Background and Mission
The Penokee Hills region may become one of the world’s largest open pit mines in North America unless we act today to help preserve its pristine nature. The mining company, Gogebic Taconite (GTAC), plans to start mining for iron ore taconite at the headwaters of the Bad River northern Wisconsin.
Bad River flows downhill through reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, their wild rice beds, and into Lake Superior near Ashland, Wisconsin. Acid mine drainage from GTAC’s mining activities would poison the environment and lead to human health and wildlife hazards in the Penokee Mountains Heritage Park. GTAC has already starting drilling, June 8th, for core samples from the Penokee hills.
Fry bread at Harvest Camp. Photo: Ros Nelson
The Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Band of Lake Superior Chippewa opened a treaty harvest and educational camp on public lands in the Penokee Hills. The LCOHEC mission is to make a presence in the Penokee Hills and do research in the region. It’s also to become a part of it — breathe the air, partake of the water, and experience the open wilderness and natural beauty. The main tasks of LCOHEC are to host LCO tribal members and other guests who are doing an inventory of resources, trail blazing, archaeology work and harvesting. Visitors to the camp ought to prepare for the elements and be self-sufficient. (See list below). Donations to LCOHEC are accepted and greatly appreciated.
Some LCO harvesters are overseeing the camp. Melvin Gasper and Felina LaPointe are the contact persons in the camp and can answer all questions. Other tribes and environmental organizations support the LCOHEC including Save the Waters Edge, the Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin, and dozens of others. The Penokee Hills Education Project (PHEP) was formed to educate the public about risks to the Bad River watershed and the Penokee Hills from GTAC’s open pit drilling and mining. The PHEP goals are to share information about the impact of mining on our economy, health, and the environment; and to connect with similar citizen-led groups locally and nationally.
photo: Ros Nelson
The LCOHEC camp is on county land and within the Chippewa ceded territory. The Chippewa have treaty rights in this region to hunt, fish, and harvest. It so happens that the GTAC mining site is in the “State Forest Management Tax Credit” program making it a public space. Therefore, LCOHEC is guided by state agreements with the Chippewa tribes for harvesting of foods, berries, herbs, medicinal plants, and other materials for baskets, shelter, etc.
Many tribal members are descendants of former land allottees in the area. The LCOHEC camp is close to the place where about 200 Indian land allotments made in the late 1800’s. Most of these land allotments were stolen outright, or deceptively removed from Indian people. Wealthy investors of the original shaft mining got their hands on the Indian land allotments. Researchers have so far located over 150 Indian Allotments on the ore deposit issued from 1858 through 1887. For example, John B. Corbin had an 80-acre allotment near Copper Falls State Park. We want to know how this land was disenfranchised from our relatives.
photo: Ros Nelson
The LCOHEC camp is open for hunting, fishing, harvesting and public recreational use. Several people have already requested harvesting permits for birch bark, ironwood, ginseng and other products they’re identifying. LCO has declared its intent to harvest walleye from the nearby Lake Galilee. Deer and other hunting permits are available.
Non-tribal people can also harvest on public lands. Anyone who wants to pick berries, collect maple syrup, wild onions, or other harvestable products can do so. Some people may be interested in volunteering to remove exotic species from the land like garlic mustard, and etc.
LCOHEC organizers are looking to include elders and youth, schools, colleges, AODA programs, language immersion, rehab and business development programs — all asking the questions:
1.) What can we learn from the ancient Cahokia history of the range, Ojibwe village and burial locations, and the mining that has occurred over the course of 1,200 years including the geography and topography?
2.) What can be harvested, from berries to iron wood and items that can be used or bartered to assist in making a moderate living as defined by courts under treaties with the Chippewa?
They also ask camp visitors to be self-sufficient and bring their own supplies, trail food, and water with them. The camp organizers provides one evening meal in the evening for everyone in the camp. Items for campers to pack include:
||Tent and sleeping bags
|personal camp dishes, cups, and utensils
||first-aid kit, personal toiletries, prescription meds
||dry trail food, snacks
||hiking boots or mud boots
|flashlight and batteries
||dress appropriately for rough camping and weather
|tools for gardening, trail blazing, or improving rough campsites
||The LCOHEC provides one meal for everyone in the evening. Contributions to the meal are accepted.
Donations of supplies to the camp needed include: non-perishable goods, snacks, cookies, tents, shovels, hatchets, axes, lighting, screening, carving knives, camping bowls, beans, rice, drinking water, and etc. Supplies can be dropped off at the Trading Post, 8558N Cty Rd K, Hayward, WI, 54843; or the PHEP 212 W. Main St, Ashland, WI, 54806.
LCOHEC camp organizers are requesting monetary donations to support the camp. Monetary donations can be made online at:
Online Resources for more info:
Recent LCOHEC Updates:
Maps of the Penokee Hills
Directions to LCOHEC (scroll to the bottom of this article to find directions)
Contact: Frank Koehn
PH: (218) 341-8822, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: facebook.com/NoPenokeeMine Twitter: #lcohec #RFKvisitPenokeeHills #nomine #wimine #ojibwe
Top: The Penokee Hills, target of the 22-mile mountaintop removal open pit iron ore mine at the headwaters of the Bad River; Bottom: a mine in northern Minnesota showing the same area of devastation mining has caused there.