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Monday, December 23, 2019

Group formation of new Isle Royale wolves leads to territorial aggression

From National Park Service
Dec. 20, 2019, Press Release

Female Wolf at Night. Trail camera photo of the first female wolf released on Isle Royale. Captured 9-27-18. (Photo courtesy National Park Service)

HOUGHTON -- The National Park Service (NPS) and research partners from the State University of New York – College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) are using data from GPS collars on introduced wolves to monitor associations between individuals and identify possible pack formation. As researchers and NPS staff anticipated, new wolves immediately began interacting with each other. Researchers confirmed introduced wolves were feeding, traveling, sleeping in proximity to each other, and forming groups.

A trail camera photo of the first male wolf relocated to Isle Royale dragging off food. (Photo courtesy National Park Service)

A wolf "group" is characterized by two or more wolves traveling and feeding together. Wolf groups are further defined as a "pack" if groups of two or more wolves are traveling together and/or defending a territory, and if a breeding pair reproduces. Individual preferences for mating and group or pack formation can be quite variable for a social animal like the wolf. Mate selection and pair bond formation can occur at any time, but wolves only breed and produce pups once per year. Consequently, pack formation can take time. Based on these definitions, there are currently no wolf packs on Isle Royale.

Staff unloads a wolf in a crate from the seaplane on Oct. 4, 2018. (Photo by Jim Peaco and courtesy National Park Service)

GPS collar data shows three wolves, 1 female and 2 males, have been traveling, feeding, and bedding together since March, 2019 (W001F, W007M, and W013M). This is the first wolf group to form and remain associated since introduction efforts began. Additionally, two male wolves shared bed sites and carcasses over the summer with several different female wolves, but their associations lack consistency and are currently not defined as wolf groups. Two female wolves shared bed site areas over the summer (July), but are also not considered a group. Loose associations are common when smaller prey items like moose calves, beaver and snowshoe hare are abundant on the landscape. These animals are easy prey for a single wolf.

Dr. Jerry Belant, Campfire Conservation Fund Professor at SUNY-ESF and project collaborator, said, "Wolves are a highly social species and we continue to monitor their movements to document groups, and ultimately pack formations as demonstrated by reproduction. We developed a public online tool, based on these analyses to understand potential associations among these wolves and the areas they occupy."

From left, Ashley Lutto, a research associate with the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry; National Park Service veterinarian Michelle Verant; Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) veterinary specialist Dan O’Brien; and Michigan DNR wildlife technician Brad Johnson collect and record data on a gray wolf captured Sept. 8, 2019, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. (Photo courtesy John Pepin, Michigan DNR)

Researchers monitoring the GPS collar signals identified two wolf mortality events this fall. In September, researchers and NPS staff detected a mortality signal and recovered the remains of female W004F. Field evidence and subsequent necropsy at the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., determined W004F died from wounds caused by another wolf or wolves. In October just prior to island closing, NPS staff came across the remains of male wolf, M183, one of the two remaining uncollared resident wolves inhabiting Isle Royale prior to introduction efforts. Necropsy revealed that M183 had also been killed by another wolf or wolves. These events are not uncommon as wolves defend and establish their territories and social hierarchy. With many wolves on the island sorting out their relationships with one another, the dynamic nature of wolf social organization, territoriality, and wolf-on-wolf aggression during group and pack formation is not unexpected.

Rolf Peterson, research professor at Michigan Technological University and long-time wolf and moose investigator on Isle Royale, commented on the death of M183, one of the two remaining uncollared resident wolves inhabiting Isle Royale prior to introduction of the new wolves.

"With the death of the island-born male, travel patterns of the remaining wolves are likely to change significantly, and probably dependent on whether or not the island-born female is still alive, whether she is territorial and how she gets along with the newcomers, both males and females," Peterson said. "She is the final native wolf, never radio-collared; and searching for her will be a priority during the upcoming winter study."

Summer wolf location cluster investigations documented 122 instances of two or more wolves with overlapping space use. Twenty-nine cases (23.8 percent) of space use overlap were associated with prey remains and feeding behavior, 68 percent were associated with bed sites, and wolf use for the remaining 7.4  percent of sites was unknown or could not be determined.

Researchers continue to monitor location data weekly for evidence the three newest wolves, released on the island in September 2019, are adjusting to their new homes, interacting and forming associations. These wolves are interacting with each other (W017M and W018F were traveling together in late November) and with the wolves released last spring (W018F and W016M traveled together in early November).

NPS and its collaborators will continue to monitor the interactions, group formation, and genetic diversity of new wolves over winter and spring to document breeding (January/February) and denning (April/May) activity in Isle Royale’s wolf population. Closely monitoring social organization will provide insights into the genetic health of the population. The NPS has partnered with Dr. Kristin Brzeski, wildlife geneticist at Michigan Tech, to sequence the Isle Royale wolf genome for long-term monitoring of genetic health of the population.

"We have a unique opportunity to look simultaneously at the past and future of Isle Royale wolves’ genetic health," said Dr. Brzeski. "With the death of M183, we can now more fully understand how genetic isolation and inbreeding impacted the historic wolf population and use that to better monitor the new founders. This is an exciting time and we will be using cutting-edge genetic tools to track reproduction, inbreeding, and genetic change through time, hopefully providing a piece of the puzzle for maintaining a thriving Isle Royale wolf population."

According to Mark Romanski, NPS project coordinator and Division Chief of Natural Resources at Isle Royale, multiple lines of investigations regarding this population will help the NPS evaluate the success of the project over the next few years.

Fall 2019 First Wolf: Observation 6. Mark Romanski, Isle Royale National Parks’ division chief for natural resources and project leader for wolf relocation efforts, center, gets ready to record gray wolf information from Michigan DNR wildlife technician Brad Johnson, left, and Michigan DNR veterinary specialist Dan O’Brien. (Photo courtesy John Pepin, Michigan DNR)

"We are using everything we can in our toolbox to track how this population interacts with each other, prey and the landscape," Romanski noted. "We’ll continue to learn as much as we can moving forward to help with the decision to add wolves as needed to meet project objectives and document ecosystem effects."

The first wolf introductions on Isle Royale occurred in September 2018.

Isle Royale Superintendent Phyllis Green, left, and Ecologist Lynette Potvin prepare to open the crate to release the first new wolf relocated to Isle Royale in September 2018. (Photo courtesy John Pepin and National Park Service)

This video captures the first new wolf release:

A female wolf emerges from her crate on Isle Royale to begin exploring her new home on Sept. 26, 2018. (Video by Jacob W. Frank, courtesy National Park Service)

Isle Royale Ecologist Lynette Potvin speaks about the first wolf release:

Lynette Potvin discusses the work that went into preparing for the first wolf release on the island in September 2018. (Video by Jacob W. Frank, courtesy National Park Service)

The current population includes 7 females and 8 males. All introduced wolves are from the Great Lakes Region, translocated from northeastern Minnesota (W001F), the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (W017M, W018F, W019M), mainland Ontario, Canada (W005F, W016M), and Michipicoten Island in northeastern Lake Superior, Ontario, Canada (W007M, W009M, W010M, W011F, W012M, W013M, W014F and W015F).

Inset photo: Rolf Peterson (File photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Editor's Note: Learn more about Isle Royale National Park by visiting their Web site.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Michigan Tech students participate in COP25 in Madrid

By Kelley Christensen*
Posted December 6, 2019, and modified Dec. 12 on Michigan Tech News
Reprinted here with permission

Seven Michigan Tech students have participated in the COP25 global conference on climate change Dec. 2-13, 2019, in Madrid, Spain. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Seven Michigan Tech students from a range of academic disciplines have presented research and observed negotiations at the global conference on climate change held from Dec. 2 to Dec. 13, 2019, in Madrid, Spain.

Earlier this year Michigan Technological University was granted official observer status to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP25).

Michigan Tech sent these seven students to the global climate change conference in Madrid to present research findings related to four of the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDG): SDG 6, clean water and sanitation; SDG 7, affordable and clean energy; SDG 9, industry, innovation and infrastructure; and SDG 11, sustainable cities and communities. The students are also in Madrid to observe negotiations between nations concerning the threats climate change poses to humanity.

Pictured here at COP25 in Madrid are three of the Michigan Tech students who participated: from left, Adewale Adesanya, Alexis Pascaris, and Shardul Tiwari. (Photo courtesy Shardul Tiwari)

COP25 brings together policy makers, nongovernmental organizations and scientists. Originally slated to take place in Chile, the conference was moved to Madrid because of social unrest in Santiago. Sarah Green, professor of chemistry and scientific reviewer of the UN’s Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6), leads the group.

"Michigan Tech students are fully immersed in international climate science and policy this week at COP25," Green said. "I see very wide eyes as they experience the deluge of data at COP25 on everything from science of the cryosphere to climate finance. In collaboration with Colorado State University and Clark University, Tech students are presenting their work on links between the SDGs and climate action."

Green added, "These UNFCCC meetings are where science is translated into policy. Students are able to see this firsthand by observing the actual negotiating sessions."

The students attending COP25 are Adewale Adesanya, doctoral student in environmental and energy policy; Jessica Daignault, doctoral student in civil engineering; William Lytle, doctoral student in environmental and energy policy; Alexis Pascaris, master’s student in environmental and energy policy; Shardul Tiwari, doctoral student in environmental and energy policy; Kenny Larson, doctoral student in environmental engineering; and Karuna Rana, master’s student in environmental and energy policy. Also attending is Bruce Woodry, a Michigan Tech alumnus and CEO of Sigma Capital Group. Gabriel Ahrendt, master’s student in geology, was selected to attend the conference and participated in the research and presentation development, but was unable to go to Madrid when his flights to Chile could not be reimbursed.

The COP25 Experience

The students are part of a university consortium with Clark University, Colorado State University, Monash University in Australia, University of Indiana, Scripps Institute and the Mountain Institute.

On Dec. 3, some of the Michigan Tech students presented research, in partnership with students from Colorado State and Clark, in support of SDG 11. Their presentation focused on sustainability case studies they examined, from the residential to the community scale: Michigan Tech’s Sustainability Demonstration House; the Aldo Leopold Center in Baraboo, Wisconsin; Artefact in Glücksburg, Germany; and a middle class community Lake County, Illinois.

Others of the Michigan Tech contingent will present two case studies about renewable energy access at Clark University and Colorado State, and about a project to build microgrids out of solar panels in rural Rwanda. The students also participated in a press conference.

"Climate change, a global issue, requires cooperation and coordination with a multitude of actors and policy makers," Tiwari said. "COP25 gives the ideal platform for the actors to negotiate the targets for the global goal. Climate change mitigation and adaptation does not have to be a zero-sum game where one group’s losses profit another group."

Three of the students attending COP25 are also blogging about their experiences. Visit to read more.

Inset photo: Sarah Green, Michigan Tech professor of chemistry and scientific reviewer of the UN’s Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6). (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

* Kelley Christensen, author of this article, is a Michigan Tech Science and Technology Publications Writer.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Michigan House Water Protection Package is legislation for our children, our traditions

Press Release from the Anishinaabek Caucus of Michigan Democratic Party

Michigan House Democratic leaders present their Water Protection Legislative Package of 2019 during a Dec. 5, 2019, press conference. Speakers in support of the bill package also include Anishinaabek Caucus and environmental group leaders. (Photo courtesy Anishinaabek Caucus of Michigan Democratic Party)

LANSING -- Anishinaabek Caucus of Michigan Democratic Party Founder and Chair Andrea Pierce and several Anishinaabek Caucus members were in attendance at the Michigan House press conference for the Water Protection Legislative Package of 2019. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor), Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) and Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) are using legislation to affirm that all waters of Michigan are held in the public trust.

At a Dec. 5, 2019, Michigan House of Representatives press conference in Lansing, Michigan Democratic Party leaders present their Water Protection Legislative Package of 2019. The three-bill package affirms that all the waters of the state are held inalienably in the public trust, bans the diversion of bottled water outside the Great Lakes watershed and explicitly authorizes the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to protect water in its jurisdiction. (YouTube video courtesy Michigan House Democrats)

Rabhi’s bill puts water resources into the public trust for the benefit of the people of Michigan.

"We need to manage our water responsibly for the benefit of the people of our state, instead of allowing it to be diverted, polluted or exploited for corporate profits," Rabhi said.

Pohutsky’s bill returns oversight for water resources to the Department of Natural Resources in the areas where the DNR exercises oversight for game and fish.

"Michigan’s wealth of freshwater is central to our culture, our economy and our very survival," noted Pohutsky.

Hood’s bill bans exportation of bottle water extracted in Michigan outside the Great Lakes Basin, thereby closing the small container loophole.

"We should not be allowing corporations to profit off of permanently removing massive quantities of the water that belongs to all of us," Hood said.

These bills recognize that surface and groundwater within the Great Lake Basin is a complex and connected single hydrological body that rightfully belongs to the people of Michigan for the benefit and sustenance of the people of Michigan.

Thunderbird Woman represents water protectors. (Image © Isaac Murdoch and courtesy Anishinaabek Caucus of Michigan Democratic Party)

"As water is essential to all living things, we can agree that water needs to be protected from exploitation," said Val Toops, Anishinaabek Caucus member and candidate for Jackson County Sheriff.

Andrea Pierce, chair of the Anishinaabek Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party, urged all Michigan residents to call their state representatives and ask them to support the Water Protection Bill Package.

Anishinaabek Caucus members, from left, Val Toops, Andrea Pierce and Blackcrow. (Photo courtesy Anishinaabek Caucus)

"Advancing legislation to care for our water is one of the main reasons we have formed the Anishinaabek Caucus so that we can protect the culture and traditions of the original people of Michigan," Pierce explained. "We need to work for and protect the water and the land for the next seven generations."*

* Editor's Note: To learn more about the Anishinaabek Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party visit their Facebook page or email

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Rozsa Center to offer holiday music, art, storytelling beginning Dec. 6

Photos courtesy Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts.

HOUGHTON -- The Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts and Michigan Tech's Department of Visual and Performing Arts will host music, art and storytelling events this weekend for your holiday enjoyment.

Superior Wind Symphony presents "Wintry Mix" Dec. 6

The Superior Wind Symphony (SWS) will present a concert titled "Wintry Mix," a celebration of the music of the holiday season, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6. This music will warm hearts and uplift spirits as we settle into the dark and magic of the winter solstice, family celebrations, and Christmas. Small ensembles will play Christmas music in the Rozsa Lobby prior to the show, from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., to add to the holiday cheer of the evening.

The program includes contemporary band and jazz arrangements of traditional, classical, and folk holiday music, including Welsh, English, and Hebrew folk songs, a jazz band rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," and three pieces of music in original arrangements/adaptations by Michigan Tech’s Director of Bands and SWS Band Leader Mike Christianson, including his premier arrangement of Ralph Vaughn Williams' Winter’s Willow.

Tickets for "Wintry Mix" are on sale now, $13 for adults, $5 for youth, and no charge for Michigan Tech students with the Experience Tech fee, available by phone at (906) 487-2073, online at, in person at the Central Ticketing Office in the Student Development Complex, or at the Rozsa Box Office the evening of the performance. Please note the Rozsa Box Office only opens two hours prior to performances.

Hopscotch, Project Learning Lab’s End-of-Semester Student Art Exhibit, Dec. 6-10

The Rozsa Center and the Department of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) are excited to announce "Hopscotch," their semi-annual student showcase, featuring works of art created by Michigan Tech students who are participating in Project Learning Lab. The exhibition runs Friday-Tuesday, Dec. 6 - 10, 2019. A reception will be held from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6. The reception is free and all are welcome. Project Learning Lab is an innovative arts classroom based inside of Rozsa gallery b. Work on display was created by students in Lisa Gordillo’s Contemporary Sculpture and art and design classes.  

According to Gordillo, "Students from many campus disciplines are represented, including Business, Math, Engineering, Theatre, Kinesiology, and Sound Design. Students were encouraged to work with the gallery’s architecture, to explore alternative materials, and to create large-scale installations in the space. Students studied work by contemporary artists such as Diana Al-Hadid, Ai Wei Wei, Do Ho Suh, Ann Hamilton, and Richard Serra, then spent the semester creating their own works of art."

Gallery hours are Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Saturday from 1 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Famed radio show "Selected Shorts" comes to Rozsa Stage Dec. 7

The Rozsa Center will present an evening of warmth, holiday cheer, and storytelling by the tour of Public Radio International’s hit radio show "Selected Shorts" at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec.7. "Selected Shorts," a weekly public radio broadcast, has a simple approach: Great actors read great fiction in front of a live audience. The acclaimed national radio program airs on 150 public radio stations in 29 states, attracting over 300,000 listeners each week through the live show and podcast. Featured actors include Mike Doyle, Boyd Gaines, and Kirsten Vangsness. Part of this special evening of storytelling will include a showcase reading on stage by one of the featured actors of a local writer’s "UP Winter Story." The author is the winner of the "Selected Shorts Story Contest." To enhance the holiday mood of the evening, a handbell choir will play in the Rozsa lobby prior to the show. Click here for details about the actors.

This event is made possible with funding from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Crane Group. Tickets to Selected Shorts are on sale now, Adult: $22, Youth: $10, and Michigan Tech Students at no charge with Experience Tech Fee, and are available by phone, (906) 487-2073, online at, in person at the Central Ticketing Office in the Student Development Complex, or at the Rozsa Box office the night of the show. Please note the Rozsa Box Office is only open two hours before performances.

TUBACHRISTMAS is Sunday, Dec. 8, in Rozsa Lobby

TUBACHRISTMAS will fill the Rozsa Lobby with holiday music in a free concert from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8. TUBACHRISTMAS is an annual December event that occurs in honor of the first truly great tuba virtuoso, William "Bill" Bell who was born on Christmas Day. Tubists gather yearly in mass numbers around the globe to play songs of the season in performances free to the public.

TUBACHRISTMAS concerts are presented with permission from the Harvey Phillips Foundation, Inc.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Finnish Independence Day program to honor women Dec. 6 at Finnish American Heritage Center

Finnish author and renowned women's rights advocate Minna Canth (1844-1897), is pictured here in her youth (age 13-16). (Photo courtesy, published under Creative Commons)  

HANCOCK -- It’s been nearly 100 years since women in the U.S. earned the right to vote, exactly 100 years since the U.S. began official diplomatic relations with Finland, and 175 years since Minna Canth, Finland’s most famed champion for women’s rights, was born. Finlandia University’s Finnish American Heritage Center invites everyone to a program on Friday, Dec. 6, celebrating all of these milestones and Finland’s Independence Day.

Beginning at 6 p.m. at the Finnish American Heritage Center, the program honoring Finland’s Independence Day will feature some high-caliber music and drama, with a series of vignettes honoring six notable women from Finnish-American and Finnish religious and political circles who left an indelible mark on Finnish history on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. These portrayals will be interspersed with Finnish songs and hymns performed by a cadre of local musicians, including rising young vocalist Matt Riutta and acclaimed pianist Kathy Alatalo-Arten.

The program will also include a performance by the Kivajat Youth Folk Dancers, as well as the announcement of the Hankooki Heikki honoree for 2020 by the City of Hancock’s Finnish Theme Committee. In true Copper Country and Finnish-American style, this program is a collaboration of numerous volunteers who enjoy sharing their talents with the greater community.

The program is open to the public, and attendees are encouraged to wear their national costumes -- Finnish or otherwise -- to the event. For further details about the program, call (906) 487-7549 or (906) 487-7347.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Attorney General Nessel files response in her Line 5 lawsuit; three states file amicus brief supporting her argument

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. (Photo courtesy

LANSING -- In conjunction with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filing a response in her lawsuit against Enbridge, the Attorneys General of Minnesota, Wisconsin and California filed an amicus brief supporting her argument that the state has the obligation and authority to protect the public’s rights in public trust waters.

"It is rare to have the amicus support of other state attorneys general in a state case but the attorneys general for two of our fellow Great Lakes states and the state with one of the longest coastlines in the country clearly recognize the severity and the magnitude of this issue and the important role states play in protecting the public trust," said Nessel. "We are grateful that the Minnesota, Wisconsin, and California Attorneys General have joined forces with us to put the protection of our freshwater lakes over corporate profit."

Attorney General Nessel filed her response to Enbridge’s motion for summary disposition in the case she filed against Enbridge in Ingham County Circuit Court. In that case, Nessel seeks an order decommissioning Line 5, arguing that the continued operation of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac, under the 1953 easement, violates the public trust doctrine, is a common law public nuisance, and violates the Michigan Environmental Protection Act because it is likely to cause pollution impairment and destruction of water and other natural resources.

The Enbridge Line 5 Pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. (File photo courtesy National Wildlife Federation)

Under a schedule entered by the court, the Attorney General and Enbridge filed motions for summary disposition in late September and both parties filed their responses to those motions on Nov. 12, 2019. In her response, the Attorney General again focused on the role of the Attorney General and the courts in protecting the environment, and on the continuing vitality of the common law -- through legal principles like the public trust and public nuisance -- as tools to protect the public’s interest in navigable waters and a healthy environment.

Minnesota, Wisconsin and California helped drive home those points, highlighting the importance of the public trust doctrine from their perspective. The amicus brief focused specifically on Enbridge’s argument that federal law preempted the states’ from protecting their bottomlands and navigable waters.

Finally, the court recently ordered both parties to address the relevance of the recent Court of Claims’ decision in Enbridge’s lawsuit against the State concerning the constitutionality of 2018 PA 359. The Attorney General’s response laid out why that decision has no bearing on her lawsuit against Enbridge.*

The Attorney General and Enbridge will have opportunity to file reply briefs on Dec. 10, 2019. After those briefs are filed, Circuit Court Judge James Jamo will determine whether he hears oral argument before he issues a decision.

*Editor's Note: See this Oct. 31, 2019, post from Oil and Water Don't Mix on Public Act 359 of 2018 establishing a tunnel authority: "Court Ruling On Enbridge Line 5 Leaves Great Lakes At Risk."

Monday, November 11, 2019

Guest Article: Experiencing People of the Heart Water Walk

By Charli Mills*
With photos by Charli Mills and other water protectors

Charli Mills of Hancock (right), author of this article, offers omelets for "breakfast on the go" to People of the Heart Water Walkers. (Photo © and courtesy Cynthia Drake)

It's one thing to know something in our heads. Science and technology fill our minds with facts and discoveries. It's good to learn, to have a growth mindset, and an open mind. But we also need heart. We need that spiritual knowledge for growth that is humane. It's easier to be a thinker in our modern world because opening up the heart risks vulnerability. This recent Water Walk (October 19-21, 2019) called for "people of the heart." Participation doesn't ask anyone to change their minds or beliefs. It doesn't compare traditions or cultures. It simply asks that you show up with a loving heart for the Water we all share.

No matter our differences or political leanings, no matter if we are scientists or ministers, none of us can deny the simple truth that Water is life.

Water protector Laura Smyth of Calumet makes an offering to the Water at Jacob's Falls, near Eagle River, Mich., on Oct. 19, 2019, the first day of the People of the Heart Water Walk. (Photo © and courtesy Charli Mills)

As a literary artist and storyteller, I felt drawn to the movement. I wanted to experience the story of a Water Walk. I helped where needed. I used what skills I could share. Everybody did. We learned to trust Kathy Chosa when she said everything would all fall into place. And it did. People showed up with bologna sandwiches, others brought ones made with nut butters and homemade jams. No one made judgements and everyone tasted satisfaction.

I walked the first day before dawn with the group out of Copper Harbor in the inky dark. We knew each other by voice. Alone, I peeled off to return to my support car and get ahead four miles to my friend Bonnie Harrer who had fixed omelet muffins and air-pots of coffee. We passed them out to the Walkers, and she lent me the air-pots to use throughout all three days. Exactly as Kathy said. What we need when we need it.

A view of the supplies in the trunk of Charli Mills' support vehicle. (Photo © and courtesy Charli Mills)

Hospitality became my role, making sure Walkers had nutrition, hydration, caffeination, and an encouraging smile.

On the second day, when we crossed the bridge into Houghton, I wanted to walk in support. Everyone wanted to walk across the Lift Bridge! That meant someone had to drive a support vehicle ahead of the Walkers. I stepped in to do that. After parking, I found a spot to pan the scene and catch the moment Kathy Chosa emerged with Nibi (Water) in the copper pot. Her son Jacob walked the Eagle Staff and on her other side her mother, Florine, walked. Three generations, walking for the future of Water.

People of the Heart Water Walkers cross the Portage Lift Bridge to Houghton on Oct. 20, 2019. Organizer Kathy Chosa (front, center) is accompanied by her mother, Florine, and her son Jacob. (Photo © and courtesy Charli Mills)

The urge to join with them pulled me in, and I cut off my video to walk. Like a tributary, I flowed into the Walkers. The Water unites us.

After crossing the Portage Lift Bridge, the Water Walkers head through Houghton along the Waterfront Trail to Nara Park. (Photo © and courtesy Charli Mills)

The third day, I followed my friend’s recipe and made omelets-on-the-go and coffee. Another friend brought bananas for the hospitality car. Everything has been a communal effort, not the work of one person but of many hands and hearts. Two churches -- Bethany Lutheran and Good Shepherd Lutheran -- opened their doors to us. People told me they were praying.

One of the Walkers, Erika Vye, asked if I wanted to carry Nibi. I told her I didn't think I could. The Water has to keep moving and I’ve had three back surgeries, which stunts my stride. I felt like the most unlikely woman to carry the Water. Gently, like waves on Lake Superior when it's a sunny summer day, Erika encouraged me. Another woman offered to drive my support car. And Erika agreed to walk behind me with the Eagle Staff.

Charli Mills carries the copper pot of Nibi (Water), while Erika Vye of Copper Harbor bears the protective Eagle Staff. (Photo © and courtesy Donica Hope Dravillas)

When I stood along the road to relay the Water, I faced the power coming directly at me the way I have faced gales on Superior for photographs. Here, I could not keep a safe distance. I had to leap, to carry Nibi. Though afraid, I was willing. The whole walk, I stayed prayerful, grateful, focusing on what Water gives us. At one point I could feel all the Kwe, all the women who had walked or will walk the Water, surrounding me and flowing with Nibi. It was transformative.

No longer was I support; I was a Water Walker. I am still me -- my core values have not changed. But I have a new sensitivity to Water. Now, when I cross the Lift Bridge, I get tears in my eyes. I stood over a grated water drainage in my neighborhood last week just to be with the water. I'm taking walks in the rain and snow, less conscious of my stride. I love each and every woman I walked with and fed. When Kathy called me Mama Bear at our last feast, I accepted it. We did the work of the Water and will continue. I am Kwe. Water is life.

* Note: Charli Mills is a storyteller and lead buckaroo at, an online literary community. World headquarters is located at Hancock within ceded territories of the Anishinaabe. Her literary art is 99-word stories. The following are from a collection inspired by and dedicated to the People of the Heart Water Walkers:

SONGS OF KWE (A Collection of 99-word Stories)

Roadside Education

You lower your car window along M26 where it curls around Cat Harbor, following a small pageant of people walking down the road. The truck in front of you has a magnetic sign that reads, WATER WALK. What is a Water Walk, you ask? Good question. It’s a relay of water scooped from Copper Harbor, making its way to Keweenaw Bay. Women pass the vessel between them, walking without stopping. The Anishinaabekwe teach us that this is the work of the water. We pray for water’s future, contemplate water’s gifts. You nod, accept the explanation and say, "Thank you."

People of the Heart Water Walkers head down M26, followed by their security truck. (Photo © and courtesy Charli Mills)

Grandmothers on Wheels

Elvera Lantz of L'Anse (left) and Diane Charron of Baraga, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community elders, ride in Diane's golf cart the 90 miles from Copper Harbor to Sand Point (Baraga) during the People of the Heart Water Walk. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Don’t underestimate Grandmothers in a golf cart. From their perspective, they see all -- the younger ones trudging forth, the husks of four-leggeds on the pavement, the silent soaring of eagles overhead. They notice the tilt of the Eagle Staff, the sway of Nibi’s copper kettle. As Kwe relay the water, the Grandmothers speed up or slow down. Like Nibi they are always flowing, always in motion, moving forward. For three days and 90 miles, the Grandmothers keep pace. It would be a mistake to think them insubstantial. They lead the future from behind. Fierce in a golf cart. Proud.

The Seventh Generation

Madeline, daughter of Donica Hope Dravillas of Copper Harbor, carries Nibi while Jacob, son of Kathy Chosa, carries the Eagle Staff during the People of the Heart Water Walk. (Photo © and courtesy Charli Mills)

She rounds the bend, walking the shoulder of the highway, her gaze intense. She has grown from child to the woman-she-will-be in a span of three days. The women, Kwe, follow. In her hand she grips the handle, carrying the life-force of us all -- Water.

He saunters a step behind, proudly holding aloft the Eagle Staff of his people, bringing balance. He will grow into the enormity of his spirit, guarding the procession, the women, and the Water.

Children, Aunties, Grandmothers. Uniting to do the work of Water to keep it clean and alive for the next seven generations.


Kwe, the women carrying the Water, must relay the copper kettle of Nibi while they walk to keep it moving. (Photo © and courtesy Charli Mills)

In my dream, women dance around me, skirts against skirts, shawl tips held to shawl tips like outstretched wings of ravens. The safety of the circle lulls me to sleep, a song of Kwe, a women’s lullaby. I would have forgotten this dream had I not walked the water. Work is not meant to be easy. Each of us push our limitations, open up to willingness, triumph over fear. In that moment when the work hard-pressed me, the water lifted me up and I glimpsed the shadows of the dream, felt the flow of my skirt touching other skirts.

Honor Guard

From the darkest hours before dawn until the sun set, the Water Walker truck drove honor guard behind the Grandmothers who watched over the Kwe and the copper kettle. It was not about the walk; it was about the water. Traversing the Portage Canal Lift Bridge, Hancock and Houghton City Police protected the procession. From there, Water Walkers continued their relay along the Waterfront Trail to Nara Park, Grandmothers in pursuit. A man mowing his lawn paused and placed his hand over his heart with the reverence of eleven eagles that later welcomed home the People of the Heart.

People of the Heart arrive at the Sand Point Lighthouse in Baraga, on Keweenaw Bay (Lake Superior) on Oct. 21, 2019. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Editor's Note: If you missed Keweenaw Now's videos and photos of the People of the Heart Water Walk, see the article: "Native, non-Native water protectors complete 90-mile Water Walk near Lake Superior."

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Native, non-Native water protectors complete 90-mile Water Walk near Lake Superior

By Michele Bourdieu
With additional photos and videos by water protectors

Water Walkers gather at the Sand Point Lighthouse at the end of their 90-mile walk from Copper Harbor to Baraga Oct. 19, 20 and 21. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

BARAGA, Mich. -- Completing a three-day, 90-mile Water Walk near Lake Superior from Copper Harbor, People of the Heart Water Walkers -- Native and non-Native -- arrived at their destination, Sand Point Lighthouse in the Ojibwa Campground, Baraga, on Oct. 21, 2019.

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) member Kathy Smith, one of the organizers of the Walk, was happy to report that three generations of her family were represented in the Walk since her mother, Florine Chosa, and Kathy's son Jacob, participated with her.

Florine Chosa (facing camera) of KBIC, mother of Water Walk organizer Kathy Smith, participates in the People of the Heart Water Walk. (Photo © and courtesy Donica Hope Dravillas)

Kathy said her mother found it very moving to walk for the water and she had tears in her eyes from the realization that she, her daughter and her grandson were walking together.

"We must lead by example," Kathy said. "Our youth is our future. To see my son walk with his grandmother was a beautiful sight. I brought my son to bring that balance of the masculine and the feminine. He was the only male for the last two days on the walk so we could have that balance. As Anishinaabe we must plant the seeds in our youth because they are our future. We must teach our youth to be good stewards for our sacred water and the environment. That's where it is going to continue for the next 7 generations."

On the final day of the Walk, the youngest Water Walkers -- Jacob (10) of Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, son of Kathy Smith, carries the Eagle Staff and Madeline (9) of Copper Harbor, daughter of Donica Hope Dravillas, carries the copper pail of Nibi (Water) on the way to the Water’s edge at Sandpoint Lighthouse. (Photo © and courtesy Donica Hope Dravillas)

Donica Hope Dravillas of Copper Harbor was happy her daughter, Madeline, was able to participate as well. She noted Madeline was at first a little unsure of carrying Nibi when she saw so many strong women carrying it.

"After day one, I asked an Auntie to suggest to Madeline that she carry the Eagle Staff," Donica wrote on Facebook. "Madeline accepted. After that she started to carry Nibi. And after that she became a part. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to these women for encouraging my daughter."

Donica told Keweenaw Now her interest in the water walks is related to her experience at Standing Rock a few years ago.

"When I came back from there I made contact with Terri Denomie (of KBIC) about a water ceremony at Hunters' Point (in Copper Harbor) and then went to a Water Walk at Keweenaw Bay," she said.

The Walk began in Copper Harbor early Saturday morning, Oct. 19.

On Saturday, Oct. 19, People of the Heart Water Walkers gather before dawn in Copper Harbor to begin their Walk along Lake Superior. (Photo © and courtesy Gina Nicholas)

On hand for the start of the Walk was Erika Vye of Copper Harbor, who participated in all three days of the Water Walk.

"Kathy put it best when she said, 'It isn’t about the walk, it’s about the water,'" Erika noted. "This walk was not a protest or a display of strength or endurance; it was pure and from the heart. Ego is set aside. We walked together to do this important work -- carry the water forward, inspire and raise awareness."

The Walk begins ... (Photo © and courtesy Gina Nicholas)

... and continues with a bit of light rain. (Photo © and courtesy Gina Nicholas) 

As the sun comes up, Walkers head down scenic M-26 along Lake Superior from Copper Harbor toward Eagle Harbor. (Photo © and courtesy Gina Nicholas)

Keweenaw Now joined the Walkers in Eagle Harbor. Some were riding part of the way in a van provided by the Keweenaw Adventure Company of Copper Harbor.

Walkers pass through Eagle Harbor on Lake Superior. The Water Walk is led by Anishinaabekwe -- women from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community -- who are joined by other water protectors, Native and non-Native. Click on YouTube icon for larger screen. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Shelby Coleman of Copper Harbor, who was riding in the Keweenaw Adventure Company van driven by her friend Nick Wiersgalla, said the Walkers had left Copper Harbor at 7 a.m. after doing a tobacco offering.

"That (tobacco) promotes goodness in the travels and good interaction between the participants and the water," she said.

The van carried snacks and first aid supplies. Other volunteers followed or preceded the Walk in support vehicles and provided additional snacks and water or coffee. One of those was Charli Mills, who moved to the Keweenaw from New Mexico, where she had become interested in Native American cultures. Before driving her vehicle ahead of the Walkers she left it to walk with them at the start of the Walk and then walked back to get her car.

"I walked this morning from Astor Shipwreck Park (across from Fort Wilkins) to the edge of Copper Harbor. It was pitch black," Charli said. "Walking back to get ahead reminded me of the role of the sacred clown -- someone who goes backwards to move the story forward."*

Charli's friend Bonnie Harrer of Copper Harbor lent her support by fixing a breakfast of omelette muffins and providing lots of coffee for the Walkers. In her vehicle Charli carried pots of Bonnie's coffee, snacks and a 10-gallon water jug MacDonald's of Houghton lent the walkers for the weekend.

During the Water Walk, Charli Mills carries Nibi, while Erika Vye bears the protective Eagle Staff. (Photo © and courtesy Donica Dravillas)

From Eagle Harbor the Walkers continued to Cat Harbor, where some offered asema, sacred tobacco, to the water from the beach. Julie Belew of Houghton was one who made such an offering.

The leaders of the Walk, carrying the copper pail of Nibi, protected by the Eagle Staff, keep up a steady pace. Some participants pause to make a tobacco offering. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

"Those are prayers in the tobacco (asema) -- an offering of thanksgiving for the water," Julie said.

A young family from Copper Harbor -- Jon and Natalie Schubbe and their young son, Eli -- also paused near the beach at Cat Harbor.

Jon and Natalie Schubbe of Copper Harbor combined walking and riding with son Eli. Here they pause for a photo at Cat Harbor. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Further along, heading for Eagle River, some made a pit stop at the Great Sand Bay facilities. There Keweenaw Now had an opportunity to meet the two hardy elders riding in the golf cart bearing the American flag and the flag of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

KBIC elders Elvera Lantz of L'Anse and Diane Charron of Baraga ride in Diane's golf cart during the 90-mile Water Walk -- about 30 miles each day -- with just jackets and blankets for warmth. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

"We're both elders of the Tribe, and we're all friends," Diane said. "We're supporting the Water Walk (planned months ago). We do one from Pequaming to Sand Point in Baraga every summer. It's a 17-mile walk. This is a first. People from the Keweenaw asked if we would do it."

And do it they did, with Walkers taking turns carrying the copper pail of Nibi, that must keep moving all day until the group stops for the night.

According to Kathy Smith, the water must keep moving in one direction, since that is the way water flows. When the group has an overnight stop, they may do a water ceremony at the end of that day and then resume carrying it the next day. The bearer of the Eagle Staff, as a protector, accompanies the person carrying Nibi.

After stopping briefly at Great Sand Bay, some participants hurried to catch up with the leaders, heading for Eagle River (MI). Walkers spent the night in the homes of volunteers along the route, following a feast at Bethany Lutheran Church in Mohawk Saturday evening.

People of the Heart Water Walkers make a pit stop at Great Sand Bay and then hurry to catch up with the leaders. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

On Sunday, Oct. 20, the Water Walkers passed through Ripley and crossed the Portage Lift Bridge to Houghton.

Led by Kathy Smith and her son Jacob, People of the Heart Water Walkers arrive at the Portage Lift Bridge and cross it to Houghton on their second day of the 90-mile Walk from Copper Harbor to Baraga, Michigan. (Video © Charli Mills for Keweenaw Now)

In Houghton the Walkers enjoyed a gathering and feast at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

On Monday, Oct. 21, they set out early again and reached their final destination, the Sand Point Lighthouse in the Ojibwa Campground in Baraga.

As they approach their final destination in Baraga, People of the Heart Water Walkers pick up more participants for the walk to the Sand Point Lighthouse. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

When they came to the boundary of the KBIC Reservation, the Walkers were greeted by the sight of 11 eagles.

Water Walk participant Donica Hope Dravillas of Copper Harbor captures the flight of 11 eagles that welcomed the Walkers at the border of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Reservation. (Video © and courtesy Donica Hope Dravillas)

Assisted for safety by escorts, Water Walkers enter the Ojibwa Campground on their way to their final destination, the Sand Point Lighthouse on Keweenaw Bay. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Welcomed with bashkodejiibik nookwezigan (burning of medicine sage) by Lisa Denomie of the KBIC Cultural Committee, Water Walkers continue through the Ojibwa Campground to the Sand Point Lighthouse. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

At the completion of the Walk, near the Sand Point Lighthouse, KBIC elder Diane Charron offers asema (sacred tobacco) to the Lake. Kathy Smith offers thanks to the water. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

At their final destination near the Sand Point Lighthouse, Water Walkers describe the welcome home they received from their brother and sister eagles as they crossed into the KBIC Reservation. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Terri Denomie, second from right in the video above, whose Anishinaabe name is Gichigamikwe (Great Lakes Woman), called the eagles her sisters and brothers because she is of the Eagle Clan.

"I was gifted the Eagle Staff in 2016 to take care of when my sister, Pauline Knapp Spruce, walked on," Terri said. "I'm doing her work, and she's guiding me along the way."**

Cynthia May Drake of Ripley participated in the Walk all three days.

Cynthia May Drake carries the Eagle Staff during Day 1 of the Walk at Cat Harbor on Lake Superior. Terri Denomie of KBIC carries Nibi, and Erika Vye of Copper Harbor follows closely. (Photo © and courtesy Charli Mills)

"We are a community formed by water," Cynthia said. "We may have thought that we walked the Water, but She was gathering us together in community and walking us, showing us along the way those three days, how to build community and gather in together. All of us had roles to play from organizing the event to cooking food or cleaning up at a feast, to hosting someone in a home overnight, to being a driver of the 'respite mobile' to feeding coffee and water or muffins from the back of the trunk of the car. It was a collective effort. We did not measure miles we walked; we measured the depth of Spirit we gained as we walked with our Sisters or held them up in the journey."

Anne Newcombe, who drove one of the support vehicles during the Water Walk, attributed the success of the Walk to a whole community of participants, including the following:
Officer Darren of the Houghton City Police and his unnamed officer from the Hancock City Police for helping the Walkers cross traffic safely across the bridge Sunday afternoon; both Bethany Lutheran (Mohawk) and Good Shepherd Lutheran (Houghton) for feast space, as well as the KBIC Cultural Committee for the final night’s wonderful feast; Ronnie Mae Krueger; Shelby Laubhan’s and Sam Raymond’s Keweenaw Adventure business, Tressa and Vince Alvarado; KBIC for the use of support vans; and all of the overnight home hosts for the Walkers and Grandmothers -- Bucky Beach, Lake Fanny Hooe Resort, Ray and Viki Weglarz, Jenny Lester, Charli and Todd Mills, Anne Newcombe and Will Cantrell, and Cynthia May Drake.


* Watch for a guest article on the People of the Heart Water Walk by Charli Mills, coming soon.

** The Keweenaw Bay 6th Annual Pauline Knapp-Spruce Memorial Water Walk was held on July 24, 2019 -- a 17-mile walk from First Sand Beach at Pequaming Point to Sand Point. Pauline Knapp-Spruce participated in the KBIC welcoming of the 2011 Mother Earth Water Walkers, led by the late Josephine Mandamin of Thunder Bay, Ont. See our August 5, 2011, article, "KBIC welcomes 2011 Mother Earth Water Walk participants."

State of Michigan appeals Court of Claims' decision in Enbridge lawsuit concerning tunnel project

LANSING -- Today, Nov. 5, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced she has filed an appeal of the Court of Claims' decision in the lawsuit brought by Enbridge against the Governor and the Departments of Natural Resources and Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

The lawsuit concerns the lame duck statute 2018 PA 359 -- that would allow Enbridge to move forward with a multi-year project to build a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac to continue shipping petroleum products, more than 85 percent of which are destined for Canada. In the interim, Line 5 will remain in its current, exposed state on the bottomlands in the Straits.

"We always expected this matter would be resolved in the appellate courts," Nessel said. "While I disagree with Judge Kelly’s decision, I appreciate how promptly he addressed this case and issued his opinion. This is just the first step in the court process, and I am more resolved than ever to continue this fight on behalf of the people of Michigan."

The Claim of Appeal was filed today in the Court of Appeals. Under the court’s rules the state’s brief would be filed within 56 days, Enbridge’s response is due 35 days after the state’s brief, and the state’s reply is due 21 days after that. The court would then set a date for oral argument.

The ruling in this case has no impact on Attorney General Nessel’s separate lawsuit to decommission Line 5 based on the public trust doctrine and other common law and statutory claims. That case is currently before Ingham County Circuit Court Judge James Jamo. Remaining briefs in that case are due November 12 and December 10.

Inset photo: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. (Photo courtesy

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Annual 41 North Film Festival to offer 20 films, music, special events Oct 31-Nov. 3 at Rozsa

A scene from ANGELIQUE'S ISLE, the 41 North Film Festival featured film, by filmmaker/producer Michelle Derosier, who will be a special guest at the festival on Saturday, Nov. 2, at the Rozsa Center. (Photos courtesy Erin Smith, director, 41 North Film Festival)

HOUGHTON -- The annual 41 North Film Festival will be held from Thursday, Oct. 31 to Sunday, Nov. 3, at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts. This year’s program features over 20 films from around the world, along with music, events, and special guests Anishinaabe filmmaker/producer Michelle Derosier and Michigan Tech alumnus actor/writer/producer Curtis Fortier.

A scene from HUMAN NATURE -- a provocative exploration of CRISPR’s far-reaching implications, through the eyes of the scientists who discovered it, the families it’s affecting, and the bioengineers who are testing its limits.

Delving into the complexities of editing the human genome is the new film HUMAN NATURE, to be shown at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31. It will be followed by a Q and A with Dr. Caryn Heldt, Dr. Paul Goetsch, and Dr. Alexandra Morrison.

In PICTURE CHARACTER, Directors Martha Shane and Ian Cheney lead viewers on a deep dive into the ever evolving world of emojis, from their humble beginnings in Japan to mobile keyboards the world over.

The festival will present PICTURE CHARACTER (an Emoji
Documentary) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1. This informative and entertaining film covers everything from how emojis came into existence to how new emojis are added to the unicode system. To add to the fun, those who come in an emoji-inspired costume will be entered in a drawing for a prize. After the film, the Rozsa lobby will be the scene of music and emoji cookie decorating.

HONEYLAND is an intimate film that tells the story of Hatidze Muratova, the last in a long line of Macedonian wild beekeepers. The film will be followed by a panel discussion with Victor Busov and Kathy Halvorsen, Michigan Tech professors; and Melissa Hronkin, teacher of art at the Houghton Portage Public Schools, Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College and Finlandia University.

Saturday, Nov. 2, will feature a full day of programming about our relationship to the environment. Films include ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH at noon, THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM at 2 p.m., HONEYLAND at 4 p.m. (followed by a panel discussion) and the featured presentation of special guest Michelle Derosier and her film ANGELIQUE’S ISLE at 7:30 p.m. -- inspired by the true story of Angelique Mott, an Anishinaabe woman who, with her husband, was abandoned by unscrupulous copper miners and left to die during the winter of 1845 on an island off of Isle Royale (today known as Mott Island).

Angelique and Charlie, in ANGELIQUE’S ISLE.

On Sunday, Nov. 3, Michigan Tech alumnus Curtis Fortier will be on hand at 1:45 p.m. to present and discuss some of his work as an actor/writer/producer. Fortier will be followed by a new docudrama about the life of information theorist Claude Shannon (THE BIT PLAYER) at 3:30 p.m.

The festival will close Sunday evening with MAIDEN at 7 p.m. -- the thrilling and emotional story of the first all-female crew to compete in the Whitbread Round-the-World Yacht Race.

See the full line-up of films and events at The festival is free and open to the public. Tickets can be reserved at or by calling 906-487-2073 and will also be available in the Rozsa lobby prior to each film.

Click here for the complete Schedule of films and events.

Click here for links to descriptions of the films.