Friday, May 14, 2010
EPA is nearing a decision on whether discharges from a proposed Michigan mine must be permitted under the federal underground injection control (UIC) program, a decision that industry sources say could set a precedent requiring non-hazardous discharges from scores of other facilities -- including wastewater, energy, mining and others that use above-ground discharges -- to seek first-time permits.
"It would be such a massive expansion of the UIC program to things that it has never been applied to before," one industry source says of the possibility that EPA may require a permit.
EPA Region V officials and leaders of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community [were] scheduled to meet May 14 to discuss EPA’s pending decision, after regional and headquarters officials have spent months reviewing Kennecott Eagle Mineral Co.’s claims that a redesign of its proposed treated water infiltration system (TWIS) eliminates the need for a UIC permit.
Read more on Stand for the Land ...
Pryor was adamant about her decision: "The state lease language is clear that all permits must be obtained before work on the mine can begin," she said. "Kennecott should not have started work on state land that day and I should not have been arrested for being there. The plea bargain offered by the prosecutor would require me to plead guilty. I will not do so. I shall go on to a jury trial with a plea of not guilty and let a jury of my peers decide the case."
Pryor’s jury trial is set for 8 a.m. on June 15, 2010, in District Court Room 215 with Judge Roger Kangas presiding. The misdemeanor charge of trespass can carry a sentence of up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of $250. Cynthia is represented by Attorney Kevin Koch.
Cynthia Pryor was arrested April 20, 2010, for trespass on state land on the Yellow Dog Plains. She resides nearby with her husband, both of Big Bay.
Photo: Cynthia Pryor outside the Marquette Courthouse on the morning of May 6, 2010, before her pre-trial conference concerning the trespass charge. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Opponents of Rio Tinto-Kennecott's proposed sulfide mine on the Yellow Dog Plains carry signs in a peaceful protest Rally on Thursday, May 6, 2010, in front of the U.S. Post Office in Marquette. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photos and video clips by Keweenaw Now)
MARQUETTE -- Anyone driving or walking through downtown Marquette on Thursday, May 6, at lunchtime (noon - 1 p.m.) could not help but notice, in front of the U.S. Post Office, a peaceful, even joyful, demonstration by a large crowd of people carrying a variety of signs opposing Rio Tinto-Kennecott's proposed sulfide mine for nickel and copper on the Yellow Dog Plains.
This Rally, held only a couple blocks from the shores of Lake Superior, was in conjunction with the May 6 pre-trial conference for Cynthia Pryor, Sulfide Mining Campaign director of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, who was recently arrested for alleged "trespassing" on public land leased by multinational mining company Rio Tinto, with its subsidiary Kennecott Minerals.*
Cynthia Pryor (center, in blue skirt), Sulfide Mining Campaign director of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, joins Rally participants in front of the Marquette Post Office on May 6.
In fact, some of Pryor's supporters began the day at 9:30 a.m. in front of the Courthouse to sign petitions and letters to Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Rally followed later at noon in front of the Post Office, and the large crowd then marched peacefully to the Courthouse at about 1 p.m. to await the announcement from Pryor's attorney concerning the decision made at the 1:30 p.m. pre-trial conference.
Petitions, letters signed at Courthouse before Rally
On Thursday morning, May 6, preceding the Rally and the the pre-trial conference, supporters of Pryor and the anti-sulfide-mining campaign gathered in front of the Courthouse to show support for Pryor, whom they believe was unjustly arrested on public land leased by Rio Tinto-Kennecott before the company has received adequate permits to begin mining. Pryor was arrested near Eagle Rock, a sacred site to the Anishinaabe, where Native and non-Native protesters have been camping since the arrest.**
Cynthia Pryor, Sulfide Mining Campaign director for the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, met with supporters in front of the Marquette Courthouse on Thursday morning, May 6, preceding the noon Rally and the pre-trial conference concerning her arrest on April 20, 2010, for alleged "trespassing" on public land.
"Right now we're just bringing attention to (the pre-trial conference) by having folks come and sign petitions and having a Rally at noon," Pryor said in the morning in front of the Courthouse.
Megan McDonald of Marquette was among the supporters who were collecting signatures on petitions for environmental justice to be sent with letters to Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and to the EPA Office of Civil Rights in Washington, DC.
"Basically the fresh water and the expanse of land with integrity is the reason I live here," McDonald said. "I personally think it's worth more than just us as a people -- and generations of our family."
With McDonald, also collecting petition signatures, was Kristen Karls of Big Bay.
In front of the Marquette Courthouse Thursday morning, May 6, Megan McDonald, left, and Kristen Karls set out to collect signatures on petitions for environmental justice to be sent to Gov. Granholm and the EPA.
"I live on Moon Mountain, right on the Yellow Dog River. I have a personal interest. It (the sulfide mine) could ruin my drinking water and that of many families in the area -- families with little children," Karls said. "I can drink the water right out of the ground -- without any filtering or anything."
Jamaal Newson, originally of Kalamazoo but now a resident of Marquette, said he moved up to the U.P. because of the mountains and the trees -- and Lake Superior.
"Can't really resist it," he said about the lake. "So I decided to move up -- and freeze, but ... (laughter) but it's worth it."
The temperature in the morning on May 6 was a bit nippy in front of the Courthouse. Well prepared with gloves and mittens, however, was Robin Lachapelle of Ishpeming, mother of two daughters, who signed the petition.
Supporters who signed petitions and letters in front of the Courthouse on a chilly May 6 morning included, from left, Carrie Masters of Detroit, Jamaal Newson of Marquette (formerly of Kalamazoo) and Robin Lachapelle of Ishpeming, who donated a pair of warm wool mittens to Keweenaw Now's editor. Thanks again, Robin!
Lachapelle said she signed it "because I think that's probably the most beautiful area on the face of the earth -- I really do."
Carrie Masters of Detroit, a Northern Michigan University (NMU) student in international studies and Spanish, said she was at the Courthouse because she believed it was important for people to make a stand on this issue.
"To make a movement," she added.
Collecting signatures for a letter to the EPA was Quentin Sprengelmeyer of Marquette, an NMU student in biology with an ecology emphasis. Sprengelmeyer said he joined this event because of what the sulfide mine could do to the water.
"The Yellow Dog's right there," he said.
NMU student Quentin Sprengelmeyer, right, collects signatures from sulfide mining opponents in front of the Marquette Courthouse on Thursday, May 6. Also pictured are Robin Lachapelle of Ishpeming, left, and Kathleen Shattuck of Marquette.
Kathleen Shattuck of Marquette said she decided to come to the protest because she believes the sulfide mine is dangerous for the water and is going to ruin the U.P.
"That's a part of the wilderness," Shattuck said. "We'll never get it back."
Barbara Bradley, a member of Keepers of the Water, a group of Native and non-Native women who have supported the anti-sulfide-mining campaign by raising grant money for such events as Protect the Earth,*** was busy making a sign for the Rally.
In front of the Marquette Courthouse on Thursday morning, May 6, Barbara Bradley of Keepers of the Water makes a sign for the noon Rally.
"We work mainly in a spiritual way, but, when necessary, in a political way, to protect the water," Bradley said.
Teresa Bertossi, left, of Keepers of the Water, collects petitions with Emily Sprengelmeyer, who was making a sign for the Rally in front of the Courthouse on Thursday morning, May 6.
High-energy, peaceful Rally attracts nearly 100 sulfide mine opponents
At the noon Rally, participants' signs, chants and comments made it clear this was definitely about the water: about protecting trout streams which are at risk of being polluted by Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) from a potential mine that experts have already criticized for technological flaws in its design -- and about Lake Superior, which could receive such pollution from the streams that empty into it.
The crowd of nearly 100 broke into chants and applauded and cheered when passing cars honked in support of their protest. Members of the percussion group Log Jam, accompanied by NMU Dance Instructor Maria Formolo's creative dance movements, added a special rhythm to the atmosphere.
Teresa Bertossi, a member of Keepers of the Water, said, "It was a large rally and most of the people who drove by honked, waved and gave the thumbs up. It was pretty clear that most of the public are against what this foreign company, Rio Tinto-Kennecott, is trying to do to our water."
With Lake Superior just a few blocks behind her, Marquette artist Beth Millner, one of the organizers of the Rally, displays a sign that attracted responses from passing cars.
Beth Millner, one of the Rally organizers, has since sent a letter to the editor to a Marquette TV6 Web site, in which she states, "The likelihood of acid mine drainage from the proposed Eagle Mine leaking into our waterways is reason for public outcry. We cannot risk our pristine water and the magnificent Lake Superior for a few jobs now and contaminate water for the future."****
Linda and Dave Rulison of the Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK) traveled from Pelkie, Mich., to attend the Rally. The Rulisons also visited Eagle Rock recently in support of the Native Americans of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) camping there in protest against the mine.**
Pelkie residents Linda and Dave Rulison, right, of FOLK (Friends of the Land of Keweenaw), carry signs during the May 6 Rally in Marquette. Here they are pictured joining in the chants of the protesters with Cynthia Pryor, second from left, and Joanne Thomas of Allouez.
"We came all the way to Marquette to say that having clean water is more important than taking minerals out of our ground," Linda Rulison said. "We need to protect the Great Lakes."
Jennifer Silverston of Marquette, carrying a sign saying "Fresh water is so precious," spoke about Rio Tinto-Kennecott's recent request to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw their application for a federal permit to discharge from the mining operations 500,000 gallons of wastewater a day into the watersheds of the Salmon Trout and Yellow Dog rivers. Because of an allegedly revised "surface" design, the company has substituted a State of Michigan permit.
"We're going through the proper channels -- the legal channels," Silverston said. "It (the mine) still goes forward. At this point I have concerns about the validity of the MDNRE (Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment) permit to put treated industrial wastewater onto the surface. So we're appealing to the federal agencies under the Safe Drinking Water Act. So that's why I'm here."
With Silverston was Marquette resident Greer Harewood, whose sign read "Clean Water Forever."
Marquette residents Jennifer Silverston, right, and Greer Harewood display their signs about water during the May 6 Rally in front of the Marquette Post Office.
"I moved here and heard about sulfide mining, and I think our fresh water resources are something to protect," Harewood said. "And since Lake Superior has approximately 20 percent of the world's fresh water it just makes it that much more important."
Carrying a sign that said simply "Unite," was Marquette native ("born and raised here") Emily Depetro, NMU student in special education.
Pictured here with other Rally participants, NMU student Emily Depetro, third from right, carries a simple, but significant message in her sign, "Unite."
"I'm here because I think people should stop counting the green in their wallets and start focusing on the green in the environment," Depetro said.
Nora Belic of Marquette said, "I'm here because I want clean water forever, and I think people need to realize that it's not just the greedy corporations that want the mine. It's us as consumers. We keep consuming, and we need to start having less and stop wanting more."
Nora Belic of Marquette demonstrates for clean water at the Rally.
Noting that the sulfide mine has not been proven safe, Roslyn McGrath, a 16-year resident of Marquette, said she joined the Rally because of the need to protect this land and water.
Roslyn McGrath of Marquette displays a sign with an effective message during the Rally.
"Our elected officials need to realize that the mine does not support our community and the community does not support having a sulfide mine here," McGrath stated.
Eeva Miller of Marquette (in straw hat) collects signatures for the environmental justice petition while Kyra Fillmore and her two children, Llewellyn, 18 months, and Eileen Dawn, 5, join the Rally. Fillmore said she attended the Rally "just to protect the water for my kids."
After demonstrating an hour at the Post Office, the Rally participants walked peacefully to the Marquette Courthouse to await the results of Cynthia Pryor's pre-trial conference.
Now retired from the Department of Chemistry at NMU, Gail Griffith commented on the potential pollution from a sulfide mine.
"I taught biochemistry and toxicology at Northern, and I'm very aware of the possibility of contamination from things like sulfide mining," Griffith said.
Gail Griffith, retired NMU chemistry professor, center, carrying green Stand for the Land sign, heads from the Post Office to the Courthouse with other Rally participants.
She said the potential pollution of Lake Superior could result from a catastrophic event such as the collapse of the mine's crown pillar.
"But we don't want to risk that," Griffith noted. "They (Kennecott) 'certified' to the DNRE that they didn't need an EPA permit. That's a legal question. Do they really have a lease on that state land?"
Still displaying their signs, Rally participants wait on the Courthouse steps to hear the news about Cynthia Pryor's pre-trial conference Thursday afternoon, May 6.
Rosa Musket of Marquette, whose great-grandfather was Potawatomi, carried a sign calling attention to Native American treaty rights. She said she was concerned that the planet's natural ecology is being destroyed.
"This company is notorious for misleading the general population," Musket noted.
Rosa Musket of Marquette displays her sign for Native American Treaty Rights on the steps of the Courthouse May 6.
Rally participants sing "This Land is Your Land" on the Courthouse steps.
Finally, Cynthia Pryor appeared at the Courthouse entrance with her attorney and announced the agreement that was made concerning her bond for the "trespassing" charge.
The purpose of the conference was for the lawyers and the judge to determine how this case is going to go forward. Since Kennecott did not dismiss the case, Pryor pleaded "not guilty" and asked for a jury trial. It was decided that Kennecott will allow her to access her Yellow Dog Watershed land, but not the proposed mine site.
"I cannot stop on Kennecott land at the (mine) site (which includes Eagle Rock)," Pryor explained, "but any other Kennecott properties, going where I'm going, I can pass through that land."
Cynthia Pryor speaks with supporters outside the Courthouse after her pre-trial conference.
Pryor said she takes roads to get to Yellow Dog land and roads to get to McCormick Wilderness that go through Kennecott property. She is allowed to pass through their properties but, as part of her bond because of the arrest, she cannot stop at Eagle Rock. A jury trial is scheduled for June 15 to determine a verdict on the misdemeanor trespassing charge.
Addressing her supporters outside the courthouse, Pryor said, "I want you to be there (on Eagle Rock) with KBIC. Please support them in every way. I cannot go there. Please go there. Thank you."
Editor's Notes: * See our Apr. 22, 2010, article, "Cynthia Pryor pleads 'not guilty' to trespassing charge."
** See our May 9 article, "Native, non-Native campers on Eagle Rock oppose sulfide mine."
*** See our August 2009 articles , "Protect the Earth 2009: Part 1" and "Protect the Earth: Part 2, Walk to Eagle Rock."
**** See Beth Millner's letter: "Alternative Employment is Available in the U.P."
Visit the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve Web site blog for more information on citizen action, copies of letters and the petition mentioned in this article and news updates.
"At 6:30, all are invited to gather in the lower level of the museum for a program of traditional music and stories from and about the Keweenaw, presented by members of the Thimbleberry Band," writes musician and storyteller Oren Tikkanen. "Libby Meyer will be on hand with her dazzling Irish fiddle. Dave Bezotte will melt your heart with his French lyrics and mellow baritone. Coleman Segal will show off his mandolin chops while simultaneously exuding ineffable "Keweenaw Kewl."
Thimbleberry will offer tales and music from Keweenaw settlers of various ethnic groups -- including Italians, Irish, Slovenians, French-Canadians, Finns and more.
The exhibit -- a multi media exploration of the storytelling traditions of the Upper Peninsula -- looks at the story traditions of the Anishinaabeg people, European immigrant groups, lumberjack and maritime song traditions and contemporary storytellers. Several panels focus on the work of folklorists such as Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, Frances Densmore, Alan Lomax, Richard Dorson, Oren Tikkanen and many others. Nineteen interpretive panels are accompanied by five audio stations featuring recordings of stories and songs collected in the U.P., and silent film footage, taken by Alan Lomax in the 1930s, of U.P. musicians, dancers and folk healers.
The exhibit was put together by Dan Truckey from the Beaumier Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University. It will be on display at the Carnegie Museum through June 29.
The Carnegie Museum is in the former Portage Lake District Library building at 105 Huron street. Museum hours are Tuesday, noon to 7 p.m.; Thursday, noon to 5 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 4 p.m.
Admission is free. Parking is available in the lot behind the building, or in the City lot across Montezuma Street.
For more information please call 482-7140, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Nominations should include a description of how the candidate has had a significant impact on the Keweenaw community in the area of peace, justice, human needs and/or environmental stewardship. Please be specific about what form this contribution and involvement has taken. The nomination form only takes a moment to fill out, and the recognition will mean a lot to a deserving individual!
Nomination forms can be obtained from Terry Kinzel at 482-6827 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
This is the third hearing Stupak has held as chairman of Oversight and Investigations involving British Petroleum. Stupak has investigated several spills in BP’s North Slope, Alaska, drilling, including the 2006 spill that resulted in more than 200,000 gallons of oil leaking into the tundra, as well as BP’s 2005 Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 and injured more than 170.
Click here to read Stupak's statement in the full press release on his Web site.
Editor's Note: For an opinion on the BP Disaster and other such projects with actual and potential environmental and human impacts, see Elanne Palcich's article, "BP Disaster: What are we doing to the planet we call Home?" on Headwaters News.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
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."
* 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.
Over 1500 Acres of beautiful river frontage a stone's throw from Houghton is soon to be protected for fishing, birding, recreation and forest resources with the help of several organizations, including Copper Country Audubon and Trout Unlimited. Plan to attend this free presentation to learn how you can help, too.
The presentation is sponsored by Copper Country Audubon. Contact Dana Richter, firstname.lastname@example.org or 906-478-2149 for more information.
"Many of our folks rely on the services this lab provides to keep themselves and their family healthy, and that's why I will continue to fight for this lab and the workers who depend on it for their livelihoods," Lahti said. "This state-of-the-art facility and its dedicated staff work hard to improve our community and our residents' quality of life."
The Houghton lab, which has seven employees, is the only public health testing facility in the Upper Peninsula. It provides public health testing, testing for hospital infections, water quality tests, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases and other communicable diseases.
"I will continue to fight to keep this lab open and its services accessible to our residents," said McDowell, Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Community Health. "These workers are committed to helping improve our residents' health and the health of the U.P. We can't afford to lose this valuable resource."
Eagle Rock (migi zii wa sin) has been assessed as a sacred place by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office and is eligible for listing on the National Historic Register as a traditional cultural property.
Tribal members and treaty rights speakers will discuss the importance of preserving Native American sacred places and explain First Amendment rights to religious freedom. An overview of the Treaty of 1842, in which the United States government ceded the area to the Ojibwa, will be also given. The public and mine supporters are encouraged to attend.
One of the speakers will be Jessica Koski, a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) and graduate student at Yale University, who recently went to London, England, to address Rio Tinto at their Annual General Meeting concerning the sacredness of Eagle Rock. Koski calls this event on Saturday a very important educational opportunity.
Jessica Koski speaks at the 2009 Protect the Earth event at Eagle Rock. Koski graduated from Michigan Tech University in 2009 and is now a candidate for a Masters of Environmental Management at Yale University. (File photo by Keweenaw Now)
"Our struggle for the land and Eagle Rock is one of many. Native Americans and indigenous peoples throughout the world face similar struggles to protect their homelands, sacred places and cultures," Koski says.
"The Constitution of the United States of America embraces the concept of liberty, freedom and justice for all; but Native Americans have been repeatedly denied this widespread democratic belief," she adds.
"Our stand at Eagle Rock is an important one," says Koski. "This is a time of global environmental destruction and also a time of cultural revitalization for our people. We need to protect our last remaining sacred places and assert our rights and values for the land, water, plants and wildlife. Our desire and right to continue our cultural traditions depends upon the protection of our land bases and natural resources. Asserting our Treaty Rights will continue to be an extremely important strategy and will challenge the privileges afforded multinational corporations and the state."
Kennecott withdraws Woodland Road plan
According to Stand for the Land, The Marquette County Board, Marquette City Commission and Marquette Township Board all lobbied the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve Kennecott’s Woodland Road plan. Oversight from the EPA has caused Kennecott to withdraw its Woodland Road permit application to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE).
The Marquette Mining Journal cites wetlands mitigation and route alternatives analysis as EPA concerns that Kennecott plans to address before re-submitting the application.
Click below to read the official withdrawal request.* Keep in mind Woodland Road LLC is really Kennecott/Rio Tinto.Stand For the Land for updates on the occupation of Eagle Rock and directions for getting there.
Sunday, May 09, 2010
A Native American flag flies over the encampment at Eagle Rock on Wednesday, May 5, 2010. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated)
EAGLE ROCK -- Visitors to Eagle Rock, a sacred site for the Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) people, can't help but feel it is a special place. Several generations are coming together there to keep the sacred fire burning for a common purpose: To convince anyone who needs convincing that Eagle Rock, located on the Yellow Dog Plains near pristine trout streams that empty into Lake Superior, is not a suitable site for the sulfide mine known as the "Eagle" Project -- proposed by the multinational mining company Rio Tinto and its subsidiary Kennecott Minerals.
An eagle feather hangs near the sacred fire at Eagle Rock. It was sent by a supportive Native American friend of Charlotte Loonsfoot of KBIC (Keweenaw Bay Indian Community), one of the initiators of the occupation of the sacred site. (Photo © 2010 and courtesy Joanne Thomas)
In fact, not only is Kennecott preparing for construction on leased public land without all the required permits, the company's workers are reportedly using heavy equipment in the vicinity of Eagle Rock, much closer than the 500-feet perimeter required by law for safety .
Charlotte Loonsfoot of KBIC (Keweenaw Bay Indian Community) is one of three women who initiated the occupation of Eagle Rock after hearing of the arrest last week of Cynthia Pryor, Sulfide Mining Campaign director for the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.*
Charlotte Loonsfoot, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) member, at Eagle Rock on Wednesday, May 5, 2010.
"We're setting up tents. We're getting ready to have ceremonies," Loonsfoot said on Wednesday, May 5.
However, the usual quiet atmosphere of Eagle Rock, which makes it a fitting place for spiritual ceremonies, has been interrupted by the noise from a very large drill that is being operated not only in the daytime but all night, while shining floodlights on the Eagle Rock encampment.
"We're getting used to it," Loonsfoot said. "We adapt very well."
Loonsfoot said she thought the company might be testing the drill.
"I told Kennecott today that I'm a woman and I have to protect our water. That's my job as a woman," Loonsfoot noted. "And while we're doing that we can learn our culture and language better."
On Wednesday afternoon, campers, both Native and non-Native, sat around a second fire -- a campfire for cooking. They chatted and joked with the young cook, who prefers to be identified only as E Halvorson, while they waited for the salmon feast he was cooking over the open fire.
Sitting around the campfire at Eagle Rock, waiting for the salmon, are, from left, Laura Furtman, formerly of Wisconsin and now of Duluth, Minn.; Billy Michaelson of Ishpeming; Chalsea Smith of KBIC, Kristin Hilts (standing) of Chassell; and E Halvorson of KBIC, the group's designated cook for Wednesday, May 5.
"We're preparing for winter," E said, "building a long house and wigwams."
While many Americans wouldn't consider camping without an RV equipped with everything including a kitchen sink, the people camping on Eagle Rock are intentionally trying to live there according to the traditional ways of the Anishinaabe, doing without modern conveniences. Native American elders have also visited Eagle Rock to teach those of the younger generation particular skills that include not only building shelters but also storing food without refrigeration.
E, a KBIC member, said he has been learning the Ojibwa language from Earl Otchiwahnigan of KBIC.
"I've lived in this land for 18 years and some odd days," E said. "I was told that the lake is the blood of my mother and so when this happened -- this mine of Kennecott -- I thought of the old teachings I was taught by those elders of mine and I was thinking no one person would poison their mother -- so why poison the earth? That is matricide."
Kalil Zender of Big Bay, who is studying international studies and music at Northern Michigan University (NMU), said she grew up just eight miles away from Eagle Rock.
"This is like my home," Zender said. "I grew up fishing in the Yellow Dog and camping here. It's pretty sad if my kids (in the future) can't come here."
Kristin Hilts, a young massage therapist from Chassell, said her stepfather has a camp in the area and she wants her son to grow up in the same wilderness area she did.
"We came up here to pick blueberries when I was a kid," she said.
Laura Furtman of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, who is involved in a potential lawsuit against Kennecott for the pollution they left from their Flambeau Mine near Ladysmith, Wis., says she first came to Eagle Rock to help protect the water here in Michigan. Although Furtman recently moved to Duluth, Minn., for future employment, she said she has another reason now to stay here as long as she can -- the people she's met on the Rock.
Laura Furtman, third from left, with some of her new friends at Eagle Rock. Pictured here, from left, are Chalsea Smith of KBIC, Kalil Zender of Big Bay and Billy Michaelson of Ishpeming.
"These are really wonderful people," Furtman said. "As a white woman I've been welcomed into the community, and that means a lot to me."
Furtman was especially excited about showing off the kitchen, a tent turned into a traditional wigwam, well stocked with food, including fresh fruit and vegetables donated by various individuals and groups.
The kitchen at Eagle Rock is stocked with a variety of food for the campers -- donated by individuals and groups, including fresh produce from the Keweenaw Co-op in Hancock.
"They've been so generous with food, tarps, bringing in water and ice. That tells me that people really don't want this mine, despite what Kennecott is saying," Furtman noted.
Furtman, who spoke on the pollution from Kennecott's Flambeau Mine during the Protect the Earth Summit in Marquette on Aug. 1, 2009, said she'd like to set the record straight on a myth that's being propagated by Kennecott in Michigan -- that the Flambeau Mine has not polluted the water.**
"The standard quote I've heard from Kennecott people is that they operated in Wisconsin without violating any regulations," Furtman said.
What they're not telling the people, Furtman added, is that Kennecott lobbyists, as well as an Exxon lobbyist, were involved in writing Wisconsin's mining regulations.***
"As a result it's legal to pollute the water beneath a mine site," she said. "They found a way to get around the pollution: They legalized it. And now they're implying to people in Michigan that the water's clean -- and it's not."
Karen Eldevick and Chip Truscon of Marquette joined in the salmon feast after bringing a "one-ton apple crisp" to share.
Karen Eldevick and Chip Truscon of Marquette share the salmon feast with campers at Eagle Rock on Wednesday, May 5, 2010. Eldevick and Truscon brought a huge apple crisp to share.
"I can't stay overnight, but I bring food," said Eldevick, a Marquette physician.
Truscon said they have been coming to Eagle Rock and donating food because it is an outlet for a lot of pent-up feeling.
"Most of us feel the land is very special," he said. "People in the U.P. have that special relationship."
Truscon noted this is the first time there has been such a specific focus on Eagle Rock.
"Whether you're Native or non-Native, it's so obvious this is unique. It's a geological phenomenon and also a place of worship," Truscon added. "I feel that's as much a sacred piece of ground as any other I've seen in my life."
Richard Lewis, an Odawa member of Wikwemikong, an unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, came from his home in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., to support the group on Eagle Rock. Lewis said he heard about the sulfide mining issue because he's been coming to the powwow gatherings at NMU during the last 10 years.
Seated near the sacred fire, Richard Lewis of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., shares in the salmon feast on May 5 at Eagle Rock. Lewis is an an Odawa member of Wikwemikong, an unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island (Lake Huron), Ontario.
"My sister lives in Negaunee. She's raised her family up here, too," Lewis explained. "I was asked to come and support the group."
Lewis said he believed this action is not just for himself, his tribe or just for Native Americans.
"We all drink the same water, and we all breathe the same air," he said. "It's not just a Native American issue. It's a people issue."
Furtman agreed: "It's very much a community effort to make this work, and we will make this work. These people love the land, and they love the water."
Loonsfoot expressed her appreciation for all the donations of food and supplies and extended an invitation to visitors and supporters.
"If anybody wants to come and join us, they're welcome," she said.
Editor's Notes: * See articles on Stand for the Land for details on this issue.
** See our May 1, 2010 article, "Protect the Earth 2009: Part 1," for details on Laura Furtman's presentation on the Flambeau Mine.
*** Mining companies were also included in stakeholders' meetings that preceded the passage of Michigan's 2004 Mining Law. See "Governor Granholm Signs Law to Toughen Michigan's Mining Regulations," Dec. 27, 2004, on Michigan.gov. KBIC did not endorse Michigan's Mining Law but proposed its own. See Gabriel Caplett's March 2009 article in the Splash, Issue 3, p. 1.
Click here to read KBIC's Proposed Mining Ordinance, 2008.
See also an article by Teresa Bertossi, "Freshwater: Mining's Most Common Casualty," in Headwaters, Issue 1, p. 9, where she notes how the Clean Water Act was weakened by a new definition of "fill" -- a change that allows mining companies to dispose of their waste in natural water bodies of the U.S.
Watch for a slide show with more photos of Eagle Rock, coming soon.