Lake Superior beach at Seven-Mile Point. Celebrate Lake Superior Day, July 18, on this or another of the Keweenaw Peninsula's great beaches. Thanks to the North Woods Conservancy, this beach is preserved for limited public access. This summer it is open on weekends. Watch for a story on this, coming soon. (July 2010 photo by Keweenaw Now)
By Eric Rosenberg*
HOUGHTON -- Communities around the Big Lake will celebrate Lake Superior Day on Sunday, July 18. Established in the early 1990s by the Lake Superior Binational Forum, Lake Superior Day is a regional celebration of the world's largest freshwater lake and the effect it has on those who live around it.
Event organizers encourage celebrations big and small and personal outings to recognize the role the lake has in local lives and to promote the desire to keep Lake Superior in a pristine, healthy condition. Events that are planned around the lake include a lecture on "The Future Health of Lake Superior" in Ironwood; beach cleanups followed by festivities in Superior, Wis.; a film festival in Duluth, Minn.; and a barbecue in Thunder Bay, Ontario.**
The day itself has been officially recognized by a number of cities and villages around the Keweenaw Peninsula, including Houghton, Hancock, Baraga, L’Anse and Eagle Harbor. The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) and a number of other community groups also acknowledge the holiday.
Some area residents feel, however, that more could be done on the day. Susan LaFernier, a KBIC Tribal Council member, is one of these people.
"We don’t have a formal ceremony," LaFernier said, "but I want to plan something for next year."
Susan LaFernier, KBIC Tribal Council member, addresses the crowd at Eagle Rock, a sacred Ojibwa site near Big Bay, Mich., during the Protect the Earth event on Aug. 2, 2009. Behind her are co-organizers Teresa Bertossi of Yellow Dog Summer and (hidden behind LaFernier) Emily Whittaker, executive director of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve. At left is musician Victor McManemy. The event included a water ceremony led by Native American participants. (Photo © 2009 and courtesy Gabriel Caplett)
LaFernier put this idea of formal recognition of Lake Superior Day before her colleagues at a tribal council meeting earlier this month. She also shared with her fellow council members that community youth would conduct beach clean-ups to honor Gitche Gumee.***
According to a July 14 article in the L'Anse Sentinel by Kate Flynn, LaFernier has been working with tribal youth this summer picking up roadside litter. LaFernier directs the tribe's Adopt-a-Road Program and is extending this effort to Lake Superior. The lake has served the tribe for generations as a major travel route. After Europeans came to the Western Hemisphere, Lake Superior eventually became the head of the St. Lawrence Seaway and part of the global shipping network. The lake thus serves as a roadway for the movement of people and goods.
If you can’t find an event to attend nearby, the Lake Superior Binational Forum has a specific section set aside for people and groups interested in commemorating Lake Superior Day at its online forums at www.superiorforum.org. Suggestions include cleaning a beach, going for a swim, enjoying a relaxing afternoon on the water, going fishing, or enjoying the wooded areas around the basin.
"I feel it’s a very important day to focus on the natural resources," LaFernier said, "especially with the sulfide mine issue that has been in the news recently."****
* Guest reporter Eric Rosenberg is a student in David Clanaugh's summer journalism class at Michigan Tech.
**A full event list can be found at www.lakesuperior.com.
*** Gitche Gumee is poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's version of the Ojibwa name for Lake Superior -- from his "Song of Hiawatha."
****Opponents of the sulfide mine are planning several events for Lake Superior Day in and near Big Bay. Click here for details.