A Petoskey-based, Indigenous-led water protector group said this week that its members approached President Joe Biden during his latest Michigan visit over the weekend and reminded him of their concerns about the controversial Line 5 oil pipeline.
MackinawOde (Heart of the Turtle) members and allies attended Biden’s stop in Antrim County’s Central Lake in northern Michigan on Saturday and took pictures with the president and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Biden made the visit as part of his “America’s Back Together” tour to celebrate the country’s progress against COVID-19.
“We were all excited to meet the president and tell him to shut down Line 5. We are a peaceful water protection group and hold ourselves with respect, we follow our traditional Anishinaabek teachings,” said Nathan Wright, founder of MackinawOde and a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
“A long time ago, a delegation of Anishinaabek people would meet the President either in Washington, D.C. or when they visited our territory. We sent our delegation to greet the President when he came to our territory and spoke of our concerns.”
All 12 tribes in Michigan are opposed to Canadian oil company Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline. Enbridge continues to transport oil through the line despite Whitmer’s May 12 deadline to cease operations under the Mackinac Straits, and court proceedings about her order are ongoing.
Wright says tribal citizens and allies came wearing traditional Anishinaabek regalia, carried signs opposing Line 5 and engaged Biden several times about the issue.
A spokesperson for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prior to Biden’s event with Whitmer, MackinawOde members and allies met that morning for a traditional Anishinaabek pipe ceremony on Torch Lake led by Tom Binesiwegiizhig. A water ceremony was also conducted by teacher and healer Beatrice Menase Kwe Jackson.
Wright, Jackson and several other MackinawOde members posed for pictures with Biden during the event at King Orchards fruit orchard.
“Remember Indian nations,” Biden said to Wright at one point, a moment which the group captured on video.
“Our mission was accomplished,” Wright said. “We came showing ourselves as Anishinaabek people welcoming the President of the United States to our territory and letting him know we want the Line 5 and [Minnesota] Line 3 pipeline shut down. And we did this better than we thought.
“It was an historic day for all Anishinabek as we assert ourselves as a people, wear our traditional attire, greet the President and air our grievances in a respectful manner. We believe our actions will help make a difference. And we know the story of our actions will be repeated for others to hear,” Wright continued.