By Michele Bourdieu
A sacred fire on top of Eagle Rock, near Big Bay, provides inspiration and some warmth for participants in the Dec. 28, 2012, visit to the Rock to reclaim it as a sacred Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) site. (Photo © and courtesy Kathleen M. Heideman. Reprinted with permission.)
EAGLE ROCK, MICH. -- Participants in the Dec. 28, 2012, visit to Eagle Rock in solidarity with the Idle No More movement and Chief Theresa Spence, who continues her hunger strike to call attention to First Nations issues of treaty rights and environmental justice in Canada, seemed undaunted by the cold as they climbed through deep snow at the Anishinaabe sacred site, now being used as the portal for Rio Tinto's Eagle Mine.
Carrying signs, supporters of the Idle No More movement climb Eagle Rock on a chilly Dec. 28. (Photo © and courtesy Margaret Boyer. Reprinted with permission.)
Charlotte Loonsfoot, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) member, organized the activity along with Jessica Koski, KBIC mining technical assistant.* Koski recorded a statement by Loonsfoot atop Eagle Rock.
"My main reason for being here is to come pray for Chief Spence," Loonsfoot said. "I just pray that the leaders of the Canadian government will meet with her. It takes a lot of courage, and women are coming to a spiritual time right now and we're feeling our strengths. I think the women of the earth will get a lot done in the future. I pray for everyone in Canada -- they are our brothers and sisters too all the way down to South America. We are all related!"**
Charlotte Loonsfoot (foreground), one of the organizers of the Dec. 28 visit to Eagle Rock, is pictured here with friends Jessica Straczowski and Dan MacNeil at the top of the Rock. (Photo © and courtesy Kathleen M. Heideman. Reprinted with permission.)
Kathleen M. Heideman, artist and writer, posted this comment about the Eagle Rock event on Facebook: "Inside the gates of Rio Tinto's 'Eagle Project' we hiked to the top of Eagle Rock. To the south, a divine terrain of snow and pines, the Yellow Dog watershed and distant blue hills. The sacred promontory of Eagle Rock is penned in on the North, West and East by the new mine, but we tried to stay focused on what remains. Sacred fire, heartfelt wishes for Chief Spence, and many prayerful thoughts of water, earth, air and life. Songs of deer and eagle; songs of healing....!"
A view from atop Eagle Rock. (Photo © and courtesy Kathleen M. Heideman. Reprinted with permission.)
Nancie Lamb of KBIC said she also went to Eagle Rock to show support for Chief Theresa Spence.
"I support what she is doing wholeheartedly because I believe if it doesn't stop now, it's going to happen here on our reservation," Lamb said. "I also went because the Idle NO More people asked that everyone return to their sacred place, and Eagle Rock is one of ours that needs recognition."
Nancie Lamb of KBIC, center, is pictured here at the sacred fire on Eagle Rock Dec. 28. Helping tend the fire are Richard Sloat, left, of Iron River, and Jim Haun, right, of Skanee. (Photo © and courtesy Margaret Boyer. Reprinted with permission.)
Margaret Boyer, from Batchewana Band, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, said she has been following all the news updates about Idle No More since the time it began, and she participated in a 24-hour fast in support of Chief Spence earlier in December.
"Normally I am not an activist of any sorts," Boyer noted, "but while learning about what the Harper government is doing I find myself getting frustrated with what is happening with our lands, with the treaties, and to my people. I am angered by it all -- and with all the activity around the world and in my homeland, I knew that, I, too, had to show my support."
On Dec. 28, Georgenia Earring of KBIC places signs in support of the "Idle No More" movement to reclaim and protect sacred places during the group visit to Eagle Rock, a sacred Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) site. (Photo © and courtesy Margaret Boyer. Reprinted with permission.)
Boyer, who is now a student at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College in Baraga, said Nancie Lamb invited her to join the group for the visit to Eagle Rock.
"My worry is my grandchildren," Boyer said. "How will this affect them? And this is where I get angry and want to fight the cause...What will this leave for them? What will THEIR country be for them when they are growing up?"
Kristi Mills of Big Bay also climbed the Rock along with her young son Tom.
"I was so glad that Tom came with me," Mills said. "He was able to witness a beautiful ceremony rich with prayer, reflection and song. Still tingling from that experience made the announcement about 595 all the sweeter."***
April Lindala, director of the Center for Native American Studies at Northern Michigan University in Marquette and a member of Grand River Six Nations, holds an Idle No More sign on Eagle Rock. Lindala is also a poet and singer and led the group in singing. (Photo © and courtesy Margaret Boyer. Reprinted with permission.)
A view of the decline tunnel (center toward lower left of photo) -- the portal to the Eagle Mine -- that descends under Eagle Rock. (Photo © and courtesy Margaret Boyer. Reprinted with permission.)
Notes:*See Jessica Koski's article on this event: "IDLE NO MORE: Returning To Our Sacred Places - Migizii wa sin."
** Click here for an update on Chief Theresa Spence and her hunger strike.
*** On Jan. 3, 2013, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced they would not issue a permit for CR 595, a haul road for the Eagle Mine, because of a complexity of issues concerning impacts to wetlands and streams. Click here for the DEQ letter to the Environmental Protection Agency.