Sacred water, new mine; A Michigan tribe battles a global corporation to protect their water and sacred land



Michigan tribe up against global corporation- Kennecott/Rio-Tinto

Head in any direction on Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula and you will reach gushing rivers, placid ponds and lakes – both Great and small. An abundant resource, this water has nourished a small Native American community for hundreds of years. So 10 years ago, when an international mining company arrived near the shores of Lake Superior to burrow a mile under the Earth and pull metals out of ore, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa had to stand for its rights and its water. And now, as bulldozers raze the land and the tunnel creeps deeper, the tribe still hasn’t backed down. “The indigenous view on water is that it is a sacred and spiritual entity,” said Jessica Koski, mining technical assistant for the Keweenaw Bay community. “Water gives us and everything on Earth life.” The Keweenaw Bay Indians are fighting for their clean water, sacred sites and traditional way of life as Kennecott Eagle Minerals inches towards copper and nickel extraction, scheduled to begin in 2014. State officials say reverse osmosis technology will ensure that any water in the sulfide-extraction mine will be "almost more pure than rainfall."

“The basic element is survival. No matter what color you are you get thirsty.” – Cecil Williams, Papago Tribal Chair, 1979

By Brian Bienkowski

Environmental Health News

June 12, 2012

Part 5 of Pollution, Poverty, People of Color

Head in any direction on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and you will reach gushing rivers, placid ponds and lakes – both Great and small.

An abundant resource, this water has nourished a small Native American community for hundreds of years. So 10 years ago, when an international mining company arrived near the shores of Lake Superior to burrow a mile under the Earth and pull metals out of ore, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa had to stand for its rights and its water.

And now, as bulldozers raze the land and the tunnel creeps deeper, the tribe still hasn’t backed down.

“The indigenous view on water is that it is a sacred and spiritual entity,” said Jessica Koski, mining technical assistant for the Keweenaw Bay community. “Water gives us and everything on Earth life.”

"The indigenous view on water is that it is a sacred and spiritual entity. Water gives us and everything on Earth life.” -Jessica Koski, Keweenaw Bay Indian CommunityThe Keweenaw Bay Indians are fighting for their clean water, sacred sites and traditional way of life as Kennecott Eagle Minerals inches towards copper and nickel extraction, scheduled to begin in 2014.

Tribal leaders worry the mine will pollute ground water, the Salmon Trout River and Lake Superior, and strip the spiritual ambiance from their historical sites. Meandering through the Huron Mountains before spilling into Lake Superior, the river is home to endangered coaster trout as well as other fish that the tribe depends on for food.

The Keweenaw Bay community’s L’Anse Reservation, home to 1,030 people, is both the oldest and the largest reservation in Michigan and sits about 30 miles west of the river. The struggle of this small community in remote, sleepy northernmost Michigan mirrors that of its native ancestors.

Tribal Injustice

According to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, there are 565 recognized Native American tribes. About 5.2 million people identified themselves as Native American or Alaska Native in the 2010 U.S. Census. But that sliver of the country’s population – 1.7 percent - historically has faced an unfair burden of environmental justice issues.

Keweenaw tribe members and locals have a sunrise ceremony of prayer and drumming to protect their water on Lake Superior Day 2010.

Since early European immigration there have been palpable culture clashes with Native Americans – with the indigenous people often on the losing end. Infectious diseases, forced assimilation and land grabs marred early relations.

But as the nation grew larger, the environmental justice issues did, too. Native American reservations have been targeted as places to dump industrial waste, and to mine both uranium and coal, leading to polluted rivers, lakes and tribal lands across the country. Some tribes have turned to waste storage or mining as revenue generators.

Native Americans continue to battle poverty, joblessness and low incomes. About 28.4 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives – nearly twice the national rate – lived in poverty in 2010. Their unemployment hovers around 49 percent, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ most recent labor force report in 2005.

Low income and environmental threats often go hand-in-hand, said Kyle Whyte, an assistant professor of philosophy at Michigan State University who studies Native American environmental justice issues.

Native Americans are even more vulnerable than other disadvantaged groups because of their reliance on natural resources for survival, he said. The top environmental justice issues still plaguing their communities are lack of healthy foods and water, and protection of sacred sites – all at play in northern Michigan.

For the 3,552 members of the Keweenaw Bay tribe, it’s more than just water at stake. “It is a living thing that provides for us – physically and spiritually,” Koski said."

End of excerpt

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This is a sulfide mine, as in sulfuric acid.

Some facts:

"There has never been a metallic sulfide mine that has failed to pollute its watershed. Once such a reaction starts it is difficult to keep this acid drainage out of the water. When water becomes acidic it leaches out and disperses heavy metals into lakes and streams. Heavy metals are dangerous to health, wildlife, and the environment.

There is more to be worried about here than “just” the coaster brook trout: when the insects and microscopic life in streams are affected it starts a chain of events that leads in unexpected and unpredictable directions affecting the fish, the birds, the predators and us.

This is NOT about people, and not about a company. It’s about a PROCESS.

Clean waters and wild lands define the Michigan lifestyle. It’s Great Lakes and the U.P. wilds that make Michigan the state we love. You can live in the city and in a few hours be on blue lakes or in forests of fragrant pine.

The legacy of sulfide mining is acid mine drainage. It poisons water forever. (2,500 – 10,000+ years.) The industrial development required to mine it on State land, in Michigan’s wildest area, will destroy that wildness forever."

_______

FOREVER.



These corporations like Kennecott Mining/Rio Tinto care nothing for the customs or sacred traditions of the Native Americans nor the land and water they hold sacred. Money is what they worship. This is the essence of the greed and apathy that has permeated and corroded every inch of our society like a cancer. It is in our air, our land and our water. And as you will see, the political players in Michigan on all sides have reportedly had a hand in this environmental crime.



This is per video description:

"(Marquette, MI) - A new environmental group, WAVE (Wave Action Vital Earth) is the action arm of Save The Wild U.P. The battle continues in 2011 to stop the Rio Tinto/Kennecott Minerals Sulfide "Acid" Mine on the Yellow Dog Plains in a remote area in north Marquette County near Lake Superior and the tiny hamlet of Big Bay, MI.

The WAVE Players have decided to use humor -- because the real facts (keep reading) are enough to make honest people cry.

Documents have revealed a possible criminal conspiracy between the state of Michigan, Kennecott Minerals and Rio Tinto. Not something unusual for the international mining giant Rio Tinto, whose minions are charged with a wide range of crimes across the globe including bribery, violating environment laws and human rights violations.

"Rio Tinto was complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity," stated the residents of the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea in a lawsuit filed against Rio Tinto. In China, Rio Tinto bosses were arrested for bribery -- a practice the company has used in many projects in order to get politicians, police, prosecutors and judges on their side.

So why then -- did the state of Michigan decide to get into a toxic bed of sulfuric acid with Rio Tinto - including blatantly violating treaties with the Ojibwa/Anishinaabe -- with plans to destroy sacred Eagle Rock (an ions old Native American outdoor church).

In addition to crimes, all mines opened by Kennecott Minerals have serious environmental problems.

MI Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm (Dem.) and Attorney General Mike Cox (State's top cop) refused to answer questions about a financial connection with the mine owners.

WAVE and other U.P. residents have asked the MI Attorney General Bill Schuette (Republican) to investigate a series of suspicious actions involving Rio Tinto and state officials.

Those suspected of wrongdoing included employees of the MI Dept. of Environmental Quality, Gov. Granholm and her staff. Previous Attorney General Mike Cox (Republican) -- refused to investigate the allegations and refused to answer questions about his (or family) financial connections with the mining company.

Will MI Attorney General Bill Schuette open a probe?

Is it strange that MI Governor Granholm and the 7 candidates for her job (included Mike Cox, future Gov. Rick Snyder) all refused to reveal any financial connections of any kind with Rio Tinto, Kennecott Minerals and its subsidiaries, agents, lobbyists etc. All eight could have stated they have no financial connections - instead they refused comment. Why? "

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More will be added to this story. Oh, and BTW, Jennifer Granholm, the ex Governor of Michigan who never commented on this and was also a board member of DOW Chemical which has spent much of its existence toxifying this planet, now has a show on Current TV. Meanwhile, the people of this sacred region of Michigan still fight to keep their water clean. There must be justice.

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