Saturday, August 14, 2010

C-L-K school garden project yields rich harvest

By Madeline Baron and David Clanaugh*

C-L-K teacher Debbie Pavolich and students who are in the summer Great Explorations Program water a raised-bed garden and record measurements for the gardening log. (Photo © 2010 and courtesy Debbie Pavolich)

CALUMET -- When a team of C-L-K (Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw) Elementary School teachers inspired by colleague Melissa Schneiderhan began incorporating a gardening program into their lesson plans last spring, little did they suspect how much it would capture the students' -- and each others' -- imaginations and energy. The teachers and students started out with eight beds, but the garden will be at least twice that size for the upcoming school year.

During the last week of school in June, Melissa Schneiderhan shows her fifth graders how to plant a "pizza" garden, including onions, cucumbers, basil, cauliflower, oregano, peppers, broccoli and sunflowers. "Maybe we're going to have enough for a vegetarian pizza eventually," Schneiderhan said. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated)

Gardens are flourishing at both the front and the back of the school, and even in the bus drop-off area. The garden project serves as an example of how small seeds -- whether ideas or actual seeds -- can yield large harvests and build community.

An example of the community building aspect of gardening has been the involvement of the BHK Child Development Board's Great Exploration (GE) summer youth program at C-L-K with maintenance of the garden beds during the summer months. GE youth also reap benefits from the wellness and educational aspects of gardening, and can continue to do so when they participate in after-school programming once the school year begins.

The garden's purpose is to help students learn in a hands-on environment about the impacts they make on the watershed and how to reduce those impacts, explained Debbie Pavolich, a second grade teacher at C-L-K Elementary School.

"What started out as a stewardship initiative has grown into an outdoor classroom," Pavolich said.

Pavolich teaches summer school at C-L-K, so has regular opportunities to tend the garden with students. She said fifth-grade teacher Schneiderhan has been the driving force in starting the garden and fueling the growth of the project.

The first lessons taught in the garden revolve around sustainable gardening methods. The garden uses a raised-bed planting system in efforts to conserve water.

In June students take turns watering the newly planted raised beds.

Teachers are finding more and more ways to include the garden in their lesson plans. Math students can be found measuring plant growth and calculating the volume and area of the garden beds. Science classes study plant life cycles, organic farming and composting methods. The librarian reads gardening and farming books to students in the gazebo, built by the C-L-K High School wood shop class. Art students meet in the garden to practice sketching and other techniques.

An art display outside the C-L-K library creates an all-school awareness of the garden project.

Each class chooses its own garden theme. Some classes vote to plant all flowers, while for other classes everything is edible. One class chose a color theme, only planting vegetables with colorful names including purple and green beans and red radishes. Of course, no school garden project would be complete without a pizza garden, so Schneiderhan's fifth-grade class has planted the ingredients to make this perennial school lunch favorite. Stacey Lancour and her third graders planted a pasty garden -- growing onions, rutabagas, potatoes and other ingredients.

Stacey Lancour, C-L-K third-grade teacher helps her class plant vegetables for a pasty garden.

"We're hoping to get families to help make pasties," Lancour said in June, just before the end of the school year. "We hope to involve the families and give the kids the chance to eat something that they've grown."

Thanks to an early start to the growing season, students during the spring didn’t let the early harvest go to waste, making veggie roll-ups with the garden project's first fruits. As students return to school this fall, they can look forward to pasties, pizza and other garden-based delights.

The "Heritage Garden" also provides creative ways to incorporate hands-on learning into lessons beyond agriculture and cooking. For example, students will harvest ingredients in the fall to make pasties as part of a local history lesson about the region's copper mining heritage and rich mixture of immigrant groups, including pasty makers from Cornwall. More broadly, the garden will help teach children about the area's history of gardening and agriculture. The children have been making a history book of area gardening and are looking for stories about local farmers and gardeners.

Kindergarten teacher Jenni Rautio shows her students how to plant onions in their "square foot" garden in early June.

Students also take what they have learned in the garden into the community, making visits to local nursing homes to share their experiences and to seek gardening tips from elders skilled in coaxing plants to grow in this northern latitude. These conversations with elders provide another facet to the history of area gardening.

Steve Rozich, C-L-K elementary assistant principal, said the Heritage Garden provides a first gardening experience for many children.

"This is a fabulous, fabulous opportunity for the children to see the life cycles of plants," Rozich noted.

During the last week of school in June, Steve Rozich, C-L-K Elementary assistant principal, makes the rounds of the garden plots, encouraging teachers and students. Also pictured here are Jenni Rautio (at left) and her kindergartners, with Michelle Nelson, paraprofessional teaching assistant (background, right).

During the summer months, GE students tend the garden and provide nurturance. They water the garden first thing in the morning so the plants get a chance to soak up moisture before the midday heat. Many of the crops peak before all the students return in the fall, so the GE students keep a log with the summer school students to document the progress the gardens have made. The GE students also enjoy the stream of fresh produce, incorporating the vegetables into their summertime activities.

One of the Great Exploration students records her garden data and interpretations to share with other GE program participants and with classmates when they return to school in the fall. (Photo © 2010 and courtesy Debbie Pavolich)

The garden provides a great experience for the students. Some of them would not have the opportunity otherwise, said Tiffany Scullion, GE coordinator at the C-L-K Elementary School. Scullion also credited Schneiderhan with helping the gardens take root at C-L-K.

"She has been keeping the rest of the group motivated, involved and wanting to expand," Scullion said. "There have been plenty of teachers involved, with Melissa providing much encouragement and inspiration."

Tracie Clanaugh, who supervises Scullion and eight other GE coordinators across the Copper Country, said the gardening project provides a great example of a site-specific partnership between the host school and BHK's youth-serving program. Clanaugh added that the garden project is a great fit with the GE program's wellness emphasis, planting the seeds for students to increase their activity levels as life-long gardeners who then can eat in a more healthy manner.

Alisha Carne, left, a recent graduate of Finlandia University's elementary education program, assisted by Michelle Sackson-Hodges, helps GE students maintain one of the flower gardens during the summer.

The strategy to promote sustainability and wellness involves starting with the youngest students. Before they were even officially enrolled at C-L-K, next fall's incoming crop of kindergartners planted sunflower seeds during spring registration with their parents. When the youngsters return in the fall as full-fledged kindergartners, towering sunflowers will greet them in their very own garden. Toasted sunflower seeds may very likely show up as a classroom project and snack during the early weeks of the new school year.

Pavolich said she had never been big into gardening until the C-L-K project, but her grandparents had served as role models with their huge beautiful garden. She now enjoys getting into the gardening through her lessons with her students -- experiences that trigger fond memories of her gardening grandparents.

Debbie Pavolich and her second graders show off the beginnings of their garden in early June.

Debbie Pavolich's students participated in making a plan for the garden, deciding where to plant each type of vegetable. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated)

During the summer months Pavolich continues to work on the garden with her summer school students, many of whom participate in GE. Some families in the community also have gardening space available at the school, so the project ends up involving all the generations.

Continuing the focus on sustainability, gardeners are currently awaiting the arrival of two rain barrels. The barrels will provide additional opportunities for students to learn sustainable watershed management methods by diverting run-off into the gardens. Using rainwater will reduce the need for irrigation water that requires fossil fuels to operate pumps. Rainwater can also promote better long-term soil health and plant growth than well water -- all topics for potential future lesson plans and GE activities.

The project receives funding from three sources: a Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative (LSSI) grant, the Building Healthy Communities Program run by the Western Upper Peninsula District Health Department, and the National Gardening Association's Adopt-A-School-Garden Program. The project also receives in-kind support from the C-L-K Area Schools and BHK's GE program.

*Editor's Note: Visiting reporter Madeline Baron is a student in David Clanaugh's summer journalism class at Michigan Tech University. David assisted with this article by incorporating the information about the Great Explorations program, which his wife, Tracie, supervises.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hancock's Peterson family, Native fishermen, propose use for fish waste

HANCOCK -- The Peterson family, owners of Peterson's Fish Market in Hancock, are the subject of a recent article by Charles Eshbach in the Fall 2010 issue of Mazina'igan, a Chronicle of the Lake Superior Ojibwe, the quarterly newspaper published by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) of Odanah, Wis.

In the article, titled "Lake Superior's untapped oil reserve: Fishing family contemplates use of siskowet lake trout," Eshbach relates how Gilmore and Chris Peterson, third- and fourth-generation Native American fishermen, are hoping to deal with fish waste, which is more than 50 percent of their fresh fish harvest from Lake Superior.

The Petersons' plan is to extract the oil from the fish waste and use it as bio-diesel fuel in their boats and trucks. Click here and go to p. 5 to read the entire article on the GLIFWC Web site.

Charles Eshbach, author of the article, is well known in the Keweenaw for his photography and conservation work. He is active in the Michigan Nature Association and publishes the Keweenaw Traveler, a tourist guide.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Updated: Michigan Tech hosts 38th Annual Summer Youth Program

By Danny Messinger and Keweenaw Now*

Michigan Tech Summer Youth Program students collect their gear and disembark from the tall sailing vessel Denis Sullivan on July 24, 2010, after one of the more challenging Michigan Tech Summer Youth programs -- a week studying Great Lakes biology on Lake Huron and Lake Superior -- including navigation experience. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- While summer means vacation time and no classes for most middle and high school students, Michigan Tech has been offering opportunities for students from across the globe to continue learning outside the classroom during the summer. These students have been participating in unique educational experiences on Tech's campus and in the surrounding region. Now in its 38th year, the Summer Youth Program (SYP) offers over 70 week-long career and adventure explorations for young students. With programs offered in business, computing, engineering, humanities and social sciences, outdoor and environmental education, and science and technology, students with many different academic strengths and interests can find their fit.

One of the more exciting and challenging programs this year was the week-long cruise on the tall ship Denis Sullivan, in which 11 adventurous high school students from three states -- Michigan, Illinois and Connecticut -- participated. The Denis Sullivan was on its way to Duluth, Minn., to participate in the Great Lakes United TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® 2010 race series, which offers passengers an opportunity to learn about water conservation, sustaining the environment and protecting the Great Lakes.*

After being picked up in Bay City, Mich., on July 19, students took turns helping to navigate the tall ship through Lake Huron and collected water and mud samples from Lake Superior.

Upon arriving in Houghton on July 24, the students were able to test water quality, plankton and benthos in an environmental engineering lab on the Michigan Tech campus. Some of the students stayed on campus for a second program the following week.

The Denis Sullivan was docked at the Houghton waterfront on July 24 as Summer Youth Program students disembarked from their week-long study cruise to study biological samples from Lake Superior in a Michigan Tech environmental engineering lab.* (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

"It went really well," said Cody Kangas, Youth Programs coordinator.

Jack Model, a student from Hartford, Conn., said he learned a lot about knots.

Martin Gargaro of Carp Lake, Mich., noted he had been sailing quite a few times but this was the first time on a boat this big. He said he enjoyed the trip and liked being on the water.

"I learned that rainbow trout and brown trout are invasive species," Gargaro added.

Joe Ewing of Menomonee Falls, Wis., education officer on the boat, was charged with overseeing the education program.

"This was a fantastic group of kids," Ewing said. "They stand [24-hour] watch. They become part of the crew -- besides doing the science and history."

Ewing noted the history lessons include the history of the Great Lakes shipwrecks and the history of why these towns are here.

"If it weren't for the Keweenaw Waterway and such vessels, Houghton - Hancock wouldn't be here," Ewing added.

Joe Ewing of Menomonee Falls, Wis., education officer on the Denis Sullivan, said learning about the history of the Great Lakes was part of the program. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Ewing is a retired former math teacher who does this job as a volunteer.

"My pay is seeing these kids grow," he said.

Sarah Hamilton of Midland, Mich., said she learned a lot of sailing terms on the trip.

"It was a great experience," Hamilton said, "but I was really excited to get back to land."

Steve Patchin, director of SYP outreach and engagement, said this summer the general engineering and crime scene investigation programs were the most popular and hundreds of students participated in SYP. Most students came from the Midwest, Patchin added, but this year some international students also participated.

In addition to SYP’s primary role as an educational experience, students also gain a preview of college life by living in one of Michigan Tech’s residence halls. Summer counselors serve a role similar to that of college resident assistants by providing live-in support and guidance for attendees.

"I felt like a real student at Michigan Tech," said Billy, a high school student from Southfield, Mich. "We have a roommate and learn what it’s like to be a college student. You have to do your own laundry; Mom’s not here to help you out all the time." Billy participated in SYP’s "Bridges, Dams and Skyscrapers: Building Big" program.

SYP’s unique blend of lectures, hands-on work, and an immersive college atmosphere has even given some students a jump-start on deciding where to attend college.

"This experience has swayed me to actually come to Michigan Tech," Billy said.

Kangas said the program has had another successful summer, yet plans are already underway to make changes and improvements for next year.

"We’re trying to combine specialties and fields," Kangas explained. "A lot of the changes we have planned draw from the success of the current sports science program, which mixes [physical education] with physics."

A biomedical engineering program is being considered for next year, Patchin added.

"There’s a high demand for that field right now. We’re also looking into a program where students build a kayak, use it on [Portage Lake] and get to take it home at the end of the week," Patchin said.

Summer Youth Program students enjoy canoeing and kayaking in the Keweenaw. A future program may allow students to build their own kayak as well. (Photo courtesy Michigan Technological University)

The Summer Youth Program also takes advantage of Michigan Tech's engineering emphasis:

Sitting in an air-conditioned laboratory on a hot summer day, two engineers work together to design a three-story building. They make a scale model of their structure, double-check their design with countless calculations, and even test its integrity by ensuring it can withstand an earthquake. These engineers are not professionals, however; they’re high school students taking part in Michigan Tech’s SYP.

Just as SYP's leaders submit the program to on-going scrutiny and improvement, the same spirit guides students in their academic explorations. For the student engineers, it is not enough to design their building; they must also test and improve it. After their balsa wood model had been vigorously shaken in a simulated earthquake, the two future engineers approvingly looked over their structure one more time before showing it off to their fellow SYP participants.

Wayne, a high school student from Detroit, said he has learned an incredible amount about engineering from his experience at Michigan Tech.

"SYP was one of the best programs in my life," he said.

To learn more about Michigan Tech's Summer Youth Program, visit their Web site.

* Editor's Notes: Click here to read more about the Great Lakes United TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® 2010 race series.

*Update: Guest reporter Danny Messinger wrote this article as part of his work in David Clanaugh's summer journalism class at Michigan Tech. The photos and quotes from the Denis Sullivan tall ship arrival were added by Keweenaw Now.

Art by Clyde Mikkola opens Aug. 12 at Community Arts Center

HANCOCK -- The current exhibit in the Community Arts Center’s Kerredge Gallery features Art by Clyde Mikkola. The title of this exhibit -- which includes acrylic and watercolor paintings, pencil and pen and ink drawings and stone carvings -- is "Yes, But is it A.D.D.?"

Mikkola explains in his Artist Statement, "Yes, but is it Attention Deficit Disorder? I don't know. The solution I've found is to do what I feel like doing. Sometimes I hit a wall. There's plenty more to do. I just can't see what it is at the moment. If I'm tired of pencil, I'll work in pen and ink, or watercolor. So now you understand why you see things in marble, oil, acrylic, charcoal, etc."

The Calumet artist and native to the area earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Michigan. He has been an Artist in the Schools and an Isle Royale Artist in Residence. He currently has a studio in Mohawk and teaches drawing classes at the Copper Country Community Arts Center. Clyde Mikkola is a master of many mediums.

He states, "Part of my personal approach to the work is to try to forget everything I know about working in a medium, so I must figure out solutions to problems every time I encounter them. It keeps me from getting bored with my work, and it helps me to avoid using "tricks" to produce effects. I try to give every line and brush stroke meaning at the time I make them."

An opening reception will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 12, at the Community Arts Center, 126 Quincy Street in Hancock.

Everyone is welcome to attend. This exhibit is supported by a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information call (906) 482-2333.

Mikkola to teach Drawing en Plein Air

Capture the beauty of the summer landscape in pencil drawings! Enjoy the outdoors in this drawing class on the coast of Lake Superior and learn the secrets of drawing scenes from nature with local artist Clyde Mikkola.

This class meets from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, in Eagle River, where students will draw the surrounding landscape. The class fee is $35. Materials provided on site are yours to keep.

Call the Arts Center at 482-2333 to register or to obtain more information.

Christa Walck named Michigan Tech Assistant Provost

HOUGHTON -- Christa Walck, a professor in the School of Business and Economics at Michigan Tech University, has been named assistant provost by Provost Max Seel. Walck's appointment begins August 16.

Christa Walck, Michigan Tech University professor in the School of Business and Economics, has been named assistant provost by Provost Max Seel. (Photo courtesy Michigan Technological University)

"The main assignment will be to lead the campus accreditation effort," Seel said. He noted that Walck was the Self-Study Coordinator for North Central Association Accreditation from 1996 to 1998 and a former Dean of the School of Business and Economics, which is accredited by AACSB.

"Christa is very familiar with both University and professional accreditation processes," Seel added. "I am very fortunate to have someone with her experience spearheading our Academic Quality Improvement Process."

Walck joined the faculty in 1986, has been a professor of organizational behavior since 1996, dean of the School of Business and Economics 2005-08, and interim director of the University Library in 2008-09. She was a Scholar in Residence at University of Turku, Finland, in September 2008.

Her current research focuses on design, sustainability, environmental history and corporate social responsibility. She is a feature editor (Archives of Organizational and Environmental Literature) for the journal Organization and Environment. She also serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Organizational Change Management and Journal of East-West Business. She has published and presented extensively on organizations and the environment, management and research methods.

Walck received her PhD in History from Harvard University and has attended the Bryn Mawr Summer Institute for Women in Higher Education Administration. After Bryn Mawr, she led the University's North Central Association Accreditation renewal as part of her administrative appointment.

She was also a visiting research scientist at the University of Michigan and a member of the Governor of Michigan's Executive Corps as public finance consultant for the Michigan Department of Treasury.

In addition, Walck served as the University's conflict of interest coordinator from 2002-04.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sidney Butler to present harp recital Aug. 12 at Keweenaw Heritage Center

CALUMET -- Sidney Butler will be presenting a solo harp recital at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12, at the Keweenaw Heritage Center at St. Anne's in Calumet (corner of 5th and Scott streets).

Sidney Butler performs harp music at the Fifth and Elm Café in Calumet. On Thursday, Aug. 12, she will perform at the Keweenaw Heritage Center at St. Anne's (5th and Scott streets) in Calumet. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

She will be performing on the large concert pedal harp as well as the lever harp and Irish harp. Come and enjoy an evening of enchanting harp music. Tickets $5 at the door. Proceeds will benefit the Keweenaw Heritage Center's universal accessibility project.

Gary McDowell, State Rep. and candidate for Congress, signs Social Security pledge

SAULT STE. MARIE, MICH. -- State Rep. Gary McDowell (D-Rudyard), who is the Democratic candidate for Congressman Bart Stupak's present position as First Congressional District U.S. Representative, met with senior citizens in Ishpeming today, Aug. 11, and signed a pledge not to privatize Social Security.

"Today, I got a chance to meet with seniors in Ishpeming to discuss the 75th anniversary of Social Security," McDowell writes on his Facebook page. "It was a great opportunity for me to sign a Social Security pledge. I will do everything I can do to make sure that we do not privatize Social Security."

At 10 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday, Aug. 12, McDowell will meet with seniors in Petoskey to discuss Social Security and sign the pledge. The event will be held at the Michigan Education Association, Zipp Building Suite 203, 616 Petoskey Street.

McDowell ran unopposed on the Democratic ticket for the Aug. 3 Primary Election. In a statement he issued on Aug. 4, he said, "For my campaign, yesterday was the start of the general election and I look forward to speaking with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents about our concerns and priorities here in the First District. This campaign is going to be about bringing back the middle class jobs that made the UP and Northern Michigan the strong community it is today. Like many here in the First District, my family has lived here for five generations; and I understand the need to put partisan politics aside when I get to Washington in order to build towards a stronger future for our families."

To read more about Gary McDowell, visit his Web site.

Click here to read Congressman Bart Stupak's editorial opposing privatization of Social Security.

Stupak: Social Security: 75 Years of Success

By Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI)

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Social Security is one of the great American success stories, and August 14 marks the program’s 75th anniversary. On August 14, 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law; and since then Social Security has been providing our seniors, disabled citizens, children, and widows and widowers with a guaranteed source of income. At the end of last year, 53 million Americans were receiving Social Security benefits, including 36 million retired workers and their dependents, 6 million survivors of deceased workers and 10 million disabled workers and their dependents.

Social Security provides life-long wage insurance that is paid for by payroll contributions from workers and employers. These contributions come back to Americans by providing monthly income when they retire or become disabled or to family members when an individual passes away. This program will remain critical in light of the fact that only half of our nation’s workforce has a retirement plan through work, and employer-sponsored benefit pension plans are quickly being replaced by riskier employee savings plans.

Social Security is especially important to residents here in northern Michigan. The First District ranks 8th in the nation in terms of the number of Social Security recipients, with nearly 164,000 people drawing Social Security each month. Social Security provides the only income for many of our neighbors to live with a sense of dignity and independence.

Seniors in northern Michigan, and nationwide, have worked hard all their lives, seeing our country through war, the depression and dramatic social changes. Without Social Security one in every two seniors would be living in poverty, and today six in 10 seniors rely on Social Security for more than half of their income.

These men and women also deserve Social Security benefits based on the true cost of the goods they purchase. That is why I have co-sponsored legislation to establish a "seniors only" Consumer Price Index (CPI) to account for seniors’ different buying habits. This would ensure a truer senior Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).

Social Security has provided consistent and reliable income for retired and disabled workers even during times of economic turbulence. It has remained strong through 13 recessions. During our most recent economic downturn, when 401(k)s and IRAs lost 32 percent of their value, individuals on Social Security did not lose a dime.

That is why I do not support renewed efforts to privatize Social Security. Many privatization proposals rely on a manufactured crisis claiming that Social Security will soon be "bankrupt." But the fact is, as long as workers continue to pay into the system it will never become bankrupt. Currently the fund is large enough to pay full benefits through 2037 and 75 percent of scheduled benefits after that. Clearly some adjustments will need to be made to continue to fully fund benefits after 2037, but subjecting the program to the whims of Wall Street is not the solution we need.

Social Security is a uniquely American system that guarantees a retirement nest egg will be there for workers when they retire or become disabled. Benefits have been paid on time and in full every single month for 75 years, providing critical income to our retired and disabled workers and their families. We must work together to determine long-term solutions that ensure benefits can be paid in full for another 75 years, and beyond, without putting the financial security that is the bedrock of the Social Security program at risk.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Updated: Protect the Earth 2010, part 1: Winona LaDuke, keynote speaker

By Michele Bourdieu

Winona LaDuke -- Native American activist, environmentalist and writer -- addresses participants in the Third Annual Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering on July 30, 2010, at the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College in Baraga. LaDuke also delivered the keynote speech for the event on July 31 at the college. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

BARAGA -- The sacredness of Native people's lands, fighting the "bad guys," liberation from energy addiction, re-localizing the food economy and deconstructing colonialization were topics of two presentations by Winona LaDuke -- Native American activist, environmentalist and writer -- who spoke on Friday, July 30, and Saturday, July 31, at Ojibwa Community College in Baraga. She was the guest keynote speaker at the Third Annual Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering, hosted this year by New Warriors for the Earth. LaDuke's Friday presentation was a preview of the keynote speech she delivered on Saturday.

Jessica Koski and Cory Fountaine, co-founders of New Warriors for the Earth, who hosted the 2010 Gathering, present Protect the Earth keynote speaker Winona LaDuke with the gift of a blue shawl. The Women's Movement for the Water is encouraging Native women to make and wear blue shawls to symbolize protecting the world's water for future generations. Fountaine, an art student, also designed the logo for the Protect the Earth banner.

A graduate of Harvard University with advanced degrees in rural economic development, Laduke is an enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg (Ojibwa) of the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota.

LaDuke told the audience -- both Native and non-Native people gathered together from the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota and from as far away as California -- that she wanted to talk first about land and then about people.

"It's possible to liberate land from empire," LaDuke said, speaking on both occasions about the sacredness of Native lands.

"We know places from our migration story. We know places from all of our history. We know places because the spirits tell us what has happened there. We know places on our land because our people know this history. And that history -- we keep it and we affirm it through our ceremony," LaDuke said. "It is who we are."

She told the story of Thunder Mountain near Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior -- a mountain where the Anishinaabeg would stop and rest during migration from west to east. They would go there for vision questing, putting out offerings and talking to the "thunder beings."

"It is highly revered," LaDuke noted, "but today it is called Mt. McKay."

LaDuke said she had a problem with this naming and claiming of America -- "naming of large mountains after small men."

She said the fact that you can "name something as immortal as a mountain after something as mortal as a human" is a "paradigm that has to do with empire, and it has to do with a world view that is not durable or sustainable because it is based on this idea of this empire."

LaDuke then gave examples of how name changes can reflect liberation from empire: Ayres Rock in Australia is now known as Uluru since it was returned to the Anangu, the Aboriginal owners, in 1985. Mt. McKinley in Alaska is now called Denali (Athabaskan for "The High One"). Rhodesia, named for "that Rhodes Scholar guy," LaDuke said with tongue in cheek, is now Zimbabwe.

She referred also to Eagle Rock, the Ojibwa sacred site on the Yellow Dog Plains, which was recently fenced off by Rio Tinto-Kennecott for their "Eagle Project," a sulfide mine that may have its entrance under the Rock, where the Ojibwa believe spirits dwell.

Following her July 30 presentation, Winona LaDuke pauses for a photo with two of the original Eagle Rock campers, Georgenia Earring from the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe (Lakota) and E, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community member.

"Eagle Rock," LaDuke said, "it's important not to let it go."

LaDuke noted Native American spiritual practices were illegal until the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978.

"Our spiritual practices -- they don't fit into a box; they don't quite fit into a church," she said. "So now we find that this question of what is sacred becomes a legal question in the courts."

LaDuke, who is the Founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP), and Executive Director of Honor the Earth, where she works on a national level to support frontline Native environmental groups, approached the subject of climate change and energy addiction with examples from her work in her own community, the White Earth reservation. It is a rural area in northern Minnesota where mercury and heavy metals from coal power plants have caused fish consumption advisories on almost all their lakes.

"We have combusted ourselves to the edge of oblivion," LaDuke said. "They're projecting that by 2020 twenty percent of the world's GDP will be spent on climate change related disasters."

LaDuke said her own Anishinaabeg people are, like most Americans, "entirely addicted to energy ... 'energy junkies.'" America, she noted, consumes one third of the world's resources. Meanwhile the rest of the oil is in places like Deepwater Horizon -- places where we shouldn't be sucking oil -- at the bottom of the ocean, under the polar ice caps or on the tar sands of Alberta.

LaDuke added, "80 percent of the oil coming into Minnesota is coming from the tar sands of Alberta, and that project destroys Native communities (in a large area)."

She described how this project requires hauling mining equipment shipped from Korea on secondary roads. The average piece of equipment is as large as the Statue of Liberty lying on its side.

"We're trying to stop them," LaDuke said.*

Winona LaDuke chats with members of the audience, including Lee Sprague (on her right) of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, who spoke on "Climate Change Adaptation Strategies" after LaDuke's presentation on Saturday, July 31, at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College.

Describing herself as a community organizer (for the past 30 years), with training as an economist, LaDuke offered advice to the Protect the Earth audience: "Don't give up fighting bad guys. You can't. They're working 24 hours a day doing bad ideas. ... If you don't pay attention they'll put a coal plant next to you ... or a mine. ... You've got to keep an eye on them and fight them," LaDuke said.

"It's a long haul fighting bad guys," she added. "They've got a lot of money, but we've got resistance. And the longer you fight the more expensive their projects become ... and you can wear them down. That's my experience."

LaDuke noted that if you don't see anything that often means somebody won (a battle against bad guys).

"Rio Tinto has been defeated. So has Kennecott," she said. "They don't tell you that, but we know that."

LaDuke related how she had told her tribal council they needed an energy plan.

"They looked at me like I was crazy," she said.

Eventually, though, they began looking at how to control their destiny (planning for the next 50 years).

"You can talk about tribal sovereignty, but if you have no control over your energy economy you are worse than everyone else," LaDuke explained.

She told her tribe: "Let's go wind. Let's quit fighting coal plants."

They bought a used wind turbine and refurbished it, thanks to a veteran with training in demolition and a masters in engineering.

"Now I'm battling the power company on the connection. We will wear them down," LaDuke said.

With the help of energy efficiency grants, her community has also been introducing solar panels on houses to save on heat.**

Another aspect of her strategy for liberation is LaDuke's work to encourage traditional food production -- not only improving the quality of people's diet but saving on the energy spent for transportation of industrial food.

She studied how much of the tribal budget for food was spent off the reservation and found it was 7 out of 8 million dollars, with one million spent on the reservation for junk food at the convenience store. In addition, one third of their population has diabetes.

LaDuke said the community formed a non-profit coalition of their own tribal people and their allies -- people who wanted to be liberated -- the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP). They started by buying land and forming a land trust. Now they make maple syrup and grow organic food. They also started to put sturgeon back into their lake.

"My tribe has one of the largest sturgeon restoration programs in the region," LaDuke said. "We (also) work to keep our wild rice from getting genetically engineered."

LaDuke and her tribe are restoring northern varieties of corn. She described the advantages of planting a variety such as Manitoba White Flint, which is the northernmost variety of corn. It is short, with big ears.

"It's wind-resistant (it can withstand 70-100 m.p.h. wind). That's why we grow it. It's also drought-resistant," she said. "It's not addicted to fertilizer. It's higher in nutritional content than anything you buy in the store."

LaDuke said she remembered her father saying, "I don't want to hear your philosophy if you can't grow corn."

She said her father was right because you can talk and talk but at some point you want to know how to grow your own food. Right now her goal is to achieve 40-50% local food and to re-localize jobs so people don't have to travel 70 miles for a casino job that's minimum wage (and often combined with the stress of scrambling for day care). Her community also bought a school so children wouldn't have to be bused for miles to another school.***

Because of climate change and peak oil production, LaDuke says a food plan is needed in order to save 1500 miles of industrial food transportation to this rural area.

LaDuke told the audience to keep working with allies and to be persistent in their efforts at liberation.

"You accept a certain amount of colonization, and you have to deconstruct it," she said. "I banned 'should' from my vocabulary...because I decided I didn't want to talk about what we should do or should have done. I wanted to just do it."

Audience reactions to LaDuke were very positive.

Kristi Mills of Save the Wild UP, one of the environmental organizations opposing Rio-Tinto - Kennecott's Eagle Project sulfide mine, found LaDuke's words inspiring and spiritual.

"I think (LaDuke is) the perfect person to inspire our efforts. Her strength comes through," Mills noted. "She said this is a spiritual opportunity."

Joanne Thomas of Allouez was enthusiastic about hearing LaDuke speak.

"Everything she said was just gripping!" Thomas said.

Corrie Hohly of Calumet added this about LaDuke: "She's fabulous! She has been so many places and seen so many things and has seen success. That's inspirational."

* Winona LaDuke is Executive Director of Honor the Earth, a Native-led organization that works to a) raise public awareness and b) raise and direct funds to grassroots Native environmental groups. Visit their Web site to learn about their work.

**Learn more about the White Earth Land Recovery Project's investment in wind and solar energy by visiting their Web site.

***Read also about the WELRP Farm to School Program that has introduced healthier food for school children and helped them learn about local traditional food through visits to growers and other activities in both classes and after-school programs.

Author/Editor's Note: Watch for "Protect the Earth 2010, part 2," coming soon.

Update: Setting it straight: We originally stated someone had come to Protect the Earth from Papua New Guinea. That visitor, one of the speakers, was Stuart Kirsch, an anthropologist from the University of Michigan who worked in Papua New Guinea but presently lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. Watch for more about him in Part 2. We also stated incorrectly that Georgenia Earring was a KBIC member, but she is from a Lakota tribe and is now a student at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College. In addition, Cory Fountaine designed the New Warriors for the Earth logo used on the banner, but the banner was donated by Richard Sloat, whose friend in Iron River made it. Thanks to Jessica Koski, Teresa Bertossi and Stuart Kirsch for these corrections.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Summer haying season challenges local farmers

By Eric Johnson*

Joel Tepsa grows hay for his beef cattle on a small 100-acre farm five miles south of Houghton. Here Tepsa operates the vintage Massey Ferguson tractor that he uses to handle hay bales. In the background are the unique Belted Galloway cattle that Tepsa raises. This rare breed is from southwest Scotland and well-suited to the long Upper Peninsula winters. (Photo © David Clanaugh for Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- July and August can mean only one thing to many area farmers: haying. Racing against time and weather, coaxing old equipment and battling competition, these farmers know the importance of getting a good crop. In addition, Lake Superior’s proximity to local hay fields can mean heavier dews as July changes to August, delaying farmers' abilities to harvest and store their crop.

"This isn’t for the weak of heart," said Bill Baccus, who runs a hay and dairy farm outside of Lake Linden in the Traprock Valley. "The whole world is chasing behind you with gnashing teeth."

Baccus, whose sprawling farm covers 600 acres, has mixed feelings about this year’s crop.

"Last year was dry, so the groundwater was depleted," Baccus said. "We didn’t have that much snow, so we didn’t get the melt to replenish it, and then May was super dry. What we’re finding is that the grasses have really suffered, so the volume of hay is down; but the quality is up because we’ve had rain since then."

Joel Tepsa shares the same conflicted view of this year’s crop. About five miles south of Houghton, Tepsa runs a relatively small 100-acre farm, where he raises and sells grass-fed cattle to local consumers.

"It’s a better hay crop this year because we’ve had more rain," Tepsa said. "On the other hand, it’s kind of pushed my starting time back. It’s always a blessing and a curse. I can see why people don’t farm, because there’s so many frustrations."

In addition to the weather, farmers must also deal with equipment failure. If it's a larger operation like the Baccus Farm, the amount of equipment can pose a problem as something always seems to demand maintenance or repair. Smaller operators like Tepsa have less equipment, but it's older and constantly needing attention. And the smaller operators typically work off the farm; Tepsa, for example, works at Michigan Tech and is also part of a local band.

"There’s always the challenge of keeping a colossal amount of equipment operating," Baccus explained. "I have just about two of everything."

Tepsa added he's had friends who used to do haying, but they don't do it anymore because it's so difficult to maintain the equipment.

"Things are breaking down all the time," Tepsa said.

Though conditions can be harsh and problems constant, both farmers have their reasons for diligently returning to their fields each summer.

"I do the hay for the beef cattle," Tepsa said. "At one point, I had 27 cattle, but that was a little bit too much to handle. That settled down to selling three calves a year, or three steers a year."

For Baccus, producing quality forage at a reasonable cost is the key to running a profitable operation. What goes in the cow in terms of food has a primary impact in terms of the quality and quantity of its milk.

"Well, we’re ultimately always trying to get the most milk out of these cows, so we’re trying to grow the best feed for them," Baccus said. "We’ve had many dry years, so my hay seedlings have really taken it on the chin. This year, though, it’s been really good. Even though we haven’t had a lot of rain, it’s been timely, so the quality of the crops is up."

Farmers have one good thing going for them that many people in America would not consider: the state of the economy. Many families that cannot afford to eat out at restaurants are finding themselves eating at home.

"I’d say the economy has been a positive factor," said Baccus. "People aren’t eating in restaurants as much. Because of the fact that people are eating at home, fluid milk is being consumed more, and fluid milk is where the greatest return is."

Because a large part of Baccus’ farm is a dairy operation, he is able to sell milk along with hay to bolster his sales. It is a somewhat different situation for Tepsa.

"Since I don’t make that much hay, it [the economy] doesn’t really affect me that badly," said Tepsa.

Many factors influence the outcome of the summer haying season, but most of the time there is not much a farmer can do.

"That’s probably the biggest challenge -- just to relax," Tepsa said. "Haying kind of puts a crimp on social life and the family -- you’d like to get it over with quickly. But it’s a good rule to learn not to sweat over the things that you can’t do anything about."

Baccus has a similar philosophy: "The oldest, most legal form of gambling is farming," Baccus said. "Sometimes, you just have to lay your hay out there and hope for the best."

*Editor's Note: Guest reporter Eric Johnson is a student in David Clanaugh's summer journalism class at Michigan Tech University.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Updated: Local artists open new studios in E.L. Wright building, Hancock

By Kate Flynn

HANCOCK -- Three local artists recently moved into the former E. L. Wright school building on U.S. 41 in Hancock, utilizing the refurbished and remodeled classrooms to create art in a variety of mediums.

Joyce Koskenmaki

Joyce Koskenmaki is surrounded by her artwork in her new studio, located in the E.L. Wright building in Hancock. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photos © 2010 Kate Flynn)

From the inside, local artist Joyce Koskenmaki’s art studio looks spacious, modern and brand-new -- and to her, it is. Koskenmaki, who spent the first 14 years of her life in Baraga County and later completed an MFA (Master in Fine Arts) at the University of Iowa focusing on abstract expressionism, moved into a new studio in the former E.L. Wright school building last October.

"I love it," Koskenmaki says of the high-ceilinged space with its hardwood floors and tall windows. "I feel really lucky."

Koskenmaki, who regularly exhibits her work at galleries in Madison, Wis., and Duluth, Minn., as well as the more local Vertin Gallery in Calumet and Community Arts Center in Hancock, was previously housed in Finlandia University’s Jutila Center. She has also held a number of other studio spaces in the area since moving back in 1998.

"After teaching summer workshops at Finlandia, I welcomed the opportunity to come back to teach at the new International School of Art and Design," Koskenmaki notes. "I retired in 2002 and have been painting full-time ever since."

Koskenmaki had lived in New York after completing her MFA and had previously taught at five different universities around the country, but that was never where her passion lay.

"It was a way to make a living. I come here every day," she says, referring to her studio. "This is my job."

Completed paintings of Koskenmaki’s are scattered around her studio -- many of them depicting animals, as well as other objects and plants found in nature.

"I've been interested in painting animals for most of my life," Koskenmaki explains. "When I draw or paint them I begin to feel I am inside of them looking out. They become friendly, protective presences."

In spite of the relative isolation from the mainstream art world, Koskenmaki says she loves living and working in the Upper Peninsula.

"There is a supportive art community here, and the natural landscape is beautiful," she notes. "It feels like home."**

Adam Johnson, Brockit Inc.

With two other art studios in the building, Koskenmaki is near some of that supportive art community right where she works. Brockit Inc., a local professional photography studio that started in 2001, is right up the stairs. Brockit is also a former resident of Finlandia’s Jutila Center, but moved shop when the need for a larger working space became too great.

"The space is perfect," says photographer Adam Johnson. "We’re very spoiled. We have these great windows, so we can do a lot of natural light photography."

Adam Johnson and his daughter, Kora, in Brockit's third floor studio.

Brockit’s east-facing studio very much resembles Koskenmaki’s since the tall windows and white walls allow the maximum amount of natural light to saturate the room. Brockit almost tripled their shooting space with the move to the new studio, and they were granted an additional dressing room/gallery space as well.

Johnson, who is largely self-taught, describes Brockit as a "primarily commercial studio" that holds a special niche in the community.

"We’re not a company that specializes in school or senior photos." Johnson says.

"That’s an advantage we have," he explains. "We don’t really compete. We have a niche market. There’s no one really offering the same level of service -- we work all day with a crew of people. It’s very one-on-one."**

Andrea Puzakulich

Two floors down, Andrea Puzakulich, also a former resident of the Jutila Center before moving to E.L Wright, describes her basement studio and gallery space as a "nice change." Puzakulich is the owner and artist behind the well-established, 23-year-old Distant Drum Designs, which offers unique fashion designs and fiber art to local customers.

Andrea Puzakulich designs and creates clothing for Distant Drum Designs in her basement studio in the E.L. Wright building.

"I think the change was good for me," Puzakulich says. "I like the exposure and the sign on the highway. People notice the sign and stop by -- there’s more curiosity."

Puzakulich says she loves the E.L. Wright building.

"I love the historical aspect," she notes. "It’s a good energy thing. I like having a separate office space and display/production area."

Koskenmaki, Johnson, and Puzakulich have what Johnson called an "artistic partnership" in an April 22 blog post announcing Brockit’s move to the building.

"The three of us enjoy being over here," Puzakulich adds. "It’s good to change."

Puzakulich reflects on the impact the new studio has had on her work.

"To be in a creative mood, one needs to feel totally at one. I’m still adapting to the new space creatively," she says. "I'm not quite in the groove I want to be. A few more changes, and I’ll be there."

One change is the new shopping Web site now being developed for Distant Drum: distantdrum.com.

**Visit also Joyce Koskenmaki's Web site: joycekoskenmaki.com and learn more about Brockit Inc. at brockit.com.

Editor's Note: Guest reporter Kate Flynn is a student at Beloit College. She is doing an internship in journalistic writing at both Keweenaw Now and the L'Anse Sentinel this summer.