Bad River Chairman Rejects Tactics Used by Protesters in Video and GTAC Security

logoIn a statement to Wisconsin Public Radio,  chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe Mike Wiggins Jr. says he’s against the tactics used by the anti-mine protesters in a June 11 action.

Members of an unidentified group attacked workers at an exploratory drilling site June 11, the day Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) began drilling the first of eight bore holes. One person from the raid has been charged with four criminal counts of theft and damage to property.

Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins says the video is not what they’re about. Their strategy is non-violent opposition. For example, the tribe is participating in the GLIFWC 2013 Healing Circle Run/Walk, from July 13-19, 2013. The run/walk will connect eight Ojibwe reservations in northern Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. He explains Bad River’s approach:

For a nation to heal, it must begin with the individual. As a person heals, then that person can help heal his/her family. As a family begins to heal, they can help heal their community. As communities heal, they can help the nation heal. As nations heal, they can help Akii (the earth), our plant and animal relatives to heal. The 2013 Healing Circle Run/Walk is an opportunity for people to come together to pray for healing for themselves, their families, their communities, their nation, Akii, and our relatives.

Wiggins thinks this entire week has traumatized the region, climaxing with GTAC bringing in an unlicensed security force illegally carrying assault rifles in the hills outside of LCO Harvest Camp.

“The semi-automatic assault weapons … was a public relations ploy to try and label the good people of Wisconsin and the others who are peacefully resisting as violent people,” says Wiggins. “It’s a shame, it’s really a shame and no one’s buying it.”

United in Defense of the Water stands with the Bad River Band in denouncing the tactics of the protesters in the video and GTAC, and once against makes a strong commitment to working cooperatively to empower our neighbors in peace and non-violence, and affect change through education that will unite and inspire all people to take action to protect the water.

Press Conference and Walk, Mellen, July 10 4:30 PM Gilman Park

Armed Security Forces in Northern Wisconsin. Photo: Rob Ganson

Armed Security Forces in Northern Wisconsin. Photo: Rob Ganson

Mellen Press Conference and Walk
Gilman Park, downtown Mellen
Wednesday, July 10, 4:30 PM
Contact: Frank Koehn, Penokee Hills Education Project, 218-341-8822

Community leaders and citizens speaking at the Mellen Press Conference will be addressing concerns about the presence of a paramilitary force in the Penokees hired by Gogebic Taconite GTac) to patrol the drill site. These paramilitary operatives work for Bulletproof Securities, a private mercenary firm out of Arizona.

After the press conference, those in attendance will walk to the Morse Town Hall at 402 2nd Ave, Mellen, where a 6:00 Ashland County, Iron County,  Anderson and Morse Mining Impact Committee is scheduled.

The walk is a peaceful event and is not intended to interrupt or delay the meeting in any way.

See a news report about Bulletproof Security here.

Press Conference sponsor: PHEP. The Penokee Hills Education Project was formed to educate the public about risks to the Bad River watershed and the Penokee Hills posed by GTAC’s mountaintop removal mine; to share relevant information about the impact of mining on our economy, health, and environment; and to connect with citizen-led groups locally, statewide, and nationally.

VIDEO: Former DNR Secretary Speaks at Iron County Citizen’s Forum on Mining Ordinance

On June 27, 2013, former DNR Secretary and current Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation George Meyer spoke to a group of concerned citizens to help prepare them for a public hearing concerning the first draft of a metallic mining amendment to the Iron County zoning ordinance. Hosted by the Iron County Citizen’s Forum, Meyer spent two hours speaking and answering questions on the ramifications of mining and the necessity of local ordinances to protect the county from escalating costs and risks involved in permitting a 22-mile open pit mountaintop removal mine.

Meyer’s extensive experience with permitting mines during his tenure at the DNR was invaluable in helping citizens realize the burden that local units of government will be forced to take on if a mine of this size is permitted.

The public hearing will be held Monday, July 1, 2013 at 6 PM at the Memorial Center in Hurley.

Read the report of the meeting at the Woods Person Blog here. Or watch Meyer’s presentation below.

For more information on the Iron County Citizen’s Forum please contact Terry Daulton at 715-476-3530.

Red Cliff: “We will not exchange our current economic drivers for mining revenue that cannot be sustained.”

Red Cliff Mining Task Force
Press Release
For further information contact:
Tribal Administration

Marvin Defoe, Chair of Red Cliff Mining Task Force

Chad Abel, Treaty Natural Resource Division Administrator

Marvin Defoe testifying in Hurley on January 11, 2013 before the Jobs Committee. Photo: Rebecca Kemble

Marvin Defoe, Chair of the Red Cliff Mining Task Force, testifying about AB426 in Hurley on January 11, 2012 before the Jobs Committee. Photo: Rebecca Kemble

In response to numerous concerns being voiced in our community, the Red Cliff Tribal Council underscores its commitment to review and respond to all mining projects with a potential to impact Lake Superior, tribal lands and Ceded Territories. The Tribe is actively engaged as a consulting party on several proposed and ongoing mining projects through the activities of the Red Cliff Mining Task Force and governmental authority of the Tribal Council.

As announced by Tribal Chair Rose Gurnoe-Soulier, the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is opposed to current mining legislation in Wisconsin. The intent of SB1/AB1 is to reduce environmental safeguards in order to recklessly advance mining of the Penokee Range despite overwhelming objections by tribal nations and the general public alike. The proposed legislation poses numerous risks to the tribal lifeway and to the resources that the Red Cliff Tribe relies upon to sustain traditional, cultural and subsistence practices. Substantial doubt exists about whether these risks can be avoided or adequately mitigated. This doubt makes it imprudent to engage in mining activities that can negatively impact treaty protected resources which, once damaged, cannot be replaced.

Degradation of environment for short-term economic gain without regard for long-term economic sustainability is unacceptable. The Red Cliff Tribe shares a co-management responsibility of the Lake Superior fishery with Bad River and the State of Wisconsin to ensure long-term benefits from the resource. This responsibility extends to protection of the established economies of tourism and the fishery that the lake provides. Lake Superior is the lifeblood that Red Cliff depends on for survival. We will not exchange our current economic drivers for mining revenue that cannot be sustained.

Red Cliff is a sovereign nation possessing an indisputable interest in the beneficial resource use of the lands and waters of the Ceded Territories. The Tribe has reserved certain rights guaranteed by perpetual agreement that protect essential resources necessary for the sustainability of the Tribe both now and in the future. No action should place undue risk on these treaty protected resources. The Tribe must be assured that the proposed actions, potential risks and cumulative effects to fisheries, wildlife, recreation and sustainability are identified to determine if any adverse effects will result and that mitigations are adequate.

The state of Wisconsin is undermining tribal sovereignty by not offering appropriate consultation to the native nations disproportionately impacted by the degradation of natural resources guaranteed by treaty rights. It is from this lack of proper consultation that the tribal nations stand in solidarity to protect the largest and most pristine of freshwater seas.

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.

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.

EDITORIAL: This is a peaceful action

photo: Ros Nelson

photo: Ros Nelson

Last week, charges were filed against a woman for allegedly assaulting a GTac employee near LCO Harvest Camp and the site of the core drilling taking place in the Penokee Hills. According to the report, about $2500 worth of damage was done to vehicles and personal property and she was charged with three misdemeanors and a felony.

The group that allegedly perpetrated the act was welcomed at Harvest Camp, as all visitors are. According to sources involved, however, the group did not inform the creators of camp of their intention to cause damages, as alleged.

As can be expected, media propaganda immediately began associating the group’s action with Harvest Camp. After the incident was resolved, the Penokee Hills Education Project and LCO Harvest Camp reiterated their policies of education and non-violence. In an interview with Rob Thomas, entertainment reporter for the Cap Times, I was asked if the people who took part in the direct action were associated with the Harvest Camp. My response was that the anarchists[1] who took the action were not acting on behalf of the camp, and that the camp did the right thing to assist law enforcement with finding the perpetrators.

Peaceful hikers going to visit the drill site. Photo: Ros Nelson

Peaceful hikers going to visit the drill site. Photo: Ros Nelson

Much like the Madison police who refused to become the palace guard for Walker during the 2011 uprising, we have allies in our local law enforcement. One of my neighbors said it best: After a long walk to the drill site she reported, “Their bodies are on one side of the yellow tape, but their hearts are on the other.” They are working together with us to protect the community they serve, not the corporation.

These are stressful circumstances for everyone. We are all suffering from shock and awe. The elected officials who support corrupt legislation are traitors to the Wisconsin Constitution. They sold out our resources to their corporate sponsors, passed unjust and dangerous laws and continue to lie about it.

We know the mining company wrote the law. We know it is an unjust law. It leaves the door open for not only the Bad River Watershed but all of Wisconsin waters to become a “sacrifice zone.” The pollution a 22-mile open pit mountaintop removal iron ore mine would rain upon our area would turn us into another West Virginia. Our economy, our agriculture, our children, our environment, our health, our infrastructure—everything would suffer.

Ashland County Zoning Committee holding a public hearing for the new Metallic Mining Zoning Ordinance, which passed 18 to 1.

Ashland County Zoning Committee holding a public hearing for the new Metallic Mining Zoning Ordinance, which passed 18 to 1.

Because this is a just cause, and because those who live here have a rich history of standing together in nonviolent-direct action, we are making important headway. This coalition of community leaders, local and state activists, law enforcement and ordinary concerned citizens have produced what I personally consider a miracle. Ashland County, which rushed through a “Responsible Mining Resolution” two years ago, just passed their new metallic mining zoning ordinance last week. Iron County is about to do the same. It is no guarantee of safety by any means and we fully anticipate Gtac will continue their assault. These steps do, however, herald the turning of the tides of our deepening relationship to our neighbors in Hurley and Iron County, and our faith that we can change the hearts of our neighbors and elected officials with education, nonviolence and a commitment to doing what is best for the whole.

vistaMany people have never been to Lake Superior. They have no idea what it’s like to live near such clean, clear water, with friends and neighbors who support you and what’s best for the entire community. I have always believed the good people of Iron County have been misled, and that if they knew the truth, they would join us. This is proving to be true. You simply cannot fit a theoretical idea of aggressive direct action such as damaging property over our area and think it will work.

With the new budget in place, more and more people will be waking up. We must be prepared to welcome them, not damage their property.

For those who are inclined to break the law, please remember, there are laws that ensure the people’s right to the protections of their person and property. These laws are not unjust. If you choose to break them, be prepared to serve the time.

Better yet, if you want to help preserve the Penkoee Hills and the Bad River Watershed, join us in our peaceful commitment to doing what is best for the good of the whole. Work with us, not against us.

Standing up to the corporate takeover of our government will take everyone acting for the good of the whole. Many paths, one goal.

Choose wisely.

The Penokee Hills Education Project is a non-profit educational organization whose mission is public education, networking, and grassroots organizing on the environmental, health, social, and economic issues of mining in northern Wisconsin.

[1] a state of society without government or law.