for violating federal court order on pipeline safety. Enbridge has shown itself not to be trustworthy of protecting the Great Lakes.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has called for the shutdown of Line 5. She has also commented on the UP Energy Task Force report on alternatives to Line 5 for supplying propane to the UP.

Shutting Line 5 down is in Michigan’s best interest. Governor Whitmer campaigned on shutting down Line 5 but has yet to revoke the easement that allows its continued operation.

Comment period on Enbridge tunnel permits ends Oct. 19

Enbridge hopes to replace Line 5 with a tunnel to include a new pipeline under the bottomland of the Straits. Recently the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) held information meetings and public hearings on Enbridge's permit applications for their tunnel project, which would mean 5 to 10 years of tunnel construction while leaving the ageing Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.

A recent message from Andrea Pierce, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians citizen, asked Native and non-Native water protectors to oppose these permit applications -- under Part 303, Wetlands Protection; and Part 325, Great Lakes Submerged Lands, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended and the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit application -- by submitting public comments to EGLE by the deadline of 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on Monday, Oct. 19.

"We are asking that everyone contact EGLE, MPSC, your senator, congress representative and house representative to make a public comment asking to stop the Line 5 tunnel," Pierce writes. "Please CC: mpscedockets@michigan.gov   cc: governorsoffice@michigan.gov  and YOUR State Reps."

To submit comments on the these permit applications click here: https://www.michigan.gov/line5/0,9833,7-413-102021-537357--,00.html

Comments can also be sent by email to EGLE-Enbridge-Comments@Michigan.gov

NOTE: The recordings of EGLE online informational sessions and public hearings on the Line 5 tunnel application between Sept 8 and Oct 8 are now accessible on the EGLE Line 5 information page: https://www.michigan.gov/line5/ 

Inset photo: Andrea Pierce. (Photo © Steve Gutt and courtesy Andrea Pierce)

Friday, October 16, 2020

Houghton County Dems: Kasieta should suspend campaign after participation in phone harassment against County Clerk Kelly

[Editor's Note: This is the Houghton County Democratic Party's response to the facts that have emerged recently concerning the March 6, 2020, phone call received by Jennifer Kelly, Houghton County Clerk and Register of Deeds, who is running for re-election -- as reported by Kelly in the guest article we published yesterday, Oct. 15. It has been confirmed that Kelly's Republican opponent on the Nov. 3 ballot, Justin Kasieta, who at the time was the constituent representative for State Representative Greg Markkanen, was on this threatening call traced to Matthew Smith of Genesee County. Confirmation was made by statements Kasieta made to the Houghton County Sheriff's office as well as a statement released by his attorney.]

From Houghton County Democratic Party:

HOUGHTON -- Elected officials, their staff, and those who seek to become elected officials, must be held to the highest ethical and legal standards. No reasonable and decent person would think a 1 a.m. phone call implying harm to someone's pets is within any bounds of morality or law. Issuing threats to one's opponent in an election goes against the fundamental principle of peaceful elections. A nation committed to those principles cannot reward such behavior by electing to office anyone who does such things.

Because of his actions, calls for Mr. Kasieta to withdraw from the race are coming from all sides, including The Daily Mining Gazette. As people committed to fair and free elections, the Houghton County Democratic Party joins our voice to the rest of our community in calling on Justin Kasieta to do the right thing and suspend his campaign.

Jennifer Kelly has served Houghton County in various capacities for 20 years. While these events have already been discussed at meetings of the County Board of Commissioners, we call on the Board to formalize its responsibility to stand by their colleague and issue a call for Mr. Kasieta to withdraw from his race.

We also call on Representative Markkanen to reaffirm these principles of democracy by condemning the actions of his staffer. To remain quiet in the face of such a perversion of ethics is to be complicit. Unless Mr. Kasieta has kept all of these events from his employer since March -- an act which itself would be disqualifying for continued employment -- Rep. Markkanen has known about this situation for months and has said nothing as long as it was possible to remain silent. But now the facts have emerged.

As his constituents, we have a right to know: did Rep. Markkanen know about these events and continue employing Justin Kasieta while he ran against the county clerk he participated in threatening? Does Rep. Markkanen approve of his subordinate's actions? If not, let him say so, loudly and clearly. We call on him to make a firm statement repudiating any attempt to threaten a candidate's political opponents, and to immediately suspend Mr. Kasieta from any office of trust he might hold in Michigan's state government, pending the resolution of this investigation.

Also alleged to be on this call was Jake Putala, district representative for State Sen. Ed McBroom. We also call on Sen. McBroom to issue the same condemnation of any kind of harassment, and if additional information comes to light confirming Mr. Putala's involvement, for him to suspend Mr. Putala pending the outcome of the investigation.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Guest article: Jennifer Kelly, Houghton County Clerk/Register of Deeds tells her story

Jennifer Kelly, Houghton County Clerk/Register of Deeds. (Photo courtesy Committee to Elect Jennifer Kelly, Houghton County Clerk/Register of Deeds)

[Editor's Note: Jennifer Kelly, Houghton County Clerk and Register of Deeds, who has held this office for the past six years and worked for Houghton County for 20 years, is running for re-election as a Democrat. In March 2020 Kelly was the victim of a threatening phone call involving her Republican opponent, Justin Kasieta. Kelly was asked to keep silent about the incident for months during a county and law enforcement investigation. The story became public this week, and we are publishing, with permission, Jennifer Kelly's own account of the incident.]

By Jennifer Kelly, Houghton County Clerk/Register of Deeds
Published with permission

There has been a lot of talk about bullies lately, and in this election season, there are no shortage of them. As Midwesterners, we have been taught to treat people with respect, even when we disagree with our neighbors. We were taught that democracy involves differences of opinion and that thoughtful debate is the way through. As your County Clerk in Houghton County, I want to assure you that I will always fight bullies and I will always stand up for what is right -- especially after what has happened to me here in Houghton County one night, my home of 49 years.

On March 6th [2020] at 1:01 a.m., I received a phone call that would cement my commitment against bullies. "I am calling from TV 6 News, to film your home," said a voice I will never forget. Doubting very much that TV 6 would call me at 1:01 a.m., I asked who the caller was. "It is TLC Hoarders, Bitch." I am paraphrasing, but he went on to tell me that he has seen the inside of my home. I was shocked. Like many women who are threatened, I froze. Then he said, "I am going to make sure you are never re-elected you f_____g bitch." I panicked for a minute, but then I found my strength and told him I was going to hang up. Before I hung up he threatened to both "poison and kill my dogs and throw them in a dumpster."

I ran to my garage and to each door and locked it, made sure my father was safe and called the sheriff. I shut all my curtains and stood guard over my home and father until dawn. The sheriff called for a trooper to come to my house, but none came. The telephone company was able to retrieve the telephone number and the sheriff of this town was vigilant and traced the call to Matt Smith, in Genesee County, MI.* The detective researched Facebook and revealed that Matt Smith and Justin Kasieta were connected. The police report from Houghton County has Justin Kasieta’s confession of being on the call that night: The report says that Kasieta "was on a three-way call and listened to Smith call Kelly."

I was asked by police to identify the voice and it was the voice of Matt Smith -- a voice I will never forget for its evil intent. But what cemented Smith’s involvement was the fact that when the detective called Smith, he used the same phone number as was used to call me when he returned the call -- the same one traced in the call.

Detective Saaranen told me that Justin confessed and was willing to put together an agreement in order to keep his job with Representative Greg Markkanen.* At this point Justin retained an attorney, who proposed an agreement that he would confess to the crime and that he would withdraw from running in return for not pressing charges. This agreement was to be a written confession. But I never saw the agreement, and even though I have not seen it, it is more important for the truth about Justin to come out.

While the county investigated these two, I was asked to keep quiet while the county and state police investigated. Just yesterday, I was told I could share my story publicly.

But the story goes from two to three. Detective Saaranen reported to me that Justin was on the phone that very evening. The detective was the first one to confirm that Jake Puhtala, who works for Michigan State Senator McBroom*, was also on the call. It broke my heart to learn this, as I have known Jake and his family for years. This was not discovered until the Michigan State Police investigated further telephone records.

Kasieta’s confession is in the report. John Gleason, Genesee County Clerk, has seen Matt Smith’s confession as well.

"You’ve been had," Gleason said, of the many who are trying to cover up these bad deeds.

My case now sits on the desk of Attorney General Dana Nessel. I hope we can bring these three to justice -- for their own good and for our community. After seven long months I hope these individuals will be held accountable according to Michigan law.

Evil deeds should not go unpunished. Bullies should face prosecution -- because no election is worth our integrity. I remember when we all stood up for what we knew was right instead of blindly taking sides. We need to get back to that. Every Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and others deserve to live in a safe society. I will fight for that safety and integrity as long as I can.

There are heroes, too. County Clerk John Gleason is one. There are many others.

Editor's Notes:

* Matt Smith is a member of the Davison School Board and a candidate for the Genesee County Board of Commissioners.
Greg Markkanen is Michigan 110th District State Representative, who is running for re-election as a Republican. State Senator McBroom is a Republican representing Michigan's 38th Senate District.

Click here to see an interview with Jennifer Kelly by the League of Women Voters of the Copper Country. To learn more about Jennifer Kelly and her campaign, visit her Web site or her Facebook page. Some of Jennifer Kelly's achievements in her six years as Houghton County Clerk are the following:

  •  Saved the County over $250,000 in the last 3 years by implementing free software upgrades in both offices and e-recording of documents in the Register of Deeds office.
  • Implemented a free Veterans Program to thank our veterans by recruiting businesses to give free products and services to our veterans who have filed their DD214 discharge papers.
  • Implemented a free Property Fraud Alert Program to protect Houghton County property owners.
  • Trained 200 election inspectors each election year and ensured secure, lawful elections.