Reclaiming our sacred places

In solidarity with indigenous peoples seeking to protect and reclaim their sacred places around the world and the Idle No More movement, we gathered at Eagle Rock on December 28, 2012.

We gathered in support of Chief Theresa Spence and our brothers and sisters in Canada, across Turtle Island, and down to South America. We prepared a fire and shared prayers, blessings, songs, and inspiration for our lands, waters, sacred places, Mother Earth, and the future.

Eagle Rock, also known as the Home of the White Wolf and the High Place, has been a sacred place to the Anishinaabe and other peoples for centuries. In 2010, Keweenaw Bay Anishinaabe Ogichidaag were arrested at our sacred site to make way for a mine. Known as the “Eagle Mine,” one of the world’s largest mining company’s, Rio Tinto, blasted a mine portal directly into Eagle Rock. Despite legal challenges, the company has constructed a mile long tunnel to a highly reactive sulfide copper/nickel ore body they hope to exploit by 2014 beneath a river of Lake Superior.

The Anishinaabe and their supporters who care for this land and do not wish to see the threshold of the world’s fresh water poisoned, have continued to gather and pray at and near Eagle Rock – amidst its strength and in the face of greed and destruction.

Idle No More at Eagle Rock

Jessica Koski, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community

Trans Superior seeks new mining leases in Iron County, Michigan

The Michigan DNR has been petitioned to grant 1,500 acres of state-owned mineral leases to Trans Superior Resources in Iron County, Michigan. 1280 acres of the state-owned mineral rights in this petition are beneath National Forest surface ownership, with the remainder under private land.  Since much of this area is National Forest, you do not have to be a resident of Michigan to be considered an interested party.

It appears the DNR is making it a little inconvenient for citizens to inquire about the location of the petitioned leases but the DNR does say in a publicized notification that a parcel list may be obtained by sending a stamped pre-addressed envelope to the Minerals Management Section or a list is available at the Crystal Falls, Michigan DNR office.

Well, I drove to Crystal Falls and back which took almost an hour.  Plus I bought a cup of coffee for the ride.  So 2 single sheets of paper with the lease information cost me about 17 dollars when one considers fuel and my time because I had to be there during the DNR office hours. The lease information could have been e-mailed.

Now, I’ve become irate at times thinking about how the citizens are being treated by the State. The DNR director told a group of U.P. citizens that we’re going to have more mining.  Period.  Because Lansing says so.  The rate at which this is occurring, on private, state and federal lands, is truly alarming.  It’s difficult to impossible to keep up with which areas are being affected, including, possibly, your own backyard.

Please write to the address below, and ask for the parcel list.  With the request it would be nice to simply comment objecting to the direct lease of state-owned metallic mineral rights per the 2012-9 Metallic Mineral Lease Application.

I realize many of you may not be too concerned about the leases but this action would give the citizens an opportunity to make a statement of solidarity for the Water and Land.

Thank you for your time.  Request and comment must be received BEFORE December 20.

One last thing, the address of the company requesting the mineral leases on the PDF ML-2012-9.  It’s a Canadian address.  The NOTIFICATION from the paper lists the address of the company from Lower Michigan.  Does somebody want the public to think this is an American company?

Richard Sloat
Iron River, MI

Send To:

Minerals Management Section
P.O. Box 30452
Lansing, MI. 48909-7952

Or e-mail comments to Shaun Lehman: and Thomas Hoane:

Map of proposed leases

Parcel List

Comment Points

Sample Letter

Lease Classifications




Mining exploration near Kenton, Michigan – a personal view

On Sunday, November 4, Catherine and I decided to go hiking near the now abandoned National Forest Campground, at Lower Dam, southeast of Kenton in Houghton County. This is an area where I’d camped when I was younger and visited periodically throughout my life.

I was mildly anticipating the arrival, telling Catherine we could climb the rock bluffs, where the view is grand and simply spectacular in autumn with the colorful foliage.  The leaves had long since fallen, but the view would still be worth the climb.

Approaching the area, I commented on the changes, and suddenly we noticed a yellow cable stretched across the surface of the gravel road and a truck with an Ontario license plate parked on the shoulder.  The cable was similar to the ones we’d seen near Kennecott’s project on the Yellow Dog Plains.  Exploration!!  My heart sank.

Arriving at the campgrounds, we immediately parked at the dam.  The water of the East Branch of the Ontonagon River was backed up, which was customary.  Periodically the water is released and the river is left to flow unencumbered for a number of years and then restricted again.  The roar of the water over the headwall was very loud.

The sight brought back good memories. Admiring the structure with the iced-up walkway, I explained where the natural channel lay and remembered how the beaver used to swim close to our canoe and slap their tails while my dad and I were fishing at night.  It almost seemed like a game to the beaver.

We returned to my truck and I drove into the campground to point out my favorite places to camp, and found equipment connected to two yellow cables.  A generator was supplying energy to the cables.  Data was being collected and stored.

Trying to make the best of the excursion, we left the campground and headed for the bluff.  As we approached the base of the bluff we noticed the cable extending up the face.   We climbed, following the cable.  Reaching the top, it continued on up the grade and we walked to another area to see the view.  My mind was not on the beauty of the landscape but on exploration. Backtracking, we picked up the path of the cable again.  It encircled the entire bluff.

We ventured to another outcropping.  To my displeasure there were other signs of human activity.  A 4-wheeler trail had made its way to the top of the bluff.  A very well used trail.  Trees were chain-sawed down.  It appeared a rather weathered bench had been removed from a different historical site and placed on the top of the bluff.  I can only assume the trees were hacked down to enhance the view.  I was totally disgusted because the beauty of the place I had visited 20 years ago was so drastically changed.  I think it would have been a good idea if this overlook had been constructed by the National Forest Service so people that did not have the ability to climb would have access, but I do not believe this was the case.  There was no care or consideration for the trees that were cut.

Catherine noticed an Eagle feather on the ground.  Tobacco was laid and I asked if she wanted  to keep the feather.  I passed it to Catherine, who asked that it be put back in place to protect the area.  I am glad for her request.  In my state of anger and frustration I was not thinking clearly.

I didn’t speak much except for occasional swearing and spouting off my disgust.  During the descent, I thought of how the Native Americans might have felt about the land they called home being confiscated by the government and exploited.  I also realized that my feelings could not possibly compare to what the Native Americans endured.  Murder of men, women and children, starvation, restriction, their culture and way of life being suppressed.  I was ashamed, and actually there is a part of me that hesitates to write this because I could never truly understand.

But I have experienced the way the government doesn’t listen, because of the greed fueling the new mining frenzy across the upper Great Lakes Basin.  Politicians are drooling and stumbling over themselves, promoting jobs regardless of irreparable destruction. Regulations are being bypassed and laws are being broken because of this greed. This so-called government for the people is taking away the inherent right of the people to have clean water.  The inherent right to have clean water is being stripped from all life.

Is this the future?  It does not have to be.

Richard Sloat
Iron River, MI

The location is South 67 degrees East – 5 3/4 miles of Kenton, T47N R36W, Section 23, Longitude 88 degrees 46 minutes 57 seconds, Latitude 46 degrees 27 minutes 12 seconds.

11-14-12 Update:

The Ranger from the Kenton District returned my phone call several days after I inquired about the exploration at Lower Dam.

The Forest Service does not own the mineral rights; consequently, according to the Ranger, they are treated like any other citizen when it comes to mineral rights owners exercising their rights to explore for minerals. Trans Superior is exploring for the mineral rights owner.  I was not told who the actual owners are.

It was explained to me if the time ever came a mine was being considered the Michigan DEQ would be overseeing the process.  I assured the Ranger that that was not in the best interest for the environment. The Ranger did say though the Forest Service has worked closely with the DEQ in the past and it seems the DEQ does consider the Forest Service’s comments relevant in reference to wetlands, endangered species etc.

The FS has known for some time about the 4 wheeler trail, cut trees and bench at the outcropping at Lower Dam.  Now that there has been public concern voiced the FS is in the process of deciding what to do.

EPA Hearing on County Road 595 – Tuesday, August 28

As most of you know, the DEQ has extended the deadline until October 1 for their decision on permitting CR 595.  According to the DEQ’s Steve Casey, they need extra time to consider additional information and modifications—but all indications point to DEQ approving the project.

The Road Commission has asked the EPA to make its decision by then as well, saying that there is unlikely to be a funding commitment (from Kennecott) beyond that date.

DEQ Water Resources Chief William Creal stated that he requested a public hearing on the EPA’s objection because CR 595 has “importance to the economic well-being of the central Upper Peninsula,” adding that the EPA’s objection to the project will “prevent this road from being built.”

The purpose of the hearing is, ostensibly, to give the EPA an opportunity to gather more information in order to make an informed decision.  Creal is hoping it will demonstrate to the EPA that the 595 proposal has widespread support, and that it will allow them to hear “first-hand” about the (alleged) benefits of the project.

In the EPA’s notice of hearing, it says that questions remain as to whether there are “practical, alternate routes which would have less impact on aquatic resources.”  It also says that the Road Commission’s proposals for mitigating impacts to streams and wetlands “would not fully compensate for the loss of aquatic functions.”

Our comments, then, must focus on refuting Creal’s remarks on support for and benefits of CR 595, and on reinforcing the EPA’s objections to the project.  Although the DEQ has the authority to issue wetlands fill permits under the Clean Water Act, EPA may still object if the proposed 595 does not meet federal guidelines.

Analysis of the 595 application by the DNR, Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps and EPA seems to present insurmountable concerns and objections, but the DNR, in an apparent nod to the DEQ, concluded that they are remediable.  And the DEQ has been working closely with Kennecott and the Road Commission all along.

Lansing, in its zeal to extract resources from the U.P., is completely on board with this project.  The political pressure being applied, on both the local and state levels, is the most powerful tool being used to push this project through.  Please ask the EPA to hold the line on permitting and enforce the law.

It is also important to emphasize that it is entirely inappropriate and sets a dangerous precedent to allow the County to pursue permits for a private entity, in this case, a corporation called Rio Tinto.

To those of you who turned out for previous hearings and/or submitted written comments, thank you!  Your contributions have kept this area wild, so far.  The DEQ hearing was our finest hour, but we’re going to have to turn out in even greater numbers for the EPA, bringing the same or more passion, inspiration, and solid information.

This is Rio Tinto’s, and the Road Commission’s, last chance to win over the EPA.  It is ours, as well.  Please send comments and attend the hearing on the 28th.

Location:  NMU University Center, Ontario/Michigan/Huron Rooms
1401 Presque Isle Ave., Marquette

Time:  6 p.m. – Informational presentation and Q&A session
7 p.m. – 10 p.m. Public hearing

Written comments will be accepted until September 4, and may be submitted to:

Melanie Haveman
U.S. EPA (WW-16J)
77 W. Jackson Blvd
Chicago, IL 60604-3590

Additional talking points:

Links to official comments:

Pray for Our Brother/Sister Ma’iingan, the Wolf

The State of Wisconsin has recently introduced rules for its new “Wolf Management” plan.  Michigan may be soon following Wisconsin’s lead to reduce the wolf population in the Northwoods.

In my line of work and for recreation I spend many hours in the woods.  On one particular day at work I was battling the hazel, blackberry, raspberry brush and stumbling over fern-hidden fallen trees,   cracking brittle dead branches.  There was no attempt to be quiet.

Walking north, a short swing east, then facing south, I stopped to find a suitable area to set a tripod.  Off to my right, where I had just been, there was the sound of an animal moving quickly through the woods.  As I was turning to look the thought crossed my mind that it might be a fawn, but it was too late in the year for a fawn to lay motionless to avoid detection, and too much noise had been made prior to my arrival.

To my surprise, I saw a wolf just breaking into a run.  Fifteen feet away the magnificent animal continued north, then shot through the brush.  The running stopped so I moved in order to get another glimpse.  I sensed the wolf was no more than thirty yards away, but the brush and small poplars were too thick to see clearly.

I raised my hand in greeting.  “Boozhoo ma’iingan, do not fear me,” I spoke quietly.  The wolf moved and I saw it turn and trot off.

I was extremely happy having such a close encounter and thanked Creator.  Other four-legged and winged ones have approached me in the past.  I do not have the ability or the wisdom to understand what they communicate to me.  I take it as a good sign.  This encounter kept playing through my mind, and was starting to disturb me.

At a ceremony I passed tobacco to my teacher and requested he ask the Grandmothers and Grandfathers if this event had a specific meaning.  In the Sweat Lodge it was told to me the wolf sought me out because he knew what I was about.  The wolf was asking for help.

I felt humbled that such a magnificent creature, my brother, would want help from this pitiful human but it also saddened me because I knew why Ma’iingan was asking.  Once again the wolf is being persecuted.

I promised Creator that I would help.  I would do the best I could, but at the same time I realized my best may not be good enough.  Your prayers are needed also.  This is the start.  I do not know at this time how to proceed.

This reminded me of the story when Waynaboozhoo, Original Man, traveled the Earth alone.  Creator provided a companion for Waynaboozhoo, Ma’iingan the wolf.  Creator told the two that one day they must separate their paths.  “What shall happen to one of you will happen to the other.  Each of you will be feared, respected and misunderstood by the people that will later join you on this Earth.” (1)

I believe we are in the time of the Seventh Fire.  The Anishinaabe are growing strong again and are becoming teachers to the rest of the nations, leading us back to natural living and respecting the Earth.  The wolf is growing strong again as well.  It is good.  But why is there persecution of the wolf again?

(1)  The Mishomis Book, p. 8

Richard Sloat

Message to EPA: Public would not benefit from CR 595

On Aug. 28, the EPA will conduct a public hearing at the request of the Michigan Department Quality on the proposed County Road 595. Both agencies are charged with preserving and protecting our natural resources for present and future generations.

DEQ Water Resources Chief William Creal expects that a hearing will demonstrate to EPA that 595 has strong local support, thus outweighing any concerns for the environment.

But the reality is that most supporting comments have come from area politicians and industry representatives, not the general public, and that the damage that would be done by this project is far from acceptable.

The DNR’s evaluation of the 595 application describes the likelihood of extremely serious consequences to fish and wildlife habitat, animal populations, and recreational experiences, and yet it rather flippantly concludes that these concerns can somehow be remediated.

And during a brief meeting in Marquette, Director Dan Wyant told environmentalists that the DEQ intends to excel at customer service.

How does this translate to our present situation? Who is the DEQ’s customer? Clearly, County Road 595 is a haul road for Kennecott, as was the Woodland Road before it. The timber and aggregate industries will see only marginal profit increases if it is built. Negative impacts to the environment, both natural and human, will be severe and are entirely avoidable.

The Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association is calling upon its members to provide comments to the EPA, saying that County Road 595 is a significant project that will create work. At the same time, they state that the industry needs about $1.4 billion in new highway investment each year just to reverse the deterioration of our road and bridge system. Marquette County alone needs $200,000,000. Since we don’t have the money to fix up what we already have, what kind of sense does it make to take on a new road, especially one that would be of limited usefulness?

According to a report by the Surface Transportation Policy Project (“Setting the Record Straight: Transit, Fixing Roads and Bridges Offer Greatest Jobs Gains”), investments in road and bridge repair create 9 percent more jobs per dollar than building new roads or bridges.

We should improve existing roads and bridges that everyone can use, and construct a bypass north of the city of Marquette to accommodate heavy truck traffic.  Sounds like a win-win solution to me. Let’s speak up, and hope the EPA is listening.

Catherine Parker, Marquette

PLEASE attend the hearing if you are able, and/or send written comments.

Location:  NMU University Center, Ontario/Michigan/Huron Rooms

1401 Presque Isle Ave., Marquette

Time:  6 p.m. – Informational presentation and Q&A session
7 p.m. – 10 p.m. Public hearing

Comments will be accepted until September 4, and may be submitted to:

Melanie Haveman
U.S. EPA (WW-16J)
77 W. Jackson Blvd
Chicago, IL 60604-3590

Political Ecology in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: A Sacred Place or Mine Portal?

by Jessica KoskiI have visited Migi zii wa sin three times since it has been fenced off in 2010 immediately following the arrest of two fellow tribal members who were honorably defending our sacred place, lands and waters from the disruptive intrusion of a foreign mining company on our traditional Anishinaabe lands.

Migi zii wa sin is one of our “high places” where we have historically, and in recent years–despite a traumatic history of colonization and religious oppression–have continued to conduct fasting, ceremony and prayer in peace.

But, the fact of the matter is that resource colonization is alive and well, right here, right now. On what moral grounds has a foreign mining corporation been permitted the right to disrupt my people’s culture and environment, and blatantly blast beneath our place of great spiritual and historical significance?

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