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Thursday, October 08, 2020

People of the Heart Water Walk, Oct. 10-12, to include distance participation in honoring water resources

This year People of the Heart Water Walkers will walk 90 miles on behalf of life's most precious resource, nibi (water), from the Sandpoint Lighthouse in Baraga to the Copper Harbor Lighthouse Oct. 10, 11 and 12. (Image © Isaac Murdoch and courtesy People of the Heart Water Walk)

BARAGA, Mich. -- The People of the Heart Water Walkers will host its second annual Water Walk to honor water resources from Saturday, Oct 10, to Monday, Oct. 12 -- Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Water Walkers will walk nearly 90 miles through the Keweenaw Peninsula along Gichigami. The route this year will be reversed from the previous year, beginning at Sandpoint Lighthouse in Baraga and concluding at the Copper Harbor Lighthouse at Astor Shipwreck Park, Copper Harbor.

On the first day of the 2019 People of the Heart Water Walk from Copper Harbor to Baraga, Laura Smyth of Calumet makes an offering to the water at Jacob's Falls, near Eagle River, Mich. (File photo © and courtesy Charli Mills)

This year, because of the rise in COVID cases in the region, distance participation is encouraged. A core group of walkers will undertake the main route. Others interested in doing this work for water may share their personal Water Walk experiences virtually through the group's Facebook page @peopleoftheheart or through Google sites at

The Water Walk is conducted through Anishinaabe ceremonial protocol with traditional understanding of the natural environment. Anishinaabekweg from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) willl assist in the walk. In this walk, women lead the ceremony carrying a copper vessel filled with nibi, the Anishinaabe word for water. The water continually moves through the 1842 ceded territory throughout the day beginning at sunrise and into the afternoon. An eagle staff is carried beside them as protector.

The conclusion of the three-day event coincides with Indigenous Peoples' Day. This annual day of celebration -- which falls on Monday, October 12 -- honors the peoples, histories and cultures of Indigenous populations across the Americas.

Sponsors of the Walk include the Indigenous Peoples' Day Campaign of Upper Michigan, the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR), the Copper Harbor Improvement Association, and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

People of the Heart Water Walkers join those of all colors, faiths and philosophies to work together for life's most precious resource: nibi.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

UP Energy Task Force to meet online Oct. 7

The Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force has scheduled its next online meeting for 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7, to discuss energy options in the U.P. and begin to formulate possible recommendations for its report.

Sarah Banas Mills, senior project manager at the Graham Sustainability Institute and lecturer at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, will discuss attitudes about energy in the Upper Peninsula and renewable energy options for the region. Following the presentation, there will be time allotted for public comments.

The meeting begins at 1 p.m. via the Microsoft Teams online platform. Registration is not necessary to attend. To participate, go to and click on the meeting’s Teams link. Those who are only able to join by telephone can dial 248-509-0316 and use the conference ID 867 579 60 #.

Members of the public who wish to speak at the meeting are asked to send an email to with "Request for Public Comment During October Meeting" in the subject line and your name. Members of the public who attend the meeting but who did not submit their names ahead of time will be allowed to comment. Each speaker will have a three-minute time limit.

Comments regarding the work of the UP Energy Task Force can be submitted to

The U.P. Energy Task Force must submit its report on overall U.P. energy issues and alternatives to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by March 31, 2021. In April, the Task Force sent to the Governor its recommendations on propane availability in the U.P. 

The Governor has asked the U.P. Energy Task Force to formulate alternative solutions for meeting the region’s energy needs -- with a focus on security, reliability, affordability and environmental soundness. The Executive Order also asked the Task Force to identify and evaluate potential changes to energy supply and distribution in the U.P., the impacts of such changes, and alternatives for meeting the area’s energy needs due to such changes.

Wednesday’s meeting is being held in accordance with Gov. Whitmer’s and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendations designed to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Monday, October 05, 2020

Governor Whitmer releases Video urging masks, social distancing to keep schools, businesses open and protect workers; Western UP Health Dept. urges same COVID-19 mitigation strategies

LANSING -- Today, Monday, Oct. 5, Governor Gretchen Whitmer released a video on social media urging Michiganders, the legislature, the president, and Congress to do their part to protect families, frontline workers, and small businesses from the COVID-19 pandemic. Also today, the Western UP Health Department issued a statement in response to the recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling against the Governor's executive orders, urging residents to be consistent in keeping core COVID-19 mitigation strategies in place while guidance that is more specific is developed.

"For the past seven months, I’ve been making the tough decisions that took us from the state with the 3rd highest cases of COVID-19 per million in March and April, to the 33rd highest in September. We have one of the best economic recoveries in the nation too. Studies concluded we saved thousands of lives," said Governor Whitmer. "But after the Republican Legislature sued to take away my executive authority, this past Friday the Michigan Supreme Court struck down the statute under which I issued executive orders to save lives and protect Michigan families, frontline workers, and small businesses.  

"As a result of the Court and the legislature’s action, our COVID-19 cases will very likely go up. There will be uncertainty, disruption, and possibly greater risk to our economy, more people quarantined, and more deaths.  

"The ruling does not mean that the orders I issued violated the law. Although I disagree with the conclusion, the Court held the law is unconstitutional, meaning the legislature did not have power to pass the law in 1945. In fact, the Court made clear that I interpreted the 1945 law correctly. And the ruling does not mean all of the protections we have put in place will go away. I have additional powers that I will use to protect our families from the spread of this virus."

Today, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon issued an Emergency Order under MCL 333.2253 restricting gathering sizes and requiring face coverings in public spaces. Under MCL 333.2253, if the MDHHS director determines that control of an epidemic is necessary to protect the public health, the director by emergency order may prohibit the gathering of people for any purpose and may establish procedures to be followed during the epidemic to insure continuation of essential public health services and enforcement of health laws.

"The CDC and public health experts agree that wearing masks and practicing safe physical distancing are crucial to slow the spread of the virus, protect our frontline workers, and keep our schools and small businesses open," said Governor Whitmer. "Michiganders, here’s what we need you to do: please take this virus seriously by wearing a mask when you go out, washing hands, and maintaining six feet of physical distance. Get a flu shot. Taking this action is essential to keeping our small businesses and schools open. COVID 19 didn’t stop being a threat because the court ruling, or because we’ve tired of it, or because the legislature left town.

"Let us not squander the sacrifice we have made to get to this point. We all have to do our part. You can protect the brave men and women on the front lines who are working every day to keep us safe. The health care workers and first responders, grocery store employees, child care workers, and all of the people who have been putting their lives on the line since day one."

Western UP Health Department responds to Supreme Court ruling 

The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD) has received a number of questions as to how the Court decision will affect any local organization or community plans and protocols. At this time, the WUPHD stresses the importance of consistency and keeping core COVID-19 mitigation strategies in place while guidance that is more specific is developed. At a minimum, these strategies include proper mask use, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and staying home if you are sick. The WUPHD will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available.

"COVID-19 is currently hitting communities hard here in the Western Upper Peninsula," said Kate Beer, Health Officer at WUPHD. "These outbreaks are affecting our elderly, our most vulnerable, and our educational and healthcare systems. WUPHD remains confident that our community will continue to practice basic public health protocols and help keep each other safe."