Weekend Warriors Unite
Labor Day weekend: anti-Line 5 flotilla & festival at Straits
By Ross Boissoneau | Aug. 24, 2019
As part of the effort to highlight the dangers of Line 5, a group of people will be taking to the waters of the Mackinac Straits Saturday of Labor Day Weekend. The 5th Annual Pipe Out Paddle Out Flotilla and the Water Is Life Festival, which immediately follows on land, will welcome any and all who wish to participate.
“It’s a coalition of activitists. Every year we’ve had more and more people,” said flotilla organizer Andrea Pierce. “Last year we had a few hundred. This year we’re expecting to double that.”
The flotilla will take place from 8am to noon. Pierce said the group launches at 8, with the kayaks and canoes winding their way to the foot of the Mackinac Bridge, then out into the straits and back. The group will hear from speakers, raise signs and observe the beauty of the waters, beneath which runs Line 5.
Despite the coverage the issue of Line 5 has received, particularly in northern Michigan, Pierce said she believes a number of people are not cognizant of the danger the line poses. “I think all over Michigan, a lot of (people) are unaware,” she said. The goal of the flotilla is to raise that awareness through news coverage as well as through the event itself.
Pierce said it is important to make sure the event is non-partisan. Members of all parties are welcome, and several organizations will be represented, including FLOW, Oil & Water Don’t Mix, and various Native American groups. Though both she, as well as Brandy Lee and Dan Hinmon, organizers of the Water Is Life Festival, are tribal members, she said it is not a tribal endeavor. “The tribes have supported it, but we want to bring awareness to everybody. Citizens, Democrats, Republicans, Democratic Socialists, Green Party — it’s non-partisan. All parties and all people should be together,” she said, though she admitted she had not yet gotten any RSVPs from Republican lawmakers as of press time.
The Pipe Out Paddle Out Flotilla will be immediately followed by the Water Is Life Festival. It will take place at Conkling Heritage Park at 335 S Huron Ave. in Mackinaw City. The festival will feature speakers, music, food and other vendors. Like the flotilla, the focus is on water issues, including but not limited to Line 5. It runs from noon to 6pm.
The event both celebrates the connection to water and builds power through community. Indigenous women are at the heart of planning and executing the Water is Life Festival because indigenous women are traditionally protectors of water.
Speakers include Markie Miller, the lead organizer and spokesperson for Toledoans for Safe Water, a grassroots citizens group in Toledo, and Jose Malvido,the North American Coordinator of the Peace and Dignity Journeys. Peace and Dignity Journeys are spiritual runs that embody the Native American prophecy of the Eagle and Condor. Among the musicians will be Seth Bernard, a longtime activist and supporter of environmental policies.
The festival will also include a collaborative art project. “Everyone attending the festival is invited to paint, write, and join in with other forms of art as we work together on our collaborative vision for a Michigan that has safe, clean water for everyone,” said Megan Collier, another of the organizers. “Protecting the water is incredibly important and is especially urgent right now, but having a common vision reminds us that we have something to work for. That's what we'll be creating together using art.”
Information on the events is available at pipeoutpaddleprotest5.weebly.co and waterislifefestival.wordpress.com, as well as on Facebook.