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.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Heikinpäivä 2016 to offer parade, races, rides, art, music, dance, more -- Jan. 29-31

Kids line up for a kicksled race during Heikinpäivä 2015. (Keweenaw Now file photos)

HANCOCK -- Whether your favorite Heikinpäivä event is the parade, the wife-carrying contest, Tori shopping and snacks or music and dance, this last week of Hancock's mid-winter festival will offer fun-filled events for the whole family.

Here is the Schedule for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 29-31:

Friday, Jan. 29:

3 p.m. -- Presentation by Consul General Jukka Pietikainen, Jutila Center Chapel, Hancock. Sponsored by the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce - Upper Michigan Chapter.

7 p.m. -- Nyckelharpa concert with Cheryl Paschke and Jaana Tuttila of the Finn Hall Band ... and more! Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Hancock.

Saturday, Jan. 30:

Carol Williams sells her lovely hand-crafted jewelry at the Tori (market) in the First United Methodist Church, Hancock, during Heikinpäivä 2015.

10 a.m. - 3 p.m. -- Tori Market, Finnish American Heritage Center and First United Methodist Church, Hancock.

10 a.m. - 2 p.m.  -- Vipukelkka (Whipsled), kicksleds, mölkky, World's Largest Kicksled, more! Quincy Green.

Kids enjoy riding the vipukelkka (whipsled) during Heikinpäivä.

Another ride option will be a sled-dog ride around the perimeter of the Quincy Green. A team from Otter River Kennels will be offering folks a sampling of what it’s like to be mushed along the trail in a true dogsled race. These rides will be starting from the area of the Green nearest the Finnish American Heritage Center (FAHC).

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

"The Bear Rolls Over" is the tradition marking the middle of winter and the reason for the Heikinpäivä celebration.

Following parade -- Wife-carrying contest and kicksled races, Quincy Green. Prizes.*

Saturday music performances in Finnish American Heritage Center:

10 a.m. - 11 a.m. -- Finn Aire

11:30 - Noon -- Duo Nyckelharpa

Noon - 12:30 p.m. -- Kivajat Dancers

The Kivajat youth dancers perform Finnish folk dances in the gallery at the Finnish American Heritage Center during Heikinpäivä 2015. At right is their teacher, Kay Seppala.

12:30 p.m. –  1:30 p.m. -- Tanja Stanaway

1:30 p.m. –  2:30 p.m. -- Finn Hall Band

3 p.m. -- Polar Bear Dive, Hancock waterfront. $5 fee for competing divers; $1 all others.

3 p.m. --
Closing reception for "Art from the Kalevala," Community Arts Center, Hancock. (See notice in our right-hand column.)

7 p.m. -- Heikinpäivä iltamat (hors d’oeuvres and dance), live music, Finnish American Heritage Center.

7:30 p.m. -- Consul General Jukka Pietikäinen bestows honors from the Republic of Finland upon two prominent Finnish Americans.

Sunday, Jan. 31:

2 p.m. -- Finn Hall Dance, Eagles Hall, South Range.

* Click here to see our videos from last year's Heikinpäivä.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Houghton County Dems endorse Lon Johnson, candidate for Michigan's 1st District Congressional seat

Following their Jan. 6 monthly meeting, Houghton County Democrats join Lon Johnson, candidate for Congress in Michigan's 1st District, for supper at the Library restaurant in Houghton. Johnson is seated third from left facing table, next to Rep. Scott Dianda. (Photo courtesy Houghton County Democratic Party)

HOUGHTON -- Lon Johnson, candidate for Congress in Michigan's 1st District, attended the Jan. 6 meeting of the Houghton County Democratic Party and was present for a vote on whether to endorse his candidacy in the August primary. The vote to endorse Johnson was unanimous, with one abstention. Also attending the meeting was candidate Jerry Cannon's Campaign Manager Jessie Handley, who read a personal letter from Gen. Cannon to the group before the vote.

Primary endorsements are unusual for local parties, including Houghton County Democrats. Vice-chair for Communications Brian Rendel in December asked the party to hold a January endorsement vote because he is concerned about waiting for the state primary in August. A late primary leaves little time to lend much local coordinated support in this unusually expansive district.

"There is no question that Johnson's impressive efforts dwarf Gen Cannon's," Rendel said of Johnson's 1000 endorsements by party leaders and activists around the district, frequent visits around the district to meet people, and over a half million dollars he raised through December.

Lon Johnson: Line 5 oil spill may be Michigan’s next water crisis

TRAVERSE CITY -- Congressional Candidate Lon Johnson has warned that the same inaction from politicians in Lansing that led to the water crisis in Flint could result in a disastrous oil spill in the Great Lakes. He recently renewed his call for the Line 5 pipeline to be shut down unless independent review can prove it is 100 percent safe.

"I see too many unfortunate parallels between the ongoing water crisis in Flint and the ticking time bomb that is the Line 5 pipeline running beneath our Mackinac Straits," Johnson said. "For months now, politicians in Lansing have assured us that this 60-year-old pipeline poses no risk of a leak, despite there never having been independent inspection. How are we to entrust our health and the health of the Great Lakes to a government that only acts after disaster is upon us?

"Now it's clear that Lansing knew much more than it let on about the dangerous levels of lead in Flint's water. The same politicians who told worried Flint residents to 'relax' back in July now swear up and down that the Line 5 pipeline is secure. I'm sure we can agree that Lansing politicians have lost all measure of credibility.

"Trust must now give way to vigilance. The time is now to shut down Line 5 until it’s proven independently to be safe. The impact of an oil leak from this aging pipeline upon our health, economy and wildlife is immeasurable and too important to be risked."*

Former Congressman Bart Stupak endorses Johnson

TRAVERSE CITY -- On Jan. 5 Lon Johnson, Democratic Congressional candidate for Michigan’s 1st District,  announced the endorsement of former Congressman Bart Stupak -- the 1,000th public supporter of Johnson's campaign.

"I support Lon Johnson because he will work to create a U.P. and Northern Michigan where our families can stay and succeed," said Stupak. "Lon is the best candidate to represent a district that I know well and hold close to my heart."

Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, represented Michigan’s 1st Congressional District for 18 years, retiring in 2010.

"I’m honored to have the endorsement of such a leader as former Congressman Stupak," Johnson said.

Dozens of current and former leaders have endorsed Johnson, including state legislators, local elected officials, and Democratic party leaders from throughout the 1st Congressional District. A complete list of supporters is available at**

* Click here to see a new documentary about the Line 5 Pipeline.

** See also our Dec. 14, 2015, article, "Candidate Lon Johnson gains support, endorsements for Michigan's 1st Congressional District primary race."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Save the Wild U.P.: "Flint is not a fluke"

From Save the Wild U.P. 

MARQUETTE -- Grassroots environmental group Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) is calling on the Obama Administration to appoint an individual with proven leadership experience in environmental protection to fill the top position at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 5 headquarters, following the resignation of EPA Administrator Susan Hedman on Thursday, Jan. 21.

"This situation is urgent and new leadership is critical," said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s executive director. "The EPA needs a leader with an environmental track record, not a career administrator or an industry insider. All Hedman did was throw the problem back at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). Meanwhile, an entire city was being poisoned."

In December, MDEQ Director Dan Wyant resigned his position as the scope of the water crisis was revealed.

"What has happened in Flint is egregious," said Michelle Halley, Marquette attorney and advisory board member for Save the Wild U.P. "The public who relies upon their elected officials and the agencies they oversee should know that the problems do not stop in Flint. The same attitude of disregard for citizens and the environment has repeated itself in DEQ decisions across our state for well over a decade."

Halley noted the EPA watched while this happened in Michigan, but they did nothing.

"Flint is not a fluke," said Halley. "Flint reflects the failure of values and lack of thoroughness that has become habitual with Michigan politicians and environmental regulators."

Kathleen Heideman, Save the Wild U.P. president, said she was not surprised by Hedman's resignation.

"I’m afraid the problems in Flint are just the tip of the iceberg," Heideman said. "EPA Region 5 has been turning a blind eye to environmental degradations happening right here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as well. For years, we’ve been calling on the EPA for transparency, accountability and enforcement actions."

In 2015, Save the Wild U.P. brought water quality and permitting problems to the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency -- specifically, discharges of industrial wastewater to the Salmon Trout River (from Eagle Mine), and the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River (from the Eagle Mine’s Humboldt Mill). SWUP petitioned the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board to uphold the Clean Water Act. The group also requested the veto authority of the EPA over wastewater discharges at the Humboldt Mill, which are known to pollute riparian wetlands of the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River.*

According to Gail Griffith, professor emeritus of chemistry at Northern Michigan University and Save the Wild U.P. board member, "When it comes to water quality, mining companies view the U.P. as a Third-World economy; Lundin Mining called us a 'low-risk jurisdiction' when they purchased the Eagle Mine, referring to our historical experience with mining, the complicity of state regulators, and the EPA’s lack of interest in our environmental problems."

Jeffery Loman, former federal oil regulator and Save the Wild U.P. advisory board member, noted the incompetence of both federal and state regulatory agencies.

"It took the poisoning of hundreds of poor children to demonstrate that the leaders of both EPA Region 5 and Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality were incapable of properly managing those organizations. Why did it take a catastrophe after we provided an abundance of evidence over the last 5 years demonstrating that they were inept?" Loman said. "The EPA has been too busy commemorating, celebrating and congratulating -- mostly themselves -- to care about enforcing water quality."

Maxwell added SWUP simply asks for new, competent leadership.

"Michigan and the Great Lakes deserve real environmental leadership," she said. "We look forward to establishing a positive working relationship with EPA Region 5 in 2016."

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to preserving the Upper Peninsula of Michigan's unique cultural and environmental resources. For more information contact or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at on Facebook at or on Twitter @savethewildup.

* See our August 2, 2015, article on citizen concerns about wastewater discharges from the Humboldt Mill.