Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Updated: Keweenaw Bay Indian Community to seek permanent access to Eagle Rock for tribal members

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal Council met on Eagle Rock on May 8, 2010 -- a snowy day in May! Here they are pictured with friends. (Photo courtesy Stand for the Land. Reprinted with permission.)*

BARAGA -- Warren C. Swartz, Jr., president of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal Council, issued the following statement on May 5, 2010:

"I am announcing today that the Community has agreed to meet with Kennecott to discuss permanent access to our scared place migi zii wa sin (Eagle Rock) which is located within the proposed Eagle Mine site, without, however, waiving any rights the Community or its members have in connection with contesting the construction and operation of Kennecott’s proposed mine.

"Recently, Kennecott has announced that it intends to commence ground preparation activities at the Eagle Mine site, including fencing the perimeter of the site, even though the mining permits are still in litigation. This activity would deny our members their ability to engage in their traditional cultural practices at migi zii wa sin -- denying our members their right to practice their religious heritage at migi zii wa sin.

"The Tribal Council, after reviewing the current issues associated with the sulfide copper and nickel mine that Kennecott Mining Company has proposed to construct on the Yellow Dog Plains, has reaffirmed the Community’s opposition to the mine in light of substantial risk of negative environmental impacts of the mine on tribal members and future generations and Kennecott’s proposed desecration of migi zii wa sin -- a place that is sacred to members of the Community.

"Since 2004, the Community has expressed significant concern regarding the adverse environmental impacts that the mining of sulfide minerals will have on the environment and the health and welfare of tribal members for the next seven generations.

"In order to address these concerns, the Community and other concerned parties -- the National Wildlife Federation, the Huron Mountain Club and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve -- have engaged numerous recognized environmental and mining experts to conduct an extensive review of the Kennecott mining plans. These experts found major technical deficiencies in Kennecott mining plans -- deficiencies that could lead to major and long-term environmental degradation of an important portion of the Community’s ceded territory, including potential contamination of surface water, ground water and the waters of Lake Superior, mine subsidence, and acid mine drainage which will result in severe and lasting adverse impacts to plant and
animal life in the ceded territory where the tribe has reserved treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather.

"In addition, an assessment by the Community’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office has concluded that migi zii wa sin is a place that has been sacred to the members of the Community and their ancestors for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and that Kennecott’s proposed mine construction and operation will desecrate and, perhaps, even destroy this sacred place which is eligible for listing on the National Historic Register as a traditional cultural property of the Community.

"Accordingly, the Community and its co-petitioners have filed legal actions contesting the adverse impacts that the Kennecott mine will have on the environment and, especially, on migi zii wa sin. This litigation is now in the Michigan Circuit Court which will conduct an independent review of the adverse impacts the mine will have on the environment and on our sacred place -- migi zii wa sin. We will be asking the Circuit Court to reverse and set aside the permits which the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment granted to Kennecott for the mine."

Editor's Notes:
* Update: See "Eagle Rock Occupation Day 15" on Stand for the Land for an account of the visit of the KBIC Council on Saturday, May 8, 2010.

For documents concerning the religious and cultural use of
migi zii wa sin (Eagle Rock), including KBIC correspondence with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning the sulfide mine, click here.

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