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"Water Protectors" protest Line 5 over Labor Day weekend

Women walk wearing banners that say "Water Protector" and "Defend the Sacred"
Kaye LaFond
Michigan Radio
Nancy Gallardo (L) and Lori Beck (R) of Grand Rapids sport banners as they walk across the Mackinac Bridge.

Chants of "Mni wiconi" (meaning "water is life" in Lakota) punctuated the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk on Labor Day, where tens of thousands of Michigan residents made the five-mile trek from St. Ignace to Mackinaw City.

Indigenous and environmental activists came from around the state for a full weekend of events calling for the shutdown of Enbridge's Line 5 oil pipeline. The 64-year-old pipeline runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac and carries up to 540,000 barrels of oil per day.

A flotilla of kayaks paddled under the bridge on Saturday. Some groups walked the bridge Monday, while others waited at the end, holding signs and handing out stickers.

Desmond Berry, director of natural resources for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, says the pipeline threatens his tribe's ability to exist and harvest fish.

"We have federally adjudicated treaty rights within the Great Lakes, and about 60% of our fishing harvest takes place right in the Straits of Mackinac," Berry said.

Amanda Robert, from Milford, expressed concern about the pipeline's age:

"I just told my daughter this morning, [as] we were leaving, it's time to get loud because these pipelines are older than all of your grandparents," she said.

Last week, Enbridge confirmed that the protective coating on the pipeline had worn off in spots, exposing bare metal.

*Correction - A previous version of this post said that "Mni Wiconi" is Anishinaabemowin for "water is life". The post has been corrected to state that it is actually Lakota.

Kaye is an alumnus of Michigan Tech's environmental engineering program. She got her start making maps for the Traverse City-Based water news organization Circle of Blue, and, since then, she's been pretty devoted to science communication and data visualization.
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