See our right-hand column for announcements and news briefs. Scroll down the right-hand column to access the Archives -- links to articles posted in the main column since 2007.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Heikinpäivä to celebrate mid-winter Jan. 29-30

By Michele Bourdieu

Kay Seppala reigns as 2009 "Hankooki Heikki," riding in the reindeer sleigh during last year's Heikinpäivä Parade. Click on photos for larger versions. (2009 Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- Heikinpäivä, Hancock's mid-winter festival, will offer events the whole family this weekend, Friday and Saturday, Jan. 29-30.

Melvin Kangas is the 2010 festival's "Hankooki Heikki," who will preside over the festivities, wearing the crown and robe that come with the honor. Each year, the Finnish Theme Committee selects, as "Hankooki Heikki," one person whose work toward preserving and promoting Finnish culture in the area goes above and beyond "normal" efforts.

Longtime Finlandia University (Suomi College) music professor and theater director Melvin Kangas' contributions to Copper Country Finnish-American culture aren't limited to the campus. A master kantele player, he has performed at countless weddings, funerals and other events. Many of the plays he's directed have had a Finnish connection, including his most recent production, which he translated from the original Finnish.

Pictured here with her husband, Hal Seppälä, 2009 Hankooki Heikki Kay Seppälä is most recognized for her efforts leading the youth dance group Kivajat. Kay also offers kantele lessons and has taught dance for adults with her husband, Hal. The Kivajat traveled to Finland in the summer of 2009.

Here's the schedule for this weekend:

Friday, Jan. 29
6 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. -- Club Finndigo, all-Finnish dinner/movie featuring Mother of Mine, a story about a boy shunted from a Finnish home to one in Sweden during the war with Russia. Calumet Theater. Dinner and film - $16; Movie only: $5. For information, call (906) 337-2166.

6 p.m. -- Tango Lessons by Ralph Tuttila, Range Lounge, South Range, Mich.

7:30 p.m. -- Karhun Tanssi - The Bear Dance - old style Finnish ballroom dancing, featuring Finn Hall Band, Range Lounge, South Range, Mich.

Saturday Jan. 30
10 a.m. - 3 p.m. -- Tori Market, Finnish American Heritage Center and First United Methodist Church. Featuring ethnic crafts, foods and Finnish items. There will be live music throughout the day at both sites. Click here for the music schedule and details.

The Tori Market in Hancock's First United Methodist Church offers ethnic food, including a tempting array of Finnish goodies.

10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Family Fun Day -- Vipukelkka - Whipsled, Hancock Middle School lawn.

The Vipukelkka -- Whipsled -- is a favorite Finnish tradition for kids.

Demonstrations (dog sleds, kicksleds, etc.)

11 a.m. Parade, downtown Hancock. Line up at BRIDGE School at 10:30 a.m. Prizes.

Barkell Elementary second graders, proudly wearing Finnish hats with Hancock colors, march in the 2009 Heikinpäivä parade.

Immediately following parade -- Boot-throwing and Wife-carrying contests, Hancock Middle School lawn. Prizes.

The Wife-carrying competition is a great Finnish tradition.

1 p.m. -- Himmeli-making workshop with Ernst Hensersky, Finnish American Heritage Center archive reading room, Hancock. $10 registration. To register, call (906) 487-7505.

2:30 p.m. -- Bones workshop, First United Methodist Church, Hancock. $2 fee. Bones provided. To register, call (906) 487-7505

3 p.m. -- Polar Bear Dive, Hancock waterfront, near Ramada Inn.

The Polar Bear Dive is always a crowd-pleaser. As for the participants ...Brrr! (File videoclip by Keweenaw Now)

6 p.m. -- Seisovapöytä (Finnish buffet), tickets $16 each, Finlandia Hall, Finlandia University. Silent auction during the banquet.

8 p.m. -- Tanssit (Dance), Finlandia Hall. Pasi Cats to perform. Dance-only tickets: $5.

For more information about Heikinpäivä, visit their Web site.

International Food Booth begins Jan. 29 at Michigan Tech: first lunch proceeds go to Haitian relief

HOUGHTON -- Khana Khazana (Hindi for Food Treasure) will be an international food booth at lunchtime in the Memorial Union Commons, beginning Friday, Jan. 29. The project was proposed by international students Sahil Thakkar and Safayat Alam and enthusiastically adopted by Eric Karvonen, executive chef, and Matt Lean, associate director of retail dining for Dining Services. Student chefs from various countries will cook, and every Friday the booth will offer a different international menu.

A full meal, including drink, will cost $6. Dishes will also be available a la carte. All proceeds beyond expenses for the first (Jan. 29) lunch -- approximately $3 per plate -- will be donated to Haitian relief, according to Lean.

Some of the international meals will focus on a single ethnic cuisine. Others will combine foods from various countries.

"Eating is an adventure, and more and more people want to eat more diverse foods," said Karvonen. He said he believes Michigan Tech is one of the first universities to offer a regular ethnic menu in its main campus dining facility, cooked by students from the countries represented.

The third International Food Festival in November was such a success, followed by an international food tasting in the Memorial Union in early December, that "this is the next logical step," said Bob Wenc, Michigan Tech International Club advisor from International Programs and Services.

"There are limited opportunities to eat authentic ethnic food in the Houghton area, and people are hungry for this," said Thakkar, publicity chair of the International Club and an enthusiastic Indian cook.

An undergraduate in electrical engineering technology from India, Thakkar will cook the first Khana Khazana meal: egg bhurji, featuring eggs, onions, tomatoes and spices, served with bread; mixed spice veggie pulav with vegetables and rice; Sahil's fruit salad, which includes mangoes, apples, bananas and blueberries; and chai (Indian spiced tea). Other international students will cook on subsequent Fridays. Dining Services hopes to see students cooking ethnic specialties from all over the world.

"The success of Khana Khazana all depends on the students," said Lean, "If they become excited and involved, they will support the booth; and I believe others will too, from Michigan Tech and the surrounding community."

Khana Khazana and other food services at Michigan Tech are open to the public as well as the campus community.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Stupak issues statement supporting President Obama's State of the Union Address

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) released an audio statement in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address on Wednesday, Jan. 27.

Stupak praised President Obama for the "serious tone" of the speech at a time when the country is facing serious problems. Listen to the speech at this link:

North Woods Conservancy purchases Conglomerate Falls property

By Michele Bourdieu

CALUMET -- After years of inquiry and negotiation, the North Woods Conservancy (NWC) was finally able to purchase, in August 2009, forty acres of big trees and a quarter mile of the Gratiot River, including the spectacular Conglomerate Falls.

Photographer Eric Munch recently captured this glimpse of the fishing hole under the snow at the bottom of Conglomerate Falls. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photo Copyright Eric Munch 2010. Reprinted with permission.)

"It really is breathtaking," said NWC President John Griffith, "a fly-fishing paradise."

John Griffith said NWC is grateful to the sellers, Dr. and Mrs. Brumm, for ensuring that this property was conveyed into public access ownership rather than being split into river-front lots.

Bill Deephouse, former president of the Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited (CCCTU), is excited about this fishing spot being preserved for the public.

"It's a place that I've known since the spring of 1960 when, as a freshman at Michigan Tech, I was introduced to steelhead fishing," Deephouse said. "It's great that public access to the river will be maintained in perpetuity."

The property also includes a cabin, which is destined to accommodate visitors.

The cozy cabin on the Conglomerate Falls property will be available for rent in May 2010. To cover the down payment for this land purchase, North Woods Conservancy is seeking 30 donors of $1000, each of whom will be awarded a week-long stay at the cabin. (Photo Copyright Eric Munch 2010)

"The sellers have given us a year to raise the $30,000 down payment, so we’re seeking thirty $1,000 donors, each of whom will get a week-long stay at the cabin," John Griffith explained.

The names of all 30 donors will be engraved on a plaque and displayed at the cabin. To reserve your week please contact NWC at the link below.* Reservations can be made for 2010-2012 beginning May 14-21, 2010. Deer hunters take note: cabin renters have exclusive bow and crossbow hunting rights on the Conglomerate Falls property.

"You can get in here 365 days a year," said NWC Board member Jane Griffith. "In winter you have to ski or snowshoe. In the summer you can drive close to the river, but you need to climb up and down a steep bank -- or take the walking path to the river."

Another view of the Gratiot River at Conglomerate Falls -- a favorite fishing spot, not far from Ahmeek in Keweenaw County. North Woods Conservancy recently purchased 40 acres of big trees with a quarter mile of the Gratiot River, including the Falls. (Photo Copyright Eric Munch 2010)

NWC would like to increase their membership from the present 250 to 2,000 in order to finance this new land acquisition and help pay for Gratiot River North, which has been added to Keweenaw County's Gratiot River Park for public access.

"We'd like all NWC members to renew at the $25 or $100 level," Jane Griffith said, "and also for each member to get at least one new member at the $25 level. Our goal is 2,000 members in the next two years!"

Eventually, membership could be used as a match for grants, once the bills are paid, Jane Griffith explained.

*Contact NWC at the address or email listed on their updated Web site.

For more information about Conglomerate Falls and North Woods Conservancy's recent work in conserving Keweenaw land for public access, see their latest newsletter.

Monday, January 25, 2010

NWF, KBIC challenge DEQ decision on sulfide mine permits

MARQUETTE, BARAGA -- Both the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) recently issued strong statements opposing the Jan. 14, 2010, decision by the former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to allow permits to Rio Tinto / Kennecott for their proposed metallic sulfide mine on the Yellow Dog Plains near Marquette.*

"The mining plan is unsafe, and the DEQ’s decision to let it proceed is flawed, illegal and goes against the interests of the people of Michigan," said Michelle Halley, an attorney representing the National Wildlife Federation. "We will challenge this decision to protect Michigan from this dangerous form of mining that has proven to be unsafe to people, communities and wildlife in other states."

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal Council President Warren "Chris" Swartz and Secretary Susan J. LaFernier issued a statement expressing their disappointment with the decision in which the MDEQ ignores issues that "will be to the ultimate detriment of the waters and natural resources of (their) Tribe’s Ceded Territory and the Upper Peninsula."

The Eagle Mine would be adjacent to the Salmon Trout River -- one of the last mainland U.S. rivers used as spawning grounds by the Coaster Brook Trout.

The Salmon Trout River is near the site of the proposed Eagle Mine. (Photo © and courtesy Save the Wild UP.)

"We are extremely disappointed with the Final Decision of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approving the issuance of the Mining Permit and the Ground Water Discharge Permit to Kennecott for the proposed Eagle Project sulfide copper/nickel mine in the Yellow Dog Plains," the KBIC officers' statement says. "It is simply impossible to understand how the MDEQ approved these permits without addressing even 'one' of the hundreds of environmental problems with the proposed mine that have been identified by the Keweenaw Bay Community, the Natural Wildlife Federation, the Huron Mountain Club and the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve during the course of the contested case proceedings."

The decision to issue two permits for the Eagle Project mine also flies in the face of a recent decision by Administrative Law Judge Richard A. Patterson, who concluded that the grounds on which the mine would be constructed -- in particular Eagle Rock, where Rio Tinto / Kennecott had planned to put the entry to the mine -- is a sacred site to native people that should be protected.

On the other hand, the Jan. 14 MDEQ Press Release stated the following:

"The announcement today (Jan. 14, 2010) follows a decision by former DEQ Director Steven E. Chester to remand the PFD (Proposal For Decision) back to the Administrative Law Judge in November, 2009, and asked that clarification be provided on a recommendation that the permit contain a condition that requires avoidance of any direct impact to a land feature known as Eagle Rock. That recommendation was premised on the conclusion that Eagle Rock needed to be considered a place of worship under Michigan's mining law. However, that legal issue was not briefed by the parties in the contested case prior to the issuance of the PFD, nor did the Judge give further detail as to how that conclusion would apply to the DEQ's decision under Michigan's mining law."

According to Eartha Jane Melzer of the Michigan Messenger, the DEQ has decided Eagle Rock, despite the fact that it is sacred to the Anishinabe (Ojibwe) people, cannot be considered a place of worship under Michigan law because it is not a building.**

Eagle Rock, a sacred site for the Anishinabe (Ojibwe) people. (Keweenaw Now 2009 file photo)

The KBIC statement objects to the MDEQ's judgment on Eagle Rock and affirms they plan to appeal.

"The MDEQ’s decision that Eagle Rock is not a 'place' of worship after Administrative Law Judge Patterson recommended that provision be made to avoid direct impacts to Eagle Rock that may interfere with the religious practices thereon, also reveals that 'undermining' Native American religious practices and sacred places is also allowable by the state in order to protect the private interest of the mining companies. This determination is clearly contrary to the provisions of state law and we will appeal these decisions," state KBIC's Swartz and LaFernier.

The National Wildlife Federation criticized the timing of the decision, which was made before the administrative law judge had finished reviewing new information that the DEQ itself had requested to evaluate the risk the mine could pose to people and water quality. The decision comes days before the authority to decide on the mining permits would have been shifted to the newly appointed director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE).*

"Instead of leveling with the people of Michigan, the Granholm Administration has chosen to push a controversial decision forward without a full accounting," said Halley. "The result is a decision that short-changes the people, wildlife and economy of Michigan. We will appeal this decision and seek justice elsewhere."

In addition to NWF and KBIC, other groups opposed to the mine -- including the Huron Mountain Club and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve -- also intend to appeal the decision, according to Halley.

"Any final decision on this mine and the fate of the Great Lakes is a long way off," said Cynthia Pryor of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, a local group opposing the mine. "We will fight this project, because it is unsafe and because the process has been perverted, for as long as we can."

The KBIC statement also asked that the public become involved by learning about sulfide mining and its impacts:

The KBIC officers continue, "We also find it hard to understand that, on the one hand, President Obama has allocated $475 million dollars to restore the Great Lakes and confront serious threats to these waters and that, on the other hand, the State has once again determined, by issuing the Mining Permit and the Groundwater Discharge Permit to Kennecott for the Eagle Project, that the discharge to the waters, as authorized by the Part 31 permit, will neither be injurious to the public health, safety, or welfare or to any uses protected by Part 31, nor will likely cause pollution, impairment, or destruction of natural resources, or the public trust therein. We urge you to try and find a sulfide acid mine that has not caused any of these environmental problems anywhere in the United States, even in states that have strict mining laws.

"You, however, can make a difference in protecting, restoring, and guarding our most precious natural resources and the gift of water -- Our Great Lakes. We ask that you continue to become involved and educate yourselves to find out all that you can about sulfide acid mining and the proposed mines for the Upper Peninsula especially the Eagle Project in the Yellow Dog Plains," the KBIC officers state.

According to NWF, the permits allow a controversial mining project to move forward that would fence off a documented indigenous sacred site and allow the discharge of pollutants to ground water and surface water. The mine would change the nature of the region from valuable wildlife habitat to an industrial park.

The Eagle Mine is the first mine in Michigan that aims to extract metals from sulfide ore bodies. This type of mining -- known as hard rock mining in the West -- often produces, as a byproduct, sulfuric acid that can prove deadly to rivers, streams, fish and wildlife for decades after closure of the mine.

Editor's Notes: * On Jan. 13, 2010, Governor Jennifer M. Granholm announced Rebecca A. Humphries as director of the new Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE), effective January 17, 2010. Created by Executive Order 2009-45, the DNRE will assume the powers and functions of the departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality, both of which are abolished by the executive order. Click here for the article on

** Read the article, "Controversial Kennecott mine permits OK’d at 11th hour," by Eartha Jane Melzer on the Michigan Messenger.

Documentary on Isle Royale Wolf-Moose study to air on PBS stations beginning Jan. 31

HOUGHTON -- Scientists have been studying the interdependence of wolves and moose at Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park for half a century. It is the longest continuous predator-prey study ever conducted. Anchored in the northwest depths of Lake Superior, Isle Royale is one of America’s last remaining wild places.

Filmmaker George Desort spent over four years exploring this wilderness island with wolf biologists Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich, as they attempted to make sense of the delicate balance between wolf, moose and climate.

Desort's documentary film, Fortunate Wilderness: the Wolf and Moose Study of Isle Royale, will air on WNMU Channel 13 Marquette at 9 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 31, and at 1 p.m., Monday, Feb. 1.

Michigan Tech helped sponsor the airing of this film on Public Broadcasting stations in Michigan and across the nation.

The film is also scheduled to air on KQED in San Francisco at 9 a.m. and noon on Friday, Feb. 5, and on Milwaukee Public Television at 9 a.m., Sunday, Feb. 21.

Lake Superior Mining News: Kennecott plans mines on sacred sites

MARQUETTE -- The Lake Superior Mining News recently posted three articles showing Rio Tinto / Kennecott's continued disregard of Native American sacred sites and of public safety in their copper and nickel mining projects, from Michigan to Arizona to Utah.

DEQ: Eagle Rock not a "place of worship"

In "Controversial Kennecott mine permits OK’d at 11th hour: Dept. rules that sacred rock is 'not a place of worship,'" Eartha Melzer of the Michigan Messenger, points out that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), shortly before it was recently combined officially with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), used a Michigan definition of "place of worship" as a "building" in its Jan. 14, 2010, ruling to permit the Eagle Project, Rio Tinto / Kennecott's proposed nickel and copper mine on the Yellow Dog Plains near Marquette.

Based on this definition, the DEQ decided that Eagle Rock, located within the proposed mining site, need not be considered a place of worship for the purpose of their mining permits, despite the fact that it is held sacred by the Anishinabe (Ojibwe) people.

Click here to read the Jan. 14, 2010, article.

Rio Tinto / Kennecott plans Arizona copper mine on public land

Meanwhile, the same Rio Tinto plans to disregard Native American sacred sites in the Tonto National Forest and "make off with an astounding $140 billion in publicly-held
mineral rights, in Arizona, for what is expected to be North America’s largest copper mine." The project awaits an environmental review.

Click here to read this Dec. 17, 2009, article, "Rio Tinto Set to Make Off With $140 Billion in Public Mineral Wealth; Company and Plan Criticized."

Kennecott tailings site in Utah still a threat

Finally, Kennecott's company report on the danger of a massive 5,700 acre tailings impoundment, north of Magna, Utah, says the tailings dam may fail, but will not harm residential neighborhoods, even in the case of an earthquake. Read more.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Eric Hansen: Citizen action for conservation can make a difference

By Michele Bourdieu

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukeean Eric Hansen, an award-winning conservation and environment essayist, and author of Hiking Wisconsin and Hiking Michigan's Upper Peninsula -- A Guide to the Greatest Hiking Adventures in the U.P., was interviewed by WUWM, Milwaukee Public Radio, in December 2009, at the time of the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change.

Eric Hansen, award-winning author, hiker and conservationist. (Photo © 2009 Susan Ruggles. Reprinted with permission.)

In this interview, titled "Copenhagen, climate change and common sense conservation," Hansen spoke of several recent conservation and environmental victories by Wisconsin citizens, including their 27-year campaign, finally successful, against a metallic sulfide mine (the Crandon Mine).

Michigan opponents of Kennecott/Rio Tinto's proposed sulfide mine on the Yellow Dog Plains, recently given approval by the (now former) Michigan Department of Environmental Quality would do well to listen to Hansen's encouraging words: "When citizens organize and demand meaningful conservation action, governments move into motion."

Click here to listen to the interview with Eric Hansen on Milwaukee Public Radio's "Lake Effect" program.

The transcript of this interview can be found on the Madison Capital Times Web site.

Editor's Note: Eric Hansen spoke with Keweenaw Now's editor last August during the Protect the Earth Walk to Eagle Rock. Hansen has written articles pointing out the dangers that metallic sulfide mining poses to groundwater, streams and lakes in both Michigan and Wisconsin. See "Protect the Earth: Part 1" for his comments.

Hansen has a deep spiritual attachment to the Upper Peninsula. See Keweenaw Now's videoclip of Hansen reading his poem, "A Place Where Water Sparkles," at Eagle Rock in "Protect the Earth: Part 2, Walk to Eagle Rock."