No Water Is Life Festival at Bayfront this year

Presenters say they are "already working on the event's return" in 2024. Recent festivals have attracted high-profile performers, but organizer Honor the Earth has had a challenging year.

Thousands gather Sunday afternoon, Sept. 4, 2022, at Bayfront Park in Duluth
Thousands gather Sept. 4 at Bayfront Park in Duluth for the Water is Life Festival. The event won't take place this year.
Jed Carlson / 2022 file / Superior Telegram

DULUTH — David Huckfelt, artistic director of the Water Is Life Festival, announced Wednesday that the event will not take place this year at Bayfront Festival Park.

"Organizers are already working on the event's return next year in the same location," said Huckfelt in a news release.

Winona LaDuke applauds Duluth City Council President Renee Van Nett at the Water Is Life Festival on Aug. 18, 2021.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune

The festival, which benefits environmental nonprofit Honor the Earth, has taken place at Bayfront for years and rose to newfound prominence in 2021. Bon Iver headlined an event that took place amid protests over the construction of Enbridge's Line 3 oil pipeline crossing northern Minnesota. The festival returned last year with headliners Ani DiFranco and Indigo Girls, drawing approximately 4,000 people to the harborside venue.

Honor the Earth was in the news this spring when a former employee's 2019 sexual harassment lawsuit led to a judgment of $750,000 against the organization. Winona LaDuke, who founded the organization with Indigo Girls in 1993, subsequently stepped down as the organization's leader. Krystal Two Bulls, who had co-led Honor the Earth, became the organization's sole executive director.

The announcement comes days after the organization lost a $750,000 sexual harassment lawsuit to a former employee.

Although Honor the Earth denied wrongdoing in the case, LaDuke made a statement saying she had personally failed Margaret "Molly" Campbell. The former employee alleged that she had been harassed by co-worker Michael Dahl and that organization leaders had ignored her complaints.


"I am sorry for the hurt caused to Ms. Campbell, and I am sorry for the broader harm that resulted too," wrote LaDuke shortly before Honor the Earth announced her resignation in April.

"With the full return of live music, festivals and national touring post-pandemic, Water Is Life is taking a year off to coordinate support from new artists and align with urgent environmental concerns and extend the reach of this important social justice music festival into the future," said Huckfelt in Wednesday's statement. "We are excited about returning to full force in 2024 with the most diverse and powerful lineup of artists and activists yet."

Last year's Water Is Life Festival became part of Duluth's music history for a particularly poignant reason: It marked the final performance of the beloved band Low with core member Mimi Parker, who died of ovarian cancer in November.

Arts and entertainment reporter Jay Gabler joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2022. His previous experience includes eight years as a digital producer at The Current (Minnesota Public Radio), four years as theater critic at Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages, and six years as arts editor at the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He's a co-founder of pop culture and creative writing blog The Tangential; he's also a member of the National Book Critics Circle and the Minnesota Film Critics Alliance. You can reach him at or 218-279-5536.
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