The "Water Is Life: Stop Line 3" festival started with hundreds of early arrivals creating a circle for a prayer, smudging and shared sips of water in the middle of Bayfront Festival Park. It was a no-photos-allowed moment for this traditional ceremony. Or, as the prayer leader said, Anishinaabe "intellectual property."

Wednesday's festival, an annual fundraiser and awareness campaign for Winona LaDuke's Honor the Earth organization, was an all-day event with a schedule packed with music up until the bayside park's closing time — from Bemidji artist Corey Medina's first rips of the electric guitar to Bon Iver's finale. In between were nods to earth and equality, whether it was people in the ticket line issuing verbal invitations to join the Water Protectors march through downtown Duluth on Thursday or a parade of oversized fish-shaped wind socks riding on the breeze.

"This is fun as hell," a woman said, running through the back of the park with the latter.

Medina kicked off with a song with an appeal to lay down your riches, lay down your gold.

"Come on it's time to heal, come on it's time to be real," he sang.

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Corey Medina, right, performs as the opening act at the “Water Is Life ⏤ Stop Line 3” festival Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
Corey Medina, right, performs as the opening act at the “Water Is Life ⏤ Stop Line 3” festival Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune


Rory Wakemup led a community art project. He filled bottles with paint and concert-goers who came and went brushed color onto the images of hearts and waves — which would later make the exterior of a teepee.

Wakemup has plans, he said, to install it at the Minnesota State Capitol where water protectors are converging Aug. 25 for a Line 3 protest.

Before her band's set, Laura Sellner of Superior Siren said she was honored to be included in the day's lineup.

"Especially with these very respected artists — to be a part of this sacred Indigenous gathering," she said.

Superior Siren's name is taken from water, Sellner noted. And later, when her quartet of black-clad bandmates took the stage and oozed into the tune "Swamp Creature," fans were tugged toward the stage.

Winona LaDuke applauds Duluth City Council President Renee Van Nett during the opening of the “Water Is Life ⏤ Stop Line 3” festival Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. 
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
Winona LaDuke applauds Duluth City Council President Renee Van Nett during the opening of the “Water Is Life ⏤ Stop Line 3” festival Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune


Larry Long & Friends talked about how LaDuke had invited him to come sing at Line 3 a while back, but he had been quarantining and hadn't been able to go. Instead, he said, he wrote "No More Pipeline Blues."

The catchy tune drew dancers to the concrete square in front of the stage.

Alan Sparhawk collaborated with Giniw and Nigigoons of the Fond du Lac Reservation, who are both singers and drummers. Sparhawk played guitar while the latter kept a steady beat before segueing into a water song from Canada. Neither had played with Sparhawk before the show.

Nigigoons said he felt good energy and good vibes.

"It feels like a good day, definitely," said Giniw.

People wait for the music to start at the “Water Is Life ⏤ Stop Line 3” festival Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. 
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
People wait for the music to start at the “Water Is Life ⏤ Stop Line 3” festival Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Other bands scheduled to play later in the day included Charlie Parr, David Huckfelt and Unarmed Forces, Adia Victoria, Hippo Campus, Bon Iver, Quiltman, Keith Secola and Lissie. Mumu Fresh had to cancel.

But, according to Medina: "Today is (about something) a lot bigger than every band on the bill," he said.

The festival included informational booths, both vegan (Mama Roots) and gluten free (Auntie M's) food trucks in addition to the Rambler, and messages: a T-shirt that read "Custer was a punk," and signs like "Defend the sacred," "treaty rights, no greedy whites," a human dressed as a snowperson with a post reading "Stop global warming."

A booth designated for water protectors at the “Water Is Life ⏤ Stop Line 3” festival Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. 
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
A booth designated for water protectors at the “Water Is Life ⏤ Stop Line 3” festival Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Honor the Earth was founded by LaDuke and the Indigo Girls as a way to raise money and awareness for environmental issues, specifically those that affect Indigenous communities. For seven years, this has been a battle against Enbridge's Line 3. Construction on the 340-mile Minnesota segment began in December and, according to Minnesota Public Radio, is about 80% completed. It's expected to carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to Superior. Opponents say the pipeline is unnecessary, worsens climate change and violates treaty rights.

While there were seemingly no pro-Line 3 protestors on land, reportedly, a small plane with a banner reading "Go Line 3" flew over the Central Hillside in the late afternoon.

Duluth City Council President Renee Van Nett welcomes people attending the opening of the “Water Is Life ⏤ Stop Line 3” festival Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. 
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
Duluth City Council President Renee Van Nett welcomes people attending the opening of the “Water Is Life ⏤ Stop Line 3” festival Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune


This story was updated at 7:10 p.m. on Aug. 18 to eliminate an outdated reference to Rory Wakemup’s previous gallery. It was originally published at 6:46 p.m.