By Barbara With*
Posted Feb. 3, 2013, on Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative
Reprinted in part with permission.
Photo, left: During the Jan. 23 hearing in Madison, journalist Barbara With testifies against the proposed mining legislation. (Photo © and courtesy Rebecca Kemble)
MADISON -- January 23, 2013. The only public hearing on mining bill SB1/AB1 is taking place in Madison, Wisconsin. Next up in the queue is Mike Wiggins Jr., Chair of Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose reserve is 300 miles north of the state Capitol and six miles west of the site of a proposed 21-mile open-pit mountaintop removal iron ore mine.
Having faced a similar tribunal several times before, Wiggins looks slightly impatient with the new incarnation of yet another committee pushing the same corporate-
sponsored bill. Neither he nor any other representative of Wisconsin’s Native Sovereign Nations have been consulted.
Mike Wiggins Jr., right, Bad River Tribal chairman, speaking at the Jan. 23, 2013, public hearing on the proposed Wisconsin mining bill, calls the potential Gogebic Taconite open-pit mine that would be permitted under this bill "an act of genocide." Testifying with Wiggins is Frank Connors, Bad River Council member. (Photo © and courtesy Nicole Desautels Schulte)**
Even though he has the support of Federal law, state legislators, environmentalists, scientists, local and county governments, and the majority of the people likely to be directly affected by a mine in the Penokee Hills, Wiggins is once again being treated as a gullible child by the committee. He is also dealing with obvious racism playing out in the fight for a mine in his backyard.
Wiggins, who stands to lose more than anyone if the mine is built, was not invited to speak by the committee. He’s in good company, however; neither the Army Corps of
Engineers nor any scientists have been invited either. The mining company and their legislative advocates dominate the first four hours of the hearing; the pro-mining supporters bused in by the Koch Brothers’ astroturf group Americans for Prosperity and other Tea Party groups are next up. Wiggins, his fellow Bad River members and members of other Anishinaabe bands are pushed to the back of the line. Many are never given a chance to speak at all.
Wiggins is given two minutes to beg for the lives of the 7,000 members of his community.
For the fourth time (three other public hearings were held for AB426 in 2011 and 2012), proof is presented that iron ore mining in Minnesota has killed off wild rice in the St. Louis River for 100 miles and that an iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills will devastate the wild rice in the Kakagon Sloughs. For the fourth time, the committee expects Wiggins to plead for the sacred water and sustainable food production that his people are dependent on.
Instead of pleading, Wiggins warns:
Because we’re directly downstream and set to endure the impacts of this project, we view it as an imminent threat. This human threat really manifests itself in a form of genocide. Genocide.
The fact that the sulfate run-off from an iron ore mine in the Penokees will kill the wild rice rightly has Wiggins speaking the "G" word....
Click here to read the rest of this article, in which Barbara With offers examples from history that demonstrate Wiggins has a right to be concerned.
*Author Barbara With is a citizen journalist from La Pointe, Wis.
** Click here to see Nicole Desautels Schulte's video clip of Wiggins' testimony at the hearing.