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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Guest article: Hosting the water protectors on the Menominee River

By Gail and Roger Meyer
With photos and videos by water protectors, as indicated

 
Videographer Tony Corey, sharing a canoe with Menominee canoe trip co-organizer Wayne Swett, raises his paddle to signal the group's arrival at the home of hosts Gail and Roger Meyer on July 4, 2020, the third day of the 4-day trip down the Menominee River to call attention to the threats posed by the projected Back 40 mine. (Photo © and courtesy Polly Hubbard)

We are Gail and Roger Meyer. This is our 2nd time with the river experience. Last year’s trip was unplanned for us; circumstances led them to our home on the Menominee. The bald eagle showed them the way, which was something we’ll never forget.

Dawn Wilber, Menominee tribal member and co-organizer of the canoe trip, videotaped this eagle from her canoe. (Video © and courtesy Dawn Wilber)

Wayne Swett, Menominee tribal member and co-organizer of the canoe trip, captured this close-up of one of many eagles the Menominee paddlers spotted during their trip this year. (Photo © and courtesy Wayne Swett)

On July 4, 2020, the third day of their trip down the Menominee River, water protectors launch their canoes and kayaks on the way to the home of Gail and Roger Meyer, where they will spend a restful night before their final day on the river. (Video © and courtesy Tina Lesperance)

On Day 3, canoes and kayaks arrive at Grand Rapids Ingalls boat landing for a portage to their next launch on the river, heading for the home of Gail and Roger Meyer. (Video © and courtesy Tina Lesperance)

Tina Lesperance, center, with her camera, is pictured here at McAllister Bridge, where the paddlers again launched canoes and kayaks after the portage from Grand Rapids on their way to the Meyers' home on July 4.

This year we were ready for the arrival of the water protectors, anticipating seeing the faces of friends and others we had not yet met. They came on Saturday afternoon in the heat, smiles on their faces and an unexplainable calm among them. A few of our family and friends joined to support their journey as well.

Canoe trip participants arrive at Gail and Roger Meyer's home for a relaxing visit and camp-out on July 4. (Photo © and courtesy Wayne Swett)

Gail and Roger Meyer, authors of this article, with their granddaughter Elena, visit with Dawn Wilber, right, who had stayed at their home during the 2019 Menominee canoe trip and returned this year. (Photo © and courtesy Dawn Wilber)

Canoers and kayakers enjoy a pleasant break at Gail and Roger Meyer's home. (Photo © and courtesy Polly Hubbard)

Hosts Gail and Roger provided plenty of room for the campers' tents. (Photo © and courtesy Polly Hubbard)

After camp was set up, we shared prayers of thanksgiving and ate. There were a lot of comments about the wildlife and fish they saw along the way.

Canoe trip participants enjoy a healthy meal during their overnight stop at Gail and Roger Meyer's home on Day 3 of their trip down the Menominee River. (Photo © and courtesy Polly Hubbard)

Some of the dishes served at the copious meal the water protectors enjoyed at the Meyers' home. Group organizer Wayne Swett commented, "Our hosts Roger and Gail Meyer prepared an awesome meal of traditional foods like venison, wild rice and fruits for us hungry paddlers. Everyone just about cleaned up everything! Dawn Wilber had prepared the BEST wild rice dish I've ever tasted and won my heart over! Paired it up with venison meatballs and gravy! Requesting this again for next year's trip." (Photo © and courtesy Wayne Swett)

A memorable feast! (Photo © and courtesy Wayne Swett)

Around the fire, stories were shared. History, teachings, the story of the bald eagle, the original water walkers, cultural differences and how it is ok to disagree but to understand each other. We saw the respect we all should have of taking care of our water, air, trees, animals, and our earth. And each other.

Water protectors share stories and teachings around the campfire at the Meyers'. July 4th fireworks can be heard in the distance. Tina Lesperance noted, "Wonderful stories of their creation and what the great eagle means to them were told. Stories of Grandmother Josephine, the world's first and most famous Water Walker were related to those in attendance. It was a wonderful evening!" (Video © and courtesy Wayne Swett)

Their past, the good and the bad, is shared with the young.  Because what happened in the past affects us, and what happens now affects our children and their children. There were 4 generations of our family here, from age 4 to 90, so that point really hit home. Our children were excited to have heard some of their story and will take that with them on their life journeys.

Since it was the 4th of July, many fireworks were also witnessed up and down the Menominee River.

Fireworks seen from the Meyers' on July 4, 2020. (Photo © and courtesy Wayne Swett)

The next morning after all were awake and ate, the group loaded up and headed downstream to their next destination.

Wayne Swett rises early on July 5, 2020, to capture these peaceful sights and sounds of the Menominee River from the home of Gail and Roger Meyer before the group sets out for their fourth and final day on the river. (Video © and courtesy Wayne Swett) 

Guest authors Roger and Gail Meyer were also subjects of an interview by videographer Anthony (Tony) Corey, who is working on a documentary about the story of water, including the Menominee people on the Menominee River. (Photo © and courtesy Anthony Corey)

Their visit was our pleasure. We now have more friends in our lives! These people are genuinely real. Their heritage is obviously very important to them, their way of life. Many thanked us over and over again. We thanked them for doing what they are doing and were happy to assist along the way.  We are never too old to learn!

Editor's Notes:

Watch for another episode of the 2nd Annual Menominee canoe trip on the Menominee River, including their arrival at the Great Bear -- coming soon!

See also our July 3, 2020, article, "Second annual Menominee canoe trip against Back 40 mine begins; water protectors overcome challenges on Menominee River."