protect the earth 2009

By Barb Bradley

The Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering was held on Aug. 1st and 2nd, sponsored by Keepers of the Water, Yellow Dog Summer and NMU’s Students Against Sulfide Mining. Protect the Earth began in Wisconsin in 1986 (on the Mole Lake Reservation), when northern Wisconsin was being considered as the site for a nu-clear waste dump. In 1987, the focus of Protect the Earth changed, due to Kennecott’s mine proposal in Ladysmith and Exxon’s proposed Crandon Mine project. To this day, metallic sulfide – and now uranium – mining has been given prominent attention. For the past two years, Wisconsin has lent Michigan the responsibility of hosting Protect the Earth. The late Roscoe Churchill (nicknamed “Grandfather of Wisconsin sulfide mining opposition”) described these gatherings as an event “where Natives and non-Natives hook up for the earth and for each other.”

This year nearly 200 people gathered from around the Great Lakes to strengthen alliances, strategize, rekindle old friendships and make new ones, while honoring Mother Earth. A large number of ogichidaag (warriors) - veterans of foreign mining company wars - came from Wisconsin to speak and just to be amongst other (old and new) earth protectors.

Many First Nations from around the Great Lakes were represented – including the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Lac du Flambeau, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa, Lac Vieux Desert, and Wikwemikong Reserve, Manitoulin Island.

The first day’s activities (at NMU) included workshops, music (Folk – including Ojibwe Folk) and hoop dancing in Whitman Hall and movies at Mead Auditorium; while the second day took place on the Yellow Dog Plains, with a walk from the Yellow Dog River to Eagle Rock. At Eagle Rock, a pipe ceremony was held and speeches were given, while Summer Cloud hosted the drum. Fran Van Zile, from Mole Lake, led a “gathering of the waters” from significant lakes, rivers, and streams that were then poured on the roots of a tree at the base of Eagle Rock.

Speakers representing KBIC were tribal Vice-President, Susan LaFernier, and Yale grad student, Jessica Koski.

LaFernier spoke at the spot which she said was “no greater place for us to appreciate, remember, and honor our great lakes and rivers, our sacred Migizi Waasin (Eagle Rock), and our ancestors.” LaFernier said that “taking care of our earth and allowing it to take care of itself [is] not just a responsibility, it is a privilege bestowed upon all of us.” She went on to speak of the ceded territory that was originally part of a gift of land “freely given” *to the Ojibwe+ by the Great Spirit,” in which “no person had any right to control such a gift,” and where tribes “continue

to hunt fish, and gather…and that is still our destiny to-day.” She asked that we continue to “pray that our beautiful water and land remain free of contamination” and told us that “people everywhere can save the earth!”

Jessica Koski said that during her college years she “reunited with my Ojibwe tribe” and “learned about our beautiful tribal culture and our values for the land.” Koski has worked on research projects and given presentations on two of the biggest issues facing her tribal community – the protection of the land and water and protection of sacred sites. She is concerned not only with the environmental impacts, but also the cultural

impacts that metallic sulfide mining would have on the Anishinaabeg. Her speech became an education to those who may not have realized that Native Americans do not have equal protection to practice their religions under the U.S. Constitution. Koski stated, “I think it is difficult for people to understand because religion and culture and land are all interconnected.”

For an in-depth article on Protect the Earth ’09, please go to:

Sponsored by: Keepers of the Water, Yellow Dog Summer, Students Against Sulfide Mining & Friends Stay tuned for updates, maps and more information coming soon, also please visit,
e-mail or call 906.942.7325

Indigenous Environmental Network

Protect the Earth Highlights 2009

Protect the Earth 2008 Highlights

*click photos to enlarge*

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