Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Portage Library, FOLK to host National Geographic Adventurers of the Year Sept. 11

Dave and Amy Freeman launch their canoe in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. They set out from Ely, Minnesota, and will stop in Houghton Thursday, Sept. 11, on their way to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of potential pollution from sulfide mining. (Photo © and courtesy Nate Ptacek)

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library and the Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK) invite everyone to "Protecting Our Precious Waters," a presentation by National Geographic Adventurers of the Year Dave and Amy Freeman, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 11, at the library.

Dave and Amy Freeman at their camp in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. (Photo © and courtesy Nate Ptacek)

The Freemans will tell stories from their three years of kayaking, canoeing and dogsledding 11,700 miles across North America. Their human-powered trek took them from the Pacific Northwest to Key West via the Arctic. From coming eye-to-eye with humpback whales and grizzly bears to hunkering down as Superstorm Sandy battered the New Jersey coast, the Freemans have an unforgettable story to share.

The Freemans live near our nation’s most popular protected wilderness: the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota. Both the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior are currently threatened by plans for sulfide mining -- copper and nickel mines. To protect these waters from pollution and to raise awareness about preserving these pristine areas, the Freemans are gathering signatures on a petition canoe they are paddling to Washington, D.C. Their trip coincides this month with the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, which established the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

With this petition, the Freemans hope to motivate the federal government to enforce the Clean Water Act and the Wilderness Act.

The Freemans sail their sailboat, Yemaya, with their petition canoe on deck, across Lake Superior. (Photo © and courtesy Nate Ptacek)

"We are going up against multinational corporations who have big shot lawyers, massive PR budgets and billions of dollars," the Freemans write on their Web site. "All we have is a 40-year-old sailboat named Yemaya, a 16-foot canoe covered in signatures and the belief that sulfide mining will not happen in Northeastern Minnesota. Why? Because when Minnesotans and people across the United States and Canada find out about the true threats that sulfide mining poses to the Quetico Superior Watersheds, they won’t let it happen."

The Freemans' petition canoe, signed by many who support the goal of their journey. (Photo © and courtesy Nate Ptacek)

The Freemans are following Chief Buffalo’s example by paddling to Washington, D.C. On April 5, 1852, Chief Buffalo and five men set off from Madeline Island, Wisconsin, in a birch bark canoe on a ten-week journey to Washington D.C. Their journey halted attempts to remove the Lake Superior Chippewa from their land and set the stage for the 1854 Treaty.

On Monday, Sept. 8, the Freemans docked at Madeline Island. They'll soon be on their way to Houghton.*

After paddling 160 miles through the Boundary Waters, the Freemans put their canoe on a sailboat in Grand Marais, Minn., planning to sail across Lake Superior and upper Lake Huron and then canoe via streams and lakes to Ottawa and then to Washington, D.C.

This map shows the Freemans' approximate route for their Paddle to DC journey. Click here for more detailed maps showing the potential pollution from sulfide mining. (Map courtesy PaddletoDC.org.)

For more information about their trip, visit www.PaddletoDC.org. To learn about their online wilderness classroom, visit www.wildernessclassroom.com.

Everyone is welcome to attend this event, and all programs at the library are free. For more information please call the library at 482-4570 or visit www.pldl.org. For more information about FOLK and mining issues visit www.folkup.org.

* Click here for the Freemans' Sept. 9, 2014, post, "Sailing through the Apostle Islands."

Update: See also this Sept. 7 article in the Duluth News Tribune: "Taking their message to Washington -- by canoe."

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