Taking on Enbridge over the Line 5 pipeline

It all started with a chance meeting.

Mary Mazzio, a self-proclaimed recovering attorney, was looking for a legal case that could serve as an “amphitheater” for a documentary showcasing the voices of America’s indigenous people.

He was introduced to Mike Wiggins, leader of the Bad River Band, an Ojibwe nation in northern Wisconsin, on the southern shore of Lake Superior. It was during COVID, so once things calmed down, Wiggins invited Mazzio to Bad River “to do some canoe diplomacy,” Mazzio said. Canadian National Observerremembering how his work on the documentary bad river began.

Bad River Band was in the middle of a legal fight with Canada-based Enbridge over its controversial Line 5 pipeline, which transports oil and gas from Alberta to Ontario while crossing the U.S. border.

The documentary traces the legal fight through a decision by a US judge who ruled that Enbridge had to pay Bad River $5.1 million in profits from Line 5 and move the pipeline by 2026 to avoid an immediate shutdown that would cause economic havoc.

Enbridge appealed. Global Affairs Canada even intervened in 2022 to invoke a mechanism within the 1977 oil treaty signed between the United States and Canada to ensure the pipeline kept flowing.

At first, the documentary traces a long-standing Bad River claim that argues that a much older treaty signed between Bad River and Washington, D.C., in 1854 granted tribal sovereignty to the band and took precedence over the oil treaty signed more than a century after.

The gang disputes Enbridge on a contractual level, ensuring a legal fight that leads to tribal politics and disputes on Facebook. But the documentary always shows the fight against Enbridge from the gang’s point of view, which leads to the discontent of a Canadian oil company.

It all started with a chance meeting. Mary Mazzio, a self-proclaimed recovering lawyer, was looking for a legal case that could provide an “ampitheater” for a documentary showcasing Indigenous voices #Reconciliation #Climate #Enbridge #Line5

Enbridge sharply criticized Mazzio, questioning how the documentary portrayed Enbridge’s version of the story, despite a meeting with one of its communications officers.

“Enbridge offered to work with the filmmaker who, unfortunately, did not show much interest in telling a balanced story,” Enbridge said in a statement to Canadian National Observer. The company said the film fails to take into account the millions of people who rely on the pipeline on both sides of the border and the agreements signed by the band granting permission for the line.

But for Mazzio, the story is about tribal sovereignty and who has the right to control the land.

Mazzio began his work in bad river as if he thought he was about to document a classic David vs. Goliath story that centers on a small nation fighting for the protection of Lake Superior, referred to in the documentary as the “freshwater bastion” of the United States. Joined.

A man and his son on Waverly Beach. Photo courtesy of Richard Schultz / 50 Eggs Films

Instead, what he found was that the people of Bad River were strong and willing to share their stories about “every part of history where their people stood up, spoke out and fought,” Mazzio said.

Along the way, however, the documentary tells stories that may be familiar to today’s Canada, but not to many Americans outside of colonialism.

Among those stories was the history of treaties and boarding schools, and the abuse found in them, which Mazzio said is not as well documented in the mainstream as it is in Canada.

“In the United States, we’re probably two or three steps behind,” he said.

The documentary also chronicles the American Indian Movement and its role in bringing to light the rights and self-determination of indigenous people.

Finally, it moves on to two recent resistance movements led by Bad River.

The first is the Walleye War, where recreational fishermen led nationalist protests against Ojibwe treaty fishing rights. Archival footage from the documentary shows young and old white fishermen waving American flags and shouting racist profanities at indigenous harvesters. It’s a scene Mazzio calls a “real irony” given how many veterans focus on bad river.

The Kakagon Marshes. Photo courtesy of Richard Schultz / 50 Eggs Films

The second is the battle against a open pit iron ore mine in their homeland in 2013, which the Bad River Band successfully stopped in 2016. Mazzio included these stories because “that’s where the people of Bad River wanted to go,” he said.

That’s why Mazzio calls the film a historical retrospective of resilience and resistance.

“You have to stand up for what you believe in,” Mazzio said, echoing Wiggins. “And we have for thousands of years.”

bad river It is currently showing in theaters in the United States, although Mazzio hopes to bring it to Canadian audiences soon. First Nations on the Canadian side of the border are interested in hosting screenings, Mazzio said.

“We are very excited to bring this to Canada and have the band’s perspective north of the border as well,” he added.

Matteo Cimellaro / Local Journalism Initiative / National Observer of Canada

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