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Standing Rock Veterans Lead Fight to Shut Down Enbridge Line 5 Pipeline

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The Straits of Mackinac, which protestors are worried could be damaged from in an oil spill from the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline that runs underneath. Michael Barera / CC BY-SA 4.0

A group of Standing Rock veterans and their allies have set up camp in Northern Michigan to stop another pipeline: Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline that passes under the Straits of Mackinac between Lakes Huron and Michigan as it carries oil from Western Canada to Ontario, Michigan Radio reported Sunday.

The protesters, about 15 in total, are concerned about the possible damage an oil spill from the pipeline could do to the Great Lakes and have vowed not to leave their camps until the pipeline is removed.


"As long as it takes 'til it's shut," Nancy Shomin, who helped start the camp, told UpNorthLive Monday.

The protest camps follow growing concern about the aging pipeline after it was dented by an anchor in April. In July, an independent report found a spill from the pipeline could damage 400 miles of shoreline in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario and cost Michigan around $2 billion, Michigan Radio reported.

At a Senate Commerce Committee field hearing Monday, Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) criticized Enbridge for dragging its feet to shut down operations during a storm shortly after the anchor strike.

"Can you see why that is something that people look at and say, Enbridge is not really focused on going the extra measure of safety, when they had a damaged pipe and severe weather and they pushed back on shutting down to make sure nothing happened?" he said to applause, addressing Enbridge senior vice president of operations for liquid pipelines David Bryson, according to Michigan Radio.

The protesters say the only safe move is to shut the pipeline down permanently.

"It's one of those things where it's not if, it's when," Clint Cayou, who joined the protest from Mason, Nebraska, told UpNorthLive. "The pipeline is dangerously close to being a real hazard to a lot of people and it needs to be shut down."

The group is led by members of Indigenous nations from the Great Lakes area and has named its camp Camp Anishinaabek, from Anishinaabe, which is the name for an umbrella group containing the Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi and other peoples, according to Michigan Radio.

The camp set-up actually includes two locations about 15 miles south of the Straits of Mackinac and is on land owned by husband-and-wife protesters James Pitawanakwat of the Wikwemkoong Unceded Territory First Nation and Christina Keshick of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.

Pitawanakwat, who was arrested during the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, linked the two struggles.

"This was the same concern over at Standing Rock, and it would affect millions of people," Pitawanakwat told UpNorthLive. "We're just appalled that the oil companies still are this defiant."

The protesters first announced their camp on their Facebook page Aug. 9, but have begun to get attention from local media since Sunday.

"I hope a lot of people come and help shut it down," Keshick said.

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