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Friday, August 05, 2011

Updated: KBIC welcomes 2011 Mother Earth Water Walk participants

By Michele Bourdieu

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) member Terri Denomie, left, joins Josephine Mandamin of Thunder Bay, Ont., during the 2011 Mother Earth Water Walk, on the way to the final destination, Bad River, Wis. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Roxanne Ornelas)

BARAGA -- The 2011 Mother Earth Water Walk reached its final destination -- Bad River, Wisconsin, in June. Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) members welcomed a group of Water Walkers with a reception and warm hospitality as the group stopped for an overnight rest near Baraga on June 8, a few days before the completion of the walk. Some KBIC members joined the water walkers for several hours before or after their arrival in Baraga.

"It was awesome," said KBIC member Cory Fountaine. "I met them somewhere out of Marquette, and I walked with them," he said.

Fountaine also carried the eagle staff, which symbolizes the unity of people.

The Mother Earth Water Walk is a nationwide effort to raise awareness about the importance of clean water and the sacred nature of water. The first walk in 2003 was inspired by the question, "What will you do for the water?"

Started by two Anishinaabe grandmothers, joined by a group of Anishinaabe women and men, the water walks began with walks around the Great Lakes: a walk around Lake Superior in 2003, Lake Michigan in 2004, Lake Huron in 2005, Lake Ontario in 2006, Lake Erie in 2007, Lake Michigan in 2008, and the St. Lawrence River in 2009.

The 2011 Water Walk united water from the four cardinal directions. Water from the vast Pacific Ocean, from the Gulf of Mexico, from the Atlantic Ocean and from Hudson Bay was gathered in copper pails and carried by hand to the shores of Lake Superior. Women from across the continent answered the call to journey over 10,400,000 steps carrying copper pails of sacred salt water, uniting in Bad River, Wis., on June 12, 2011.

The lead walkers are elder women from four Indigenous Nations. Walkers from the West began on April 9th in Olympia, Washington. The south started on April 20th from Gulfport, Mississippi. The East departed from Machais, Maine, on May 7th and the North set out May 21st from Winnipeg in Canada.

Among the leaders were two sisters from Thunder Bay, Ontario -- Josephine Mandamin and Melvina Flamand -- who spoke to Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) members during the June 8 reception at Ojibwa Community College in Baraga.

Josephine Mandamin of Thunder Bay, Ont., speaks to walkers and visitors during the reception held by Keweenaw Bay Indian Community members on June 8 at Ojibwa Community College in Baraga, Michigan. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

"I started April 9 from Olympia, Washington, picked up and carried the Pacific water," Mandamin said. "We're waiting for salt water of the East to be mingled with the fresh water of Lake Superior. We all know how healing the salt water is."

Water doesn't stop. It has to flow like the river. It has to keep moving, Mandamin added.

"It is a baby. It is a child that we carry from its home territory," she explained.

Josephine Mandamin reflects near water during the walk to Bad River, Wis. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Roxanne Ornelas)

Mandamin said it was important to allow non-native people to walk with the group and help carry the water, since part of the purpose of the walk is to create a collective consciousness.

She noted Mother Earth is being abused by the big money-motivated corporations.

Money isn't that important to participants in the walk, Mandamin said, since they rely not on money but on the friendship of people.

Mandamin's sister, Melvina Flamand, spoke about the trials and tribulations endured by the water walkers; but her sense of humor was evident.

Melvina Flamand of Thunder Bay, sister of Josephine Mendamin, speaks during the reception for the walkers at Ojibwa Community College in Baraga. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

"I've been with my sister for the last nine years, and when she asks me to do something I don't ask questions," Flamand said. "If she asks me to go to the moon I will."

Panoka Walker of Monroe, Mich., a gardener who teaches culture classes like drum making and women's skills, said she's been walking with the group for a long time. She came up to the U.P. to meet them and finish this walk with them.

Participants in the 2011 Mother Earth Water Walk, pictured here in front of Ojibwa Community College last June, are, from left, Josephine Mandamin of Thunder Bay, Ont.; Panoka Walker of Monroe, Mich.; Cory La Fountaine of KBIC; and Josephine's sister Melvina Flamand of Thunder Bay, Ont. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

"I've known Josephine for a really long time," Walker said. "I first met her when they were doing the walk around Lake Michigan. She's a wonderful woman -- both she and her sister Mel (Melvina)."

KBIC members Charlotte Loonsfoot, left, and Jessica Koski helped host the reception for the walkers. They were among the KBIC members who joined the visitors the next day for part of the walk. See Charlotte's Facebook page for more photos of the walk. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Joshua Metansinine of Thunder Bay, Josephine Mandamin's grandson, said he started this walk on May 7, a month before.

"I'm going right to the end," Metansinine said. "This is my third water walk."

Metansinine said he had also participated in walks around Lake Michigan and along the St. Lawrence River.

Another one of the younger walkers was Sylvie Forest of Sudbury, Ont., a nursing student at Cambrian College of Laurentian University.

Joshua Metansinine of Thunder Bay, Josephine Mandamin's grandson, speaks about his experience on the walk. Seated, second from left (wearing hat), is Sylvie Forest of Sudbury, Ontario. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

"This is the tenth day," she said of her participation in the walk.

She said she had been walking 12 to 15 hours a day and was planning to go all the way to Bad River.

"It just kind of fell in my lap," she said of her decision to join the walk.

Forest said she had met Josephine Mandamin at an elders day at the university in March.

"(Her) words about the water resonated in me," Forest said.

She noted also hearing a friend sing the song "Bring me little water, Sylvie" and she had a sort of déjà vu as if she had had a dream.

"A little spark went off in me," Forest said. "As a younger person I feel it's really important for the youth to step up and care for the water and learn from our elders."

Some KBIC members joined the walkers the morning after the reception to participate in part of the walk. Pictured here, stopping for lunch, from left, are Josh Metansinine, Sylvie Forest, Georgenia Earring Gizhiayaanimaad, Sue Chiblow, Gabriel Peltier, Hilda Atkinson, and E Naawakwogiizis Halverson. (Photo courtesy Charlotte Loonsfoot. See more photos on her Facebook page.)

Pauline Knapp-Spruce -- KBIC personnel director and co-organizer, with Terri Denomie, of the reception -- welcomed the walkers and distributed water bottles (not plastic) and other gifts to them.

Spruce said she was reminded of a challenging walk across the Mackinac Bridge and the women walkers' gratitude to men from Sault Ste. Marie who helped them carry the heavy eagle staff.

Pauline-Knapp Spruce, KBIC personnel director, welcomes the walk participants during the reception for them at Ojibwa Community College in Baraga, a few days before the conclusion of the walk at Bad River, Wis. Spruce and Terri Denomie, KBIC Head Start and Early Head Start director, organized the reception. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

"A friend of mine mentioned how blue the water was," Spruce said. "I don't see that. I see grey. I see brown. I see black."

She noted it's human beings who have made the water sick.

"Each one of us has a responsibility to this water because each one of us has a relationship to this earth," Spruce said.

Terry Denomie, KBIC Head Start and Early Head Start director and co-organizer of the reception, participated in part of the walk with the visitors and stayed with them at Van Riper State Park in Champion.

"It was fun. It was really fun!" she said. "We were on the road by 4 in the morning and put the eagle staff down at 4:30 p.m."

Roxanne Ornelas of Oxford, Ohio, said the group had walked about 38 miles that day.

"You just have to make sure you have good shoes (and bandaids)," she said.

Ornelas is a professor of geography and women's studies at Miami University of Ohio and teaches in the Institute of Environmental Science and Sustainability there.

In this photo of the last few yards of the walk at Bad River, Wis., Roxanne Ornelas is the walker in the turqoise jacket and blue skirt carrying the pail of water. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Roxanne Ornelas)

"It's my life's work," Ornelas said of the experience of the walk.

Ornelas continued to the end of the walk and the closing ceremonies at Bad River, Wisconsin, and sent Keweenaw Now some photos.

Boats return to shore at Lake Superior after the convergence water ceremony. Photos were not allowed during the actual ceremony. The arrival of the boats was the official end of the 2011 Mother Earth Water Walk at Bad River, Wis. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Roxanne Ornelas)

"The Water Walk made me even more committed to continue to do the work I am doing to raise awareness about the condition of our waters on this continent, as well as around the world," Ornelas writes. "It is the most important issue for the well-being of humanity as far as I am concerned. It is up to each and every one of us to do our part to protect our fresh water resources. The moment is now. We cannot expect to wait for others to change things for us. We have the responsibility to create change now. To me, this is what the Water Walk is all about."

For more about the Water Walks visit their Web site.

Environmental group asks Michigan Attorney General to investigate allegations of fraud at DEQ

From Stand for the Land:
Posted on Aug. 1, 2011

WAVE (Water Action Vital Earth), based in Marquette Mich., has joined mining expert Jack Parker and Laura Gauger in requesting an investigation into alleged fraud involving the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the permitting of Kennecott/Rio Tinto’s Eagle Mine Project.

Taking Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette at his word, "To uncover and prosecute crimes at all levels of state and local government," Parker and Gauger sent a report by Parker and a letter stating that the application to mine should have been rejected by the MDEQ.

Parker pointed out the following in a July 3 press release: "MDEQ ignored the conclusions and recommendations of their own expert and those of other experts and accepted the application. They went on to issue all permits demanded by Kennecott, regardless of protests by public and by experts. Kennecott has been conducting construction activities ever since, illegally but with the consent of MDEQ."

They are asking for support in the form of letters to the Attorney General and letters to the media.

Read more, including WAVE's letter to the A.G. and a citizen letter from Margaret Comfort ...

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Christine Seitz Voice Workshop soloists to perform Aug. 7 at Calumet Art Center

CALUMET -- Christine Seitz, Master Teacher, is offering a Voice Workshop for solo singers today, Thursday, Aug. 4, and Friday, Aug. 5, at the Calumet Art Center. Workshop participants will perform for an audience at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7, at the Calumet Art Center. The Sunday performance is free and open to the public.

The Workshop Sessions are from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. both days.

Seitz will coach each singer on ways to improve performance, including better breathing and tone production, expression of text, and confidence in performing.

Seitz, former Opera Director for the Pine Mountain Music Festival, has been offering Voice Workshops in the Upper Peninsula since 1991. Currently the Director of Opera at the University of Missouri and on the directing staff with the Des Moines Metro Opera, she is an accomplished opera singer and voice teacher.

For more information call (906) 281-3494.

Community Arts Center to exhibit paintings by Nicole Yarroch

HANCOCK -- "Lost in the Garden," an exhibition of paintings by Nicole Yarroch, is the new exhibit in the Kerredge Gallery at the Copper Country Community Arts Center through Sept. 3. A reception will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 4.

Penguin, by Nicole Yarroch. (Image courtesy Community Arts Center)

Nicole Yarroch received her Bachelors of Fine Art from Kendall College of and Art and Design in 2009. Working primarily with gouache and oil paints, Yarroch's work examines the often tense relationships between humans and the natural world. Her works are two-dimensional dioramas, filled with unexpected combinations of flora and fauna.

"My diorama paintings seek to address the ways we humans have altered the natural world," Yarroch says. "By seeking to control and box in the wild, we have become more distant and ignorant of the complex workings of nature. I hope these paintings will encourage the viewer to foster a real connection with the physical world, one that extends beyond the artificial environments found in dioramas."

Her paintings have been influenced by the exotic jungle landscapes of Henri Rousseau and the colorful gardens of Pierre Bonnard.

This exhibit is supported in part by a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Community Arts Center is located at 126 Quincy Street in Hancock. Hours are Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Saturday 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. For more information call 482-2333 or visit

New gallery, art exhibits to open Aug. 5 in Calumet

Entering Keweenaw County, by Patricia Watson, featured artist at the Vertin Gallery in August. (Image courtesy Vertin Gallery)

CALUMET -- First Friday, Aug. 5, in Calumet will be the scene of several art exhibit openings -- and the opening of a new gallery as well.

Gallerie Bohème to open Aug. 5

The public is invited to the opening of a new gallery in Calumet from 6:30 p.m. through 9 p.m. Friday, Aug.5.

Gallerie Bohème, a new visual artists’ exhibition venue in Calumet, will open its doors with a showing of works by the Rockland Street Gang, a group of artists who live on Rockland Street in Calumet Township.

Artists showing in the August exhibition are Stuart Baird, wood carvings; Richard Dana, blown glass; Margo McCafferty, paintings; and Tom Rudd, sculpture. The artists will be in attendance at the opening to discuss their work with interested viewers and collectors.

Gallerie Boheme will exhibit exceptional works by Calumet and Keweenaw area artists and craftspersons. The gallery is located in Calumet on the north end of Fifth Street at 423, near the newly-renovated Omphale Gallery and Café and Artis Books. Business hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, July through October; other times by appointment. For additional information contact Tom Rudd at (906) 369-4087 or Tom Dumble at (760) 285-5128.

Ed Gray Gallery to feature Sand Hill Light artists

"In the Shadow of the Sand Hill Light," the August exhibit at the Ed Gray Gallery, will feature the work of the late Carol Gorgas, taipaleNurmesniemi; Mike Ramos and Jan Manniko.

This show is primarily a retrospective of work from the 1980s, painted while these three artists created together at the Sand Hill Light before the lighthouse became a bed and breakfast inn.

Carol Gorgas is now deceased. Her work in this exhibit is from a private collection; some pieces have come directly from the Gorgas family. Carol’s work is known internationally, having been widely exhibited. This collection of acrylics on canvas is being shown for the first time since her death.

Jan Manniko and Mike Ramos continue to paint. A portion of the pieces in the show were painted during the time that they painted with Carol. Others are their contemporary work.

A portion of the proceeds from this show will be donated to the Calumet Art Center to promote the continuing art programs at the Center.

Vertin Gallery to feature paintings by Patricia Watson

Patricia Watson’s "Enter Keweenaw County," featuring paintings inspired by the landscape of the Keweenaw Peninsula, will open with a reception from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 5 at the Vertin Gallery. Refreshments will be served. The artist will speak at 7:15 p.m.

Ms. Watson’s work celebrates the luscious color, light and forms she sees in the world around her, from the Copper Country forest to the Lake Superior shore.

"Mother Nature is my muse and she will not tolerate any indignities. Effectively rendering the subtle way light surrounds and embraces an object is a delightful challenge," Watson says.

For more information on the gallery or upcoming events, please visit or call (906) 337-2200.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Maple Sugar Folk to perform at opening of "Across the Border" exhibit Aug. 4 in Chassell

CHASSELL -- Maple Sugar Folk will sing at the Chassell Heritage Center at 7 p.m. this Thursday, Aug 4, under the direction of Accordionist/singer David Bezotte. This will open a new exhibition, "Across the Border: Canadians in the Upper Peninsula," on loan from Northern Michigan University’s Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center.*

Ralph Horvath, soloist, and Maple Sugar Folk sing "Youpe, Youpe! Sur la Rivière," a Canadian folk song, during the July 26 Benefit Recital for Omega House hospice, held at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hancock. Singers also include, from left, Barbara Lide, Marcia Goodrich, Jan Wieber, Amanda Binoniemi, Karin Schlenker and Barry Pegg. Accompanist for the group is Ruth Robertson. Maple Sugar Folk will perform at 7 p.m., Aug. 4, at the Chassell Heritage Center and at noon, Aug. 5, outside Portage Lake District Library. (Video clip by Keweenaw Now)

Light refreshments will be provided.

Across the Border focuses primarily on the immigration of Canadians to the Upper Peninsula during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, the story begins much farther back than that with the Anishinaabeg people who have lived on both sides of what they view as purely a political border for centuries. The very nature of this border, which has been seen at times as irrelevant and porous, is discussed in this exhibition as is the nature of Canadian identity as it relates to the immigration of people to the Upper Peninsula from Québec and Ontario.

This display from the "Across the Border" exhibit relates the immigration history of Dave Bezotte's family of Chassell. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)*

One of the most interesting parts of this exhibition is the spotlight on specific families who came from Canada to the Upper Peninsula. The exhibit looks at the experiences they had before and after they immigrated to the region. There will also be a focus on specific communities that had significant settlements of Canadian people. Chassell and Lake Linden are among the communities featured.

"Across the Border" will be on display through Aug. 30, 2011. The Chassell Heritage Center is located at 42373 North Hancock Street, Chassell (from US 41, turn west onto 2nd Street) and is open Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The exhibition was funded by Cliffs Natural Resources, NMU's College of Arts and Sciences and the Province of Québec Chicago Delegation.

Maple Sugar Folk to perform at Portage Library Aug. 5

HOUGHTON -- Maple Sugar Folk will perform from noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 5, at Music on the Menu outside the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton. This group of ten singers celebrates the Keweenaw’s French-Canadian heritage with music. They sing a variety of traditional folk songs and invite the audience to participate and sing along.

Everyone is invited to bring a lunch, relax, and enjoy the lunch hour while listening to some great music. In the event of bad weather, the program will be held in the community room.

This event is part of the library’s Summer Reading Program and is free and open to all. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

* Editor's Note: See more photos from the "Across the Border" exhibit in our slide show, Marquette Exhibits.

New film series to begin with "Keepers of the Water" Aug. 5 in Baraga

BARAGA -- Keepers of the Water, a 38-minute documentary film produced by Al Gedicks, will be shown as the first film in the series "Mining Impacts on Native Lands" from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, at the Ojibwa Community College, 111 Beartown Road, Baraga. A discussion will follow the film showing.

Keepers of the Water features the Indian-environmental alliance that formed against Exxon/Rio Algom's proposed Crandon Mine in Wisconsin. The film documents the Mole Lake Sokoagon Chippewa and other tribes' opposition to the mine plan and presents evidence that the metallic sulfide mine would result in toxic runoff that would have a disastrous effect on fish, wildlife, wild rice and human life in an unspoiled area.

Al Gedicks, professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, is the author of Resource Rebels: Native Challenges to Mining and Oil Corporations (South End Press, 2001), which has a chapter devoted to the struggle against the proposed Crandon Mine. Gedicks will also be a featured speaker at the Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering Saturday, Aug. 6, at Van Riper State Park in Champion, Mich.*

This free monthly film series is presented by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Natural Resources Department. The goal of the series is to increase community awareness of mining and its environmental and social impacts on Native communities and homelands. Discussion will be welcomed following each film. Snacks and refreshments will be provided.

Future films in this series will include the following:

Sept. 2: Mining Madness, Water Wars: The Great Lakes in the Balance

Oct. 7: Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action

Nov. 4: The Return of Navajo Boy

Dec. 2: American Outrage

For more information contact Jessica Koski, KBIC mining technical assistant, by calling (906) 524-5757 ext. 25 or email

* Editor's Note: Click here to read about the Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering.

Sen. Stabenow: Statement on agreement to reduce deficit, avoid default

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senator Debbie Stabenow issued the following statement Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, after the Senate passed a bipartisan agreement to cut over two trillion dollars in spending, reduce the deficit and avoid a first-in-history American default on the country’s obligations:

"If America had defaulted for the first time in our history, senior citizens and middle class families would have faced higher interest rates, cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits, and reduced retirement accounts. It’s extremely frustrating that some in Congress created so much economic uncertainty for so long by refusing to compromise. I’m glad that cooler heads finally prevailed to pass a bipartisan agreement to significantly reduce the deficit and avoid another blow to our economy.

"It is critical that Congress now focus on the top priority for our families -- strengthening our economy so businesses can create jobs."

Hearing on Flambeau Mine site proposal POSTPONED

From Laura Gauger:

The August 3rd public informational hearing on the proposal from Kennecott / Flambeau Mining Company (FMC) to convert an existing 0.9-acre, lined "detention basin" (pond) at the partially reclaimed Flambeau Mine site near Ladysmith, Wis., to an "infiltration basin" and construct two new infiltration basins at the site to handle contaminated runoff HAS BEEN POSTPONED.

According to the Wisconsin DNR, the hearing will be rescheduled. Watch for more updates.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Portage Library to host Wilderness Survival, Internet Safety, Student Travelogue programs this week

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library will offer three evening programs -- each one from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. -- this week: a Wilderness Survival program for children and adults TONIGHT, Tues., Aug. 2; an Internet Safety Program Wednesday, Aug. 3; and a Student Travelogue on Guatemala Thursday, Aug. 4.

On Tuesday, Aug. 2, David Talaga, founder of the Houghton Primitive Skills and Wilderness Survival School, will teach children and adults what to pack in an emergency survival bag.

Talaga will guide participants through the steps of choosing what is useful in a survival bag as well as what would not be too helpful in an emergency situation. This program will cover everything a person needs to survive including what to take to easily start a fire and build a shelter. Talaga will have two different types of survival bags on display: a small, easily carried bag and a full survival bag.

Talaga has been learning and teaching wilderness survival and primitive skills for over nine years. He studied at the Tom Brown, Jr. Tracker School and also studied under Dave Canterbury, co-host of "Dual Survival," a wilderness survival documentary television series on the Discovery Channel.

Library programs are free and everyone is welcome. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

On Wednesday, Aug. 3, the Portage Lake District Library will offer a one-hour introduction to internet safety for the complete newbie.

Robbie Emmert will present "Internet Safety: The Common Sense Defense." Participants will learn about different types of intrusions, hijacking, viruses and spam, and learn how to protect themselves. They will get useful tips on free programs that can keep a person safe without slowing a computer down and learn ways to maintain security as computing evolves.

Emmert will explain the different types of intrusions and how to identify them -- including information stealing and scamming through online hijacking, fake emails and websites generated by phishing, the inundations of garbage that come via spam, and viruses and hacking.

He will also describe how to identify scams and viruses and explain how to use prevention tools that keep computers safe such as locks, passwords, antivirus, and firewalls. Emmert will also discuss what to do about each type of intrusion and talk about cloud computing and what it means for the future of computer security.

Emmert has been learning about computers and figuring out how they work since he was a young boy. Since then, he has learned web design, studied computer programming, and has solved numerous computer issues for members of the community. In his spare time, he researches new products and tries out the latest programs and websites. He also led the "Surfing in the U.P." computer project at the Portage Lake District Library while working towards his Eagle Scout Rank in Boy Scouts. You can see some of his work on his websites: and Emmert is a sophomore at Calvin College and is majoring in Chinese Language and Media Production.

The program is free and everyone is welcome. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

On Thursday, Aug. 4, the Portage Lake District Library will host Houghton High School student Cassie Van Dam for her presentation about her recent travels to and studies in Guatemala.

Van Dam will show slides of her three week trip to Antigua, where she went to study Spanish and learn about the country. Participants will see pictures of La Merced, Las Capuchinas, the Plaza and Market, museums and ruins, the parade of Corpus Christi, small pueblos outside of Antigua, and many other landmarks including her climb on the active volcano Pacaya. Antigua is unique in that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is considered to have outstanding universal cultural and natural value.

Library programs are free and everyone is welcome. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

Sen. Levin: Senate Floor Speech on the Debt Limit and Deficit Reduction

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Madam President, to say the legislation before us is not ideal is truly an understatement.

The notion that our deficit problem can be solved solely by cutting spending flies in the face of our experience when in fact unwise tax cuts for the wealthy and egregious tax loopholes are significant culprits in our fiscal crisis. I believe too many Republicans are influenced by an ideology so extreme that it promised to wreak economic havoc if they did not get their way. No additional revenues became the battle cry, an approach that prevents the balanced deficit reduction that the American people rightly support. The result is that this legislation incorporates some policies that are profoundly unfair to middle-income Americans.

So seen in isolation, this is not a good bill. But no public policy exists in a vacuum. Despite its many flaws, this legislation must pass. Let me explain why. ...
Click here to read the rest of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin's speech.

Editor's Note: According to the Huffington Post, the Senate is scheduled to vote on this legislation at Noon today, Tuesday, Aug. 2. President Obama is scheduled to speak at 12:15 p.m. today. Visit the Huffington Post for live video.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Eagle Mine opponents kick off Grassroots Campaign with Rally, letter-writing, more ...

By Michele Bourdieu

A fence, a berm, construction and no trespassing signs surround Eagle Rock, the site of Rio Tinto /Kennecott's proposed Eagle Mine. Participants in the U.P. Grassroots Campaign to Defend our Water and Stop the Eagle Mine visited the site on July 9, 2011, after holding a Rally in Marquette earlier in the day. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

MARQUETTE -- The U.P. Grassroots Campaign to Defend Our Water and Stop the Eagle Mine kicked off on July 9, 2011, with a Rally of speakers, songs, chants, drumming and -- for some -- a trip to the Rio Tinto / Kennecott Eagle Mine site at Eagle Rock, an Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) sacred site.

The event was organized by two local groups working together on this campaign: Save the Wild UP (SWUP) and WAVE (Water Action Vital Earth).

Since the July 9 Rally, the campaign has included a fast by WAVE member Scott Rutherford of Hancock, a walk with drums around the Eagle Mine site on July 17 and various letters to the editor and to state officials written by SWUP / WAVE members and supporters.

SWUP / WAVE members are also organizing the Fourth Annual Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering -- to be held Saturday, Aug. 6, at Van Riper State Park in Champion, Michigan.*

Following Protect the Earth, from Sunday, Aug. 7, to Sunday, Aug.21, SWUP / WAVE will hold a "Write-In, Call-In Campaign" to flood Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's office with letters, emails, phone calls and FAX messages asking for a halt to the mine activity and an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) for the entire Eagle Project, including the mine site, the haul road and the processing facility in Humboldt, as requested by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Participants at the July 9 Rally received information about this campaign. Write-in dates are Aug. 7-21; call-in dates are Aug. 11 and 12. Details are posted on the SWUP Web site.**

Rally in Marquette kicks off U.P. Grassroots Campaign

Opponents of Kennecott Eagle Minerals' plans to blast through Eagle Rock (possibly this September) to access an ore body of copper and nickel reportedly worth $4 billion spoke from the steps of the Marquette County Courthouse on Saturday, July 9. After each speaker, singer Cora Thiele led the audience in songs with titles like "The Wheel of the Water," "Little Blue Ball,", "This Pretty Planet," and "Great Lakes Song."

Cora Thiele leads rally participants in singing "Little Blue Ball." (Video clip by Keweenaw Now)

Rev. Jon Magnuson of the Cedar Tree Institute offered some opening comments of welcome and inspiration.

"For the last seven years here in Marquette County we've been part of a divine drama -- an ongoing heated dispute about a decision whether or not to allow an international mining company -- one with the worst record of environmental pollution and violation of human rights in the world -- to build a sulfide mine on the Yellow Dog Plains," Magnuson said. "I'm here today to remind us that we can choose to be victims or engage and speak out for what we believe."

Rev. Jon Magnuson addresses participants in the July 9, 2011, Rally in front of the Marquette County Courthouse. At left, Ruth Almen holds a sign with a declaration by 100 Faith Community Leaders who oppose the Kennecott sulfide mine.

Magnuson reminded the audience that many leaders in the faith community are committed to work with the Marquette Chamber of Commerce toward a green economy with new opportunities for employment that protect our waters and our children's future.

"We can do that by saying no to Rio Tinto and its subsidiary company Kennecott (applause). This is a good fight! This is a good fight!" Magnuson said.

Martha Bush of SWUP and WAVE led the group in a chant, "Our Water, Our Lives, Our Water, Our Lives. Protect our water, our lives!" as practice for consensus building.

Bush said the purpose of the campaign, inspired by Love Canal activist Lois Gibbs, who visited Marquette last October, is to organize and put pressure on Gov. Snyder to issue an executive order requiring an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) for the entire Eagle Project, including the mine site, the haul road and the processing facility in Humboldt, as requested by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Kennecott's own study, she said, considers only the impacts within the mine site boundaries and excludes its actual "affected area."

Participants at the rally were given information for the Aug. 7-21 "Write-In, Call-In Campaign" to flood the governor's office with letters, emails, phone calls and FAX messages asking for the EIS.**

Next, Dr. Allan Olson shared some talking points on the issue of water. Olson, a retired osteopath, was the author of a statement objecting to sulfide mining in the U.P. It was signed by 200 medical professionals and published in the Marquette Mining Journal in 2010.

"It's easy to take water for granted," Olson said. "You get it out of the spigot. It's like so many things that we consume in this society ... we are never forced to ask where it comes from."

A swimmer enjoys a dip in Lake Superior at sunset near Big Bay, Michigan, which is only a few miles from the Eagle Mine site. Opponents of the mine fear that potential pollution by Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) could affect pristine trout streams that flow into Lake Superior.

Olson spoke about Kennecott's Greens Creek Mine in Alaska where, over a 10-year period, there were more than 250 violations -- mostly spillage -- from chromium and lead to diesel fuel and hydraulic oil.

"At the very least that wilderness area (affected by the Eagle Project) is going to be turned into an industrial site -- with all of the attendant mishaps that go on," Olson noted.

He said in reading the briefs for the recent appeal of the contested case against Kennecott and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), he was appalled to see that Kennecott has no contingency plans (for potential spillage).

"It's certain to me that there's going to be contamination. It's just a matter of how much," Olson said.

He noted Kennecott, like other mining companies, has gone to third world countries, where environmental laws aren't as stringent or where there is government corruption.

"I think of us as a third world country. We are being taken advantage of, exploited for our resources by this international mining company," Olson added. "This isn't any different than Papua New Guinea or El Salvador or Ecuador -- or any other place where mining companies have taken advantage of the populace and spoiled their environment."

Laura (Furtman) Gauger, now of Duluth, Minn., co-author with the late Roscoe Churchill of The Buzzards Have Landed -- an account of the struggle against Kennecott's Flambeau Mine near Ladysmith, Wis. -- spoke passionately of her recent efforts to communicate with Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette on the illegality of Kennecott's mining permit.

"Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette has created a Public Integrity Unit for the State of Michigan. The pledge of that unit is to uncover and prosecute crimes at all levels of state and local government," Gauger noted. "We need to ask him to investigate the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) -- their mishandling of Kennecott's mine permit application -- and to do it right now."***

Laura (Furtman) Gauger invites the Rally audience to write to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on the illegality of Kennecott's permit for the Eagle Mine. At left, Dr. Alan Olson holds a poster concerning Schuette's Public Integrity Unit.

According to Gauger, the MDEQ failed to process the Kennecott application for permits as required by law -- five years ago, when Dr. David Sainsbury, the Michigan DEQ's own expert in mine design and mining practices, pointed out flaws in the application.

"(We should) push for a single objective -- to revoke all permits and agreements, to halt all mining-related activities and to prosecute the wrongdoing as prescribed by law," Gauger said.

During the July 9 rally, Laura (Furtman) Gauger displays a poster with statements from Dr. David Sainsbury, MDEQ's hired expert, who reported flaws in the design of the Eagle Mine.

As for the construction activities, including the Humboldt Mill, Gauger said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said no efforts or money expended before valid permits are granted shall influence the permitting process.

Gauger then distributed a copy of the Executive Summary from a report (dated May 2006) written by Sainsbury, and asked participants in the rally to read it and to give a grade to the application based on Sainsbury's Summary, which lists several concerns about the crown pillar subsidence and hydrological stability. Here is just one example from Sainsbury's Summary: "The analysis techniques used to assess the Eagle crown pillar stability do not reflect industry best-practice. In addition, the hydrologic stability of the crown pillar has not been considered. Therefore, the conclusions made within the Eagle Project Mining Permit Application regarding crown pillar subsidence are not considered to be defensible."****

Participants at the July 9 Rally read Dr. David Sainsbury's Executive Summary of his report to MDEQ on Kennecott's design for the Eagle Mine. Laura Gauger asked them to grade Kennecott's application based on the Summary. Margaret Comfort of WAVE later reported a majority of failing grades were handed in.

Also available at the rally was a March 2007 notarized affidavit from Dr. Jack Wittman, president of Wittman Hydro Planning Associates, Inc., in Bloomington, Ind., who reports on a 2006 telephone conference call with Sainsbury, in which he and an associate participated.

Wittman states, "Mr. Sainsbury said that the information provided in Kennecott's application was insufficient to show that the mine could be developed safely and appropriately. He said that the most important technical problem is that the application does not address the correlation between fractures in the rock mass under the river and the stability and permeability of the crown pillar. He said that he repeatedly brought this issue to the attention of MDEQ."

Wittman also reports that the MDEQ asked Sainsbury to remove all reference to "case histories" (about other mines in the area); and, after Sainsbury's firm, Itasca, submitted its review of the application, MDEQ asked Itasca to retract it. Wittman also noted Sainsbury had expressed surprise that the Itasca review document was never made public. Wittman adds he verified by searching the MDEQ Web site that these documents were not included in the public record.

WAVE member Scott Rutherford fasts for more than two weeks

WAVE member Scott Rutherford of Hancock announced his fast at the Rally.

"Something about fasting," he said, "is you're really not doing it exactly to come to some kind of conclusion. You just do it because it's the right thing to do."

WAVE member Scott Rutherford, 77, of Hancock, announces his fast at the July 9 Rally in Marquette.

Rutherford said he had joined WAVE recently and had learned about Acid Mine Drainage, the instability of the crown pillar (mentioned above), Rio Tinto's record of environmental degradation, and the actions of the MDEQ. Rutherford said his participation in this grassroots campaign was not as an environmentalist but as a citizen concerned about authority, power and how power is being used and abused. He said he was shocked at how the MDEQ was acting.

"If we can't trust our own government to protect us from the Rio Tintos of this world, then who can we trust?" Rutherford added.

Rutherford, 77, continued his fast until July 26, when his doctor ordered him to stop for health reasons.

"I feel it made a small dent in some folks' consciousness about the dangerous and immoral nature of sulfide mining," Rutherford told Keweenaw Now in an email that day. "And maybe it will serve as a longer term catalyst, in addressing the threat of new mines over here."

River Walker: "There is no mine"

The rally concluded with an open mic session during which people were invited to speak.

"There is no mine," said Chauncey Moran, the Yellow Dog Riverkeeper (also known as River Walker), a founding member of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve. "There are buildings ... clearcuts. There is no mine."

River Walker (Chauncey Moran) of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve speaks about water quality on the Yellow Dog Plains. Moran has been collecting baseline water quality data in the area for the past six years.

Moran, who started a Volunteer Monitoring Program that has supplied the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve with baseline water quality data for the past six years, called for perseverance and persistence. He spoke of the water that comes from springs on the Yellow Dog Plains as being "cleaner than any bottled water that you can get on earth."

Moran asked those in the audience to spread the message about protecting the water to others in the community.

"We have a mandate in the beginning of Genesis to be stewards of the earth -- do not impair, pollute or destroy. God bless you. Thank you for coming," he said.

WAVE member Rich Sloat spoke about a dream that inspired the walk with drummers around the mine site that would take place on July 17 and invited those at the rally to join in this walk.*****

Visit to mine site

After the Rally, a group of participants went to the Kennecott mine site for a silent protest and contemplation.

A mine opponent displays a protest sign during a visit to the Eagle Mine site on July 9, 2011.

Joining SWUP and WAVE members for this visit was Zak Nicholls, a Canadian visitor from Sarnia, Ontario. Nicholls told Keweenaw Now he had been to the site before and has been following the issue of Eagle Rock.

"I've been involved for about four years, maybe five, in a number of different things related to delaying and stopping this project," Nicholls said, "and I've been able to see how it has developed -- how it (Eagle Rock) went from its natural state to where it is today. And it's sad to see, but after today I'm really happy that there are some people here that are putting up a fight."

Nicholls described his own situation in Sarnia, which is on Lake Huron and the St. Clair River -- an area of high pollution.

"We have all the chemical plants, and it's a disaster," he said. "We're doing a lot of work, and we're networking with other groups around the area to try to take action."

Nicholls noted illnesses related to endocrine disruption and cancer are some of the effects of the chemicals on the human population. In addition, he said, the beaches there are often closed because of pollution.

"It's a dirty place," Nicholls said. "It's jobs, for sure, lots of jobs -- but the health risk and the environmental risk, it just doesn't seem worth it."

Nicholls said the companies don't release information about chemical releases so groups like his have to do the work of investigating and reporting health risks to the media and the Ministry of Environment. He was positive about the local newspaper in Sarnia being supportive of their work.

Nicholls' group is called Sarnia SHAME -- Sarnia's Hometown Activist Movement Emerging -- which has been working for four or five years on fighting this pollution.

Click here for an article quoting Nicholls on SHAME's concerns about "fracking" in the area and SHAME's protest at a Shale Gas Conference.

"It's all the Great Lakes," Nicholls said. "What happens here is going to affect us down there."


* Click here for information on the Aug. 6 Protect the Earth event.

** See Save the Wild UP for details on how to contact the governor during the "Write-In, Call-In Campaign."

*** To contact Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, write to him at this address: Attorney General Bill Schuette, G. Mennen Williams Building, 7th Floor, 525 W. Ottawa St., P.O. Box 30212, Lansing, MI 48909, or email or call (517) 373-1110 or Fax (517)373-3042.

**** Mining expert Jack Parker has written two reports about the instability of the crown pillar. See our Dec. 6, 2010, article, "Mining expert Jack Parker says Eagle Mine likely to collapse."

Click here to see the WLUC - TV6 report on the July 17 walk (on a very hot day).