Megan Hess


I’m the Rural Organizing Director with We The People – Michigan. I live in Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I was born and raised. I got my start in community organizing by joining the fight to shut down Enbridge Pipeline 5, which runs under the most critical waterway in the Great Lakes. My tribe, the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, has been critical in this work and I saw the pipeline as a threat to Indigenous rights and our environment. But the deeper my analysis around the pipeline got, the more I also understood the potential threats to the region’s tourism economy. I came to see this as a racial, environmental and economic justice issue.

The work around the pipeline helped me to also see that there is no blanket solution that is appropriate for every situation, and there are very rarely silver bullets to solve any one problem or issue. For example, I came to understand that for some people the pipeline was a lifeline because it provided union jobs on the western end of the Upper Peninsula. It also provided propane needed for heat in Michigan’s brutal northern winters. Simply shutting down the pipeline wasn’t the solution we needed. It’s important to me, my family, my community and my region to work together with all people, across geography and identities, to come up with viable solutions that work for everyone. And I believe that local leaders have the creativity and grit needed to develop those solutions.

I’m not an organizer by trade. My educational background is in literature and editing, and before organizing I was a journalist and then a stay-at-home parent. Through these past experiences, I’ve become deeply interested in personal stories and storytelling, and how narrative can empower and disempower.

My two kids, who are 6 and 8, are the main motivation and inspiration for my work. I want to create a future that they can thrive in – where they can have jobs that both bring them joy and pay them a living wage; where my son can paint his nails and not be ridiculed; where adults will greet my daughter with a “hi, how are you” instead of “look how cute your dress is”; where they can build lives that are satisfying and comfortable for them, regardless of it’s a rural, suburban or urban place; and where they have real accounts of history and the world around them.