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Condolences & Remembrances

I first met Walt at The Honor The Earth PowWow at L.C.O.it was at the time when he was being presented with the Protect The Earth Pipe,I knew what I was seeing (and feeling) was of great importance,just how important would be shown to me soon enough,I later ran for the Governor's office,and hooked up again with Walt at the 1998 Greens Convention,Iwas told about this little stroll through Wisconsin and was asked if I wanted to join,of course I said yes.The Protect The� Earth Journey,became a good deal more than a stroll,Walt and I shared deep concerns for all lifethe more we talked the more it became clear,being a candidate was'nt anywhere near as important as standing up for all those whose voice went unheard and unrecognized,his way was gentle but his words were like granite,he taught me the only thing worth getting really angry about was the outright killing of ALL LIVING THINGS for money,he showed us who the real enemy is,and why it was so,and we� agreed� the only way to stop the idiocy was to buy the land out from under them,such a thing has now come to pass,as a "Walker" words cannot truly express the gratitude I and the Earth feels at this truly��great day for all life.I know Walt is smiling,Thankyou Walt for teaching me about lightining stones,Mother Earth,the power of laughter,and being my guide to the Root.Every turn of my wheelchair wheel Igot closer and closer to the spot where Life talks back to you,and every turn Walt was there pointing out the Spirit in all things,welcoming in the energies,and walking in Their direction,We had talking circles,smoked the Pipe,laid Ghost Meals,held Ceremony for the Buffalo Tree,the Black Hawk Tree,The People,and the Earth,and at the end of each day,a fire,with endless conversation,and tireless joy for living,after a particularly strong ceremony,we were gifted with a visit from the Thunder Beings,a visit of great intensity,before that Walt had hung his hat on a tree limb,I parked my 'chair next to the tent,we turned in,later to be awakened by our tent being blown flat,howling winds,fierce lightining,I thought it was the coolest thing ever,the real cool came in the morning,everything was soaked (imagine that),trees were down,the water well where we were staying was damaged,Walt's hat? still in the tree where he hung it,bone dry,my 'chair? right where i put it ,also bone dry,all we could do is look at each other and laugh,when we got to Madison he gave my wife Becki and I the Honor of Leading the March on the Capitol with the Eagle Staff,he also gave me Hillary's feather to carrry for one year when it came off the staff,an Honor I still fell was too much for me,as I still have much to� learn, When news came to me of his crossing,it had been two weeks later,Ispent time berating myself for nor knowing sooner,being there,all that stuff,then I remembered the Walk,the loop,and it's flexability,it made me laugh and I knew,Walt never had any illusions about"judgment day"or any of that,and as I was saying that very thing,my coffee,which is always black,tasted of heavy cream and double sweet just like Walt liked it.Thanks for the lesson little Brother,thanks for the Walk,but ThankYou for Being,You will Always be my Friend

Jeffrey Smith


Somewhat belatedly, I write to add my memories and reminiscemces of the 'Late Great'. I first encountered Walt Bressette during the Summer of 1997 as an HONOR (Honor Our Neighbors Origins and Rights) Intern, among the Anishinaabe Community on the Red Cliff Reservation, Wisconsin. To 'set the scene', it was a beautiful, 'balmy' Summer evening on the Pow-Wow Grounds across from the Buffalo Bay Campground.

From what I recall, Walt was the 'MC' for some kind of Cultural/Pow-Wow introduction. Visitors, tourists and the sole 'Intern' had gathered at the grounds. A Drum Group was present and the 'warm ups' had reverberated throughout the area. Walt had the microphone and was encouraging people to participate. The commentary went something like this:

"Hi folks! What I would like you people to do is come up here and dance, don't be shy! It will make you feel good. He demonstrated some steps and continued the commentary. "
....I want you all to imagine that there is a coat stand alongside you and what I want you to do is to take off your ego, hang it up and come on out here! [Much laughter ensued. Just a 'taster' of Walt's wonderfully, warm, droll and unique style of humor which immediately embraced the individual and to which I would soon become accustomed and familiar.] He continued:
"....I am going to call out the names of the States and if that's where you come from, I want you to come and 'dantz', it's real easy! Let's have some fun and a good time! ARIZONA! C'mon!"
A few people reluctantly entered the circle and began to take their first clumsy and self-conscious steps to the beat of the Drum. Eventually, there I was, all by myself, the only one remaining seated.
"'....And how about YOU?' Walt bellowed out. '....Where'd ya come from?' I called back 'England!' 'Where?' 'England!' 'Well, get up here and join in!'"

So I too, embarked upon my first tentative steps into the Pow-Wow Circle, little realizing at the time, how I would be, personally and so profoundly, transformed by the wealth of, subsequent, experiences and privileged insights gained during my Internship that Summer.

That was my introduction to an individual who I consider myself most fortunate and indeed privileged to have known, if only for an all too brief period of time. Someone who had the immense courage of their convictions, who inspired, motivated, organized and led others as only very few exceptionally talented and supremely gifted individuals can. Someone who I came to admire for his resolute dedication and commitment to Environmental and Treaty Rights issues and for who I have the greatest respect. Here then was a true 'Human Being', and in the finest Tradition of the word an Ogichidaa, who continued to strive for greater understanding, acceptance and tolerance of others across racial and cultural divides. An individual seeking to secure a more sustainable and better way of living, not only, for the Family, Community, Nation and the World but also for the Creatures, all Life Forms dwelling upon the Earth and the very Elements that support that precious 'Web of Life'; perhaps even more sigificantly to protect all this for the Seventh Generation, the Generations yet unborn.....

Gigawaabamiin niijii, I salute you.

Ian Willsher
HONOR Intern and Advocate
Milton Keynes, England



Walt Bressette was a great role model for me as an Anishnahbe nini . He came to my community in the late spring or early summer 1998 . He came with another man and together they made a lasting impression on me .

He spoke of something that concerned him very much which was easy to tell because he emphasized it over and over . He spoke of our solidarity as Anishnahbe people . His words were very strong and simple . He described our communities as different groups of people travelling the same direction in the same river but in different canoes . The point he was trying to get across was that we all want our people to get ahead in one way or another but we get seperated amongst ourselves . He went on to say that we can come together in a common goal or a common threat .

The wisdom in the message he brought to my community is wisdom that I will never forget . For those of us that have known Walt , although I, myself only met him twice, can carry on with the work that he did in his life because his spirit is still with us . Chi meegwetch .

Kelly Kiyoshk Bkejwanong Redcoyotesinger@yahoo.com
Walpole Island Ont., Canada N8A 4K9


To this sacred bundle of tributes, I offer the powerful words of John G. Neihardt, biographer of Black Elk:

        "Seek not for me within a tomb;
        you shall not find me in the clay!
        I pierce a little wall of gloom
        to mingle with the day!

        I brothered with the things that pass,
        poor giddy joy and puckered grief;
        I go to brother with the grass
        and with the sunning leaf.

        Not death can sheathe me in a shroud;
        a joy-sword whetted keen with pain,
        I join the armies of the cloud,
        the lightning and the rain.

        O subtle in the sap athrill,
        athletic in the glad uplift,
        a portion of the Cosmic Will,
        I pierce the planet-drift.

        My God and I shall interknit
        as rain and Ocean, breath and Air;
        and O, the luring thought of it is prayer!"
Walter's is the greatest of visions precisely because it embraces all life. This is the only vision that makes eyes smile so carelessly, so fearlessly, and lets legs walk strong in hateful places.

It is with longing that I remember his smiling eyes in the firelights of two decades, in two continental watersheds ... the music, stories, jokes, dreams, and action! Yes, his anger could flicker Black Hawk fierce, but I never knew his smile to be smug. His was the smile of transcendent forgiveness, open to beauty in time, yet dedicated to timelessness.

Here, after the winter of his passing, we are all forgiven by the springtime! In the absolute, unconditional warmth of the woodfrog sunshine, clouds are too white to fool me into a chill. Above all, I remember Walt's smiling eyes, fixed in a Seven Generation gaze.

        "Undaunted by Decembers
        the sap is faithful yet.
        The giving Earth remembers,
        and only man forgets."
Ron Miles ron.miles@dnr.state.mn.us
Regional Naturalist



Walt Bresette died of a heart attack on Feb. 21, 1999, in Duluth, Minnesota, while visiting friends. Friends and supporters were numb from the news -- at the silencing of such a vibrant and strong voice for Native and Green causes, leaving us at only age 51. Even now I�m still greatly saddened by his loss from my life. Some days I wake up and I�m still angry that he was taken so young, that he and the doctors didn�t care better for his health. The loss of his leadership, that captivating oratory, that down-to-earth touch with everyone he met, the tactical genius and his broad vision, this loss to the movement has left a hole so big, Esther Nahgahnub said, that it can only be filled by all of us.

Yet I am heartened and often overwhelmed by all the people I�ve talked to who were moved by his life and work. Though he is missing from the center of that circle which we can see, the many celebrations and remembrances of his life show how strong his presence still is among us. And though I met Walt in 1987, twelve years ago, and have been on the path with him since, I feel like I have been on the path with him forever.

The one shining moment in my public political life has been my work with Walt Bresette. I think he had a way of making lots of people feel that way. What role can you play, what work can you do, what skill provide, and let�s do it--this was his life�s blood. Whatever issue or cause it was, Walt could make you feel that "This is your shining moment"--if you come to the boat landings, if you stand in front of the earth movers trying to mine northern Wisconsin, if you think, in all your decisions, how will this affect seven generations from now.

Of course, this shining light is inside you anyway, but it was no small gift that Walter had to be able to see that and bring it out. He would ride into town in his res station wagon, set all this political stuff in motion -- protest, headline, allies, follow-up strategy --and then he�d ride out of town the next day, on to the next step in the big plan. Walt was a modern-day Chippewa nonviolent strategist crossing state-lines (and sovereign-nation lines) to incite critical thinking.

I never met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but I did know Walt. Walter, like Dr. King, knew how to engage principalities and powers in non-violent chess moves that forced government and corporations to deal with the issues (sovereignty, environmental, cultural) they ignored or merely steamed over. Partly, this was because his strategies caught the news glare, sometimes in dramatic life-and-death ways--witnessing at violent boat landings or on the railroad tracks stopping sulfuric acid trains. But more importantly, the strategies Walt and tribal activists set in motion carried the possibility, the threat or promise, that Indian nations might act in sovereign ways (as LCO did in backing its first spearfishers); that wielding this mighty legal tool (sovereignty) on behalf of resource protection, a tool mere environmentalists do not have, indigenous activists provided the cutting edge. "If Native people act like sovereign people," he would rage, "then we will be sovereign people." And his message to the rest of us: If we Americans act like we live in a democracy, then America will become a democracy.

Like King, Walt knew the power of the spoken word--to move people, to buoy us in rough waters, to articulate the next steps and clear goals--and his best speeches embodied the marvelous skill of speaking from the heart while laying out for us our work--political, often dangerous, touching on the spiritual. One of his favorite rhetorical flourishes was to invigorate the current moment by speaking of a future time looking back at this historical moment: "One hundred and fifty years from now--Seven Generations--a story will be told how a long, long, long time ago at the turn of the second millennia, the Anishinabe and other indigenous people stepped forward to save the Great Lakes for future generations . . � If, as the elders have told us, we are our grandparents� dream, then we must today begin dreaming of our grandchildren."

Walt was also sometimes known as the jolly lama of northern Wisconsin for his fine sense of humor. When he would work the powwows selling crafts, he�d say, "Sell trinkets, not treaties." Or he�d be speaking somewhere and be in the middle of a serious political analogy and start calling himself the Chubby Chippewa. Or he�d be M.C.-ing a powwow or Protect the Earth gathering and start telling stories about himself as Bubba. It was his way of balancing out the Walt-Bresette-the-legend stuff.

Walt was fearless with the media. This came from being a journalist in the beginning and from knowing, not only how to write, but how stories made the print, radio or TV news. I think, too, he saw what (little) passed for leadership in government these days and how lacking most news stories were in any analysis or awareness of what we had to prepare ourselves for in the next millennium. Why shouldn�t people be stopping toxic trains, witnessing against the Klan, counting coup on top of mining machinery, visiting CEO�s like any citizen who objects to poorly-conceived development plans? Why shouldn�t that be the news of the day?

He welcomed arrests for his causes. Though the Feathergate arrest cost them their store in Duluth, he and Esther Nahgahnub won the landmark case for Anishinabe rights to gather migratory bird feathers in ceded territory. He risked arrest (and worse) like other spearers and witnesses during the boat landings and, later, in trying to mediate internal tribal confrontations at various Wisconsin and Michigan reservations. Once, when he came to a Green gathering at a Wisconsin state park, he drove in without paying an entrance fee, saying he was there to assert his rights to gather pine nuts in ceded territory. (The ranger and his superiors declined the opportunity to arrest Walt and try a precedent case in Anishinabe pine nuts harvesting.) Walt didn�t gather for the nuts, he didn�t spear for the fish. He speared for the politics. But the politics were the rights of his Lake Superior Chippewa to hunt and spear and gather in the Ceded Territories, and, in no small measure, these he helped preserve.

His issues weren�t just the legal, up-front political ones, either. Walt helped every year do the Anishinabe Way gathering (the cultural/spiritual way back from drug and alcohol abuse). He was concerned with issues of domestic abuse and special education for children: he helped organize a support group for families of developmentally disabled children. The day after he led an anti-Klan rally in Ironwood, Michigan, the city there ran water on the streets where the Klan had been, to cleanse the area. Walt called it one of the most powerful public ceremonies he�d ever been a part of.

When he came to Milwaukee for Earth Day events, I liked to introduce him as a feminist Baptist preacher, if you can imagine such a thing. You could sense a vulnerability in him, often in his speeches, a recognition of his faults -- being that "pitiful creature" (which we all are) mentioned in Chippewa prayers. He�d be talking indirectly about the need to make right some relationship in his personal life. One example I know: a loving father to Claudia, Katie and Robin, he knew the strains that prioritizing political work meant and how much this took away from his time with them.

But Walt understood, also, that it takes more than just being a good parent or teacher to make the future safe for our children.

But he would then transformed this (often) unspecified concern into this notion of a Right Relationship in the political sphere: What is the right relationship between a county and its word (the treaties)? What is the right relationship between tribal sovereignty and a kind of environmentalism that protects everyone, every species and sacred watershed? Walt�s leadership was not the who-gets-what-piece-of -the-casino pie. If the waters are not fit to drink for our descendants, if the only way to insure energy supplies is to send our sons and daughters to die on other�s shores, if our own current coastlines go under water and our precious northwoods becomes an agricultural belt, how can we allow all these other distractions--the President�s sex life, the Governor�s crony-ism--to pass for politics and leadership in the public arena now?

At Walt�s wake, Sandy Lyon of Anishinabe Niijii told this story: When we used to gather, people would ask: how do we pull all our work together, where is the center of the circle made up of all that work and organizing that Walt and we have set in motion? We would have to gather people around a fire at our gathering and the fire would center us. There we could see each other, know all the elements of our movement. Now what? Walt is still in the center of all that. And all we have to do is just stand around the fire together now. When we see all the faces, we will know all the parts, see how it all fits together, that vision and the work.

All I can add to that is thanks, Walter. The blessings from your gifts never end.

Rick Whaley, March 1999

The above remembrance is From the "Walleye Warriors" book reprint. People can order copies of "Walleye Warriors" third edition for $25 each by sending pre-paid orders to Rick Whaley, 4226 N. 75th St., Milwaukee WI 53216 (414-466-6618 or rickwhaley@compuserve.com - check walleye_warriors.html for latest). Bulk orders of 50 or more can be ordered from Roy Morrison, Box 114, Warner NH, 03278. (603) 456-3641 or rmjsc@conknet.com [Ask about discounts for book stores or college courses.]



Walt Bresette's Contributions

I met Walt Bresette ten years ago at a conference on racism sponsored by Wisconsin Community Fund. We were talking before the conference began, and I told him I was worried because our emcee was late. "How can the conference go on without this key player?" I asked.

Walt told me about a Native American belief that applied to the situation: if something is missing, by focusing on it you kept it from appearing. "Forget about the missing emcee and move on," he said, "things will work out." I followed his advise, found another person to stand in for the emcee, and began the conference. Then our emcee showed up, only a few minutes late.

Since that time, I have realized the wisdom of Walt's words. Fretting about what we don't have is disempowering; proceeding with the resources we do have moves us forward. No wonder Walt is such a good activist! I have been impressed many times since then with Walt's intelligence, his sense of humor, and his vision. He has had the ability to be a bridge between cultures, races, and religious groups, and help win victories on a shoestring.

I was shocked when the news came that Walt had died last Sunday. The last time I saw him, just a few months ago, he seemed healthy and vigorous. All week I have thought about him, and the incredible contribution he has made to Wisconsin Community Fund, and many other groups in Wisconsin and nationally. He has had an enormous impact, not only on the Native American rights and environmental movements, but to all progressive movements in Wisconsin.

Now it is difficult to not focus on what is missing: Walt's passing leaves a huge hole in the fabric of the progressive movement. He touched the lives of many people, and was an important spokeperson and leader. He also leaves behind many friends and family members that miss him incredibly.

I now realize that Walt is only missing physically -- he is still with us in spirit, in the memories of the people that he knew, the groups that he formed and worked for, and the organizing work that he did, which will continue on for decades. I feel very fortunate to have know him and worked with him.

Steve Starkey
Wisconsin Community Fund
Madison, WI




Whereas, the Root/Pike Partnership Team seeks to achieve a high quality resource base that is fishable, swimmable, and free from harmful chemicals.

Whereas, the Root/Pike Partnership Team serving the citizens of southeastern Wisconsin provides an opportunity for a shared vision between citizens, governing officials, and regulatory agencies to work cooperatively in a joint effort and common goal to protect and preserve our natural resources for future generations.

Whereas, the Root/Pike River Partnership Team recognizes the visionary conservation initiatives of the late Walter Bresette, honorable member of the Loon Clan of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and his life-long commitment to protect and enhance Wisconsin�s water resources for the Seventh Generation and beyond.

Whereas, the Root/Pike River Partnership Team acknowledges Walter Bresette as Chairman of the Indigenous Issues subcommittee of the Environmental Justice Advisory Council of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and as co-founder of the Midwest Treaty Network, Anishinabe Niijii, Witness for Nonviolence, and the Great Lakes Regional Indigenous Environmental Network.

Therefore, be it resolved that the Root/Pike Partnership Team pays tribute to Walter Bresette, a man fiercely proud of both his Native American and Wisconsin heritage, a peace- maker, and nationally renowned resource conservationist.

Be it further resolved, that a copy of this resolution will be sent to Mr. Bresette�s family and Tribal government in recognition and honor of his achievements.

Dated at a regular meeting of the Root/Pike Partnership Team this 18th day of March, 1999.

Introduced by: _______________________________________________
Linda Sturnot, Root/Pike Partnership Team

Signed: ______________________________________________
Mike Luba, Chair, Root/Pike Partnership Team



This from an old friend in Michigan. What can we say when an incredible light has gone out? Walt had many friends all over the country and we are saddened by his passage and we extend all our thoughts to his loved ones and family. We will miss Walt, his humor, his knowledge, his leadership and most of all his kindness. We will miss his leadership--especially in hard times.


Ben Ramirez-shkwegnaabi 34e2sbw@cmich.edu

Associate Professor of History
Central Michgan University


As a Native journalist who covered the boat landings during the 1980s, I remember how proud and relieved I was when Walt emerged as a strong voice in the dispute. In the early days of the spearfishing ugliness, as you know, public opinion was overwhelmingly against the Ojibwe--partly due to the ignorance on the part of the press, partly due to the well-coordinated assault by the anti-Indian groups (news conferences, press releases, identifiable "spokespeople," etc), and partly due to the reluctance on the part of my fellow Ojibwe to "speak" for anyone other than themselves. As an Ojibwe, I understood that, but it was really frustrating for me as a journalist to watch as the distortions spread with few Ojibwe willing to publicly challenge the misinformation. That of course changed as Walt, Gosh, Tom, and others began taking a higher profile. I remember seeing Walt and George Meyer go head to head at a treaty rights forum at the Unitarian Meeting House in Madison, where Walt jabbed, poked, joked, and delivered more than a few body punches (metaphorically speaking) in his defense of tribal sovereignty. After filing my story with my TV producer, I remember driving home and actually weeping, filled with so much pride and optimism that there were Anishinabe such as Walt--informed, passionate, and publicly willing to try to slay the dragons. Over the years my professional relationship with Walt grew into a friendship as well. I feel so sad for his friends and family and sad for all of us. He was a compass point fixed on the issues that really matter to Indian people. I will miss him.

Patty Loew paloew@facstaff.wisc.edu
Madison, WI


It is sad to lose such a peaceful leader for all of us from the First People of this land. His way and his spirit is now within each of us so that his vision will still be seen, by making his vision occur in this land. He was/is peace in action.

Tom Seery/ Julie Enslow pamilw@execpc.com
Peace Action Milwaukee


All of us have mourned the death of Walt Bresette. Many of us were at his wake, or watched the fire, or came to the funeral, or put down tobacco in our own sacred places to honor his memory. This is good.

I kept hearing something from some to the folks who've said their goodbyes. I've heard that Walt is gone-- That is untrue. Walt is here in his children, in the wind, the sky, the earth, and in us. I want to thank everyone who is carrying on his work. I look forward to journeying with you.

amy s mondloch amond932@uwsp.edu


Although I only met Walt a few times, they were enough to leave an impression that will last a lifetime. There is a hole in Wisconsin, one left not by a foreign mining company but by the passing of someone with an incredible passion for the land and its people, that can never be filled. To his family--thank you for sharing him with us.

Lynn Paloski paloskil@north.ecasd.k12.wi.us
North High School
Eau Claire, Wis.


Walter Bresette was a member of the founding board of Project Underground and will be deeply missed by our staff, volunteers and his fellow board members.

Pratap Chatterjee pratap@moles.org
Project Underground
Berkeley, CA


A warrior is gone
but the call for struggle still echoes
A father is gone
but the children still need us
A brother is gone
but the bonds of love stay strong
A journeyer is gone
but his footsteps still chart the path

A great spirit remains
to fill our souls with the warm laughter of remembrance

-Dennis Boyer dennisb@midplains.net
Dodgeville, WI


Bertolt Brecht, to paraphrase, taught us " There are those who struggle for one day, and they are good people. There are those who struggle for a year, and they are very good people. There are those who struggle for their entire lives, and they are the invincible ones." Walt Bresette is one of those invincibles, and we scream silently because he has moved on into a world we can't easily enter. We feel anger, we feel despair, we can't imagine this land, this dear and exploited land full of trees and lakes and walleye and minerals, all the things that Walter taught us, we can't imagine it without Walter. Once knowing Walter, I can't imagine my state of Wisconsin without his dreams and his visions to for making life good and right for all of us, brown, red, yellow and white, on this land, this ravaged land, this land on which he spent all of his energy, this land to which he dedicated all of his gifts. This land, over which he raged and rhapsodized, this land which he defended with all his wiliness, all his generosity, all the political genious, that would take our breath away time after time.

Walter, I see you in my photo sitting with the Guatemalan kids, back in 1988, as they took in all of your words, and your aunt Victoria's words, there on the shores of Lake Superior. They were awestricken: could Anishanabe and Quiche Mayas have so much in common? You helped us bring everyone together to teach that simple lesson: No one can take our history away from us. Sometimes you would smile with that sly and mischievous smile you had when you said that, as if the secret of how to make a better future did indeed lay in knowing and teaching about our sacred past. We, the people know what needs to be done and, if we look to our past and vision up a future, we can get to a better place.

Thank you, Walter, for everything you gave us, for all the people, the ideas, the connections and the possibilities that became real for us through your stories, your anecdotes, and your pain, the pain of having to figure out how to live an ordinary life, the demanding life, every day. That pain we shared with you. Forgive us for not being able to shelter you from it. We really didn't know how to do that anyway, and you never really wanted to run for shelter. You preferred the hard ground.

Last night, after learning of your passing, I called our old friend Nicolas, one of the Quiche Mayans who was up at Lake Superior in those days of our heady journey across northern Wisconsin. Nicolas reflected, then said, "According to the Mayan teachings, a great leader of the people like Walter, will ascend to the heavens and take his place, as a star there in the firmaments. From there, he will look down upon you and guide you." Yes, when his spirit journey is complete, Walter will be there among the many great leaders of our peoples, guiding us to where we still need to go.

Goodbye, Walter, migwetch and we will meet again.

Laurie Melrood guamap@theriver.com Tucson AZ


Walter -

You don't give up. That's what I wanted to hear�. why it is before us to imagine not the satisfaction of pulling down fighter planes from the sky, but the way children can see themselves learning the traditions to remain autonomous from the lies of history.�

"Will the crushing of Nicaragua be balanced by us not having to drive cars someday? Will we come upon a time that allows us to teach about the underground railroad again?

"And when we landed, they asked us if we had come down because we saw the flag. They had hung a flag in the treetop so it might be seen from the air, because they had heard that it was necessary to put up a flag as a signal for the revolution to come and visit them in those lonely areas� A school, a health center, a school; we lay the cornerstone, we have the wood, a school, here is the impulse to build it; a shipment of lime, a load of sand; we have the land, a school, you should see how beautiful the children are; a school, you should see a school, a health center, a road; a blessing of children; the school, a loveliness of children, once upon a time there was a school teacher; will he come back?

A school, a school, a school"

From: Free Nicaragua
Hatful of Tigers (1979) - Sergio Ramirez
Former Vice President of Nicaragua

I remember you said it was cold at Red Cliff, hope the blanket warms your eyes.

- Blake

Walter was thinking of coming to Tucson to attend a conference the weekend before this letter was written. In our conversation, we exchanged news about the struggles in the Great Lakes and the Southwest, and I heard a weariness in his voice, so I asked him - When do we get beyond stopping the damage, and start creating a better homeland for our peoples?

Walter replied with his vision for Anishinabe. e thought that summer encampments should take place in all the little villages and towns where Anishinabe live, and that the gatherings would be for talking about the idea of brining together the Anishinabe Nation. Each visit would take place if people wanted to undertake sponsoring the encampment. The problems he saw were the fear and turning inward from the bewildering ways of life; ways that have come to define for them who they are supposed to be or not be. The thread had to be spun again and it would take several generations, perhaps five.

That formation he described was certainly different from another idea he told me about in the past year. That one centered on a foundation which would have brought in community activists to learn media skills, and then helped them produce a tangible piece, like a film, a recording, something useful for educating their public on the issue at hand.

Those two conversations were the quintessential Walter. Though I have no illusions about how Walter was impossible to live with, and probably no one knew that more than he did. Walter taught so many of us what it meant to make history our own. He assumed we were all connected and that it was our duty to find out how in order to honor the sacred.

Walter was instrumental in giving hope to a group of Mayan Guatemalans, children exiled in America, living in the middle of Chicago. He helped organized a tour for their theatre group in Northern Wisconsin to be with Anishinabe, Menomonie, Stockbridge-Munsee, and other rural Wisconsin people.

I will never forget the moment when the Troupe's van entered the Menomonee reservation as the children and their elders became very animated and amazed, saying that "they are just like us". Their exile began to take on a significance beyond their isolated existence. Eventually, some of those children grew up and returned to ight the repression directly.

Sometime later, on another journey, we followed Black Hawk's Trail to Victory, Wisconsin on the Mississippi. After the closing ceremony, we all climbed the hills overlooking the river, being led by the most elder Quiche Maya amongst us who quickly took the grade while we slowly ascended in his steps., On top of the hill, Walter read to us from Black Hawk's autobiography. This was how Walter brought us together, by honoring memory, helping us to believe our struggles were as real as the struggles of those who passed before us.

Blake Gentry guamap@theriver.com
Tucson, AZ


I deeply regret the passing of Walt Bresette, who was a shining example of what one person can do with his life when he is dedicated to an ideal. I met Walt when he was out east on one of his many speaking tours, and was hoping to get him to Rutgers University to speak sometime. He was a kind and generous individual with a strong spirit of service, truly the type of leader we all can look up to. I send my deepest sympathies to his wife and family and remind them that we are always connected in love. Walt Bresette loved deeply - this earth, his state, his nation, his family and all of us who have been touched in some way by his great willingness to share his passion for the earth. A leader is gone from us, it is time for others to pick up the flag....

Nancy H. Omaha Boy, Ph.D. omaha@crab.rutgers.edu
Director, Teaching Excellence Center
Rutgers University
406 Penn St.
Camden, NJ 08102


I stood around many fires with you, Walter. Some of them sent people we loved on their journey. Now I am saddened that I cannot stand around the fire that warms you as you complete your journey.

I am so grateful to have known you, to have learned from you, to have laughed, and sometimes, cried, with you. I will always remember your visit to my hospital bed, when I felt hopeless and alone, mourning the parts of me that were gone. You held me then, and told me that I was one of the most whole people you had ever known. You then proceeded to teach me that a person was whole when their spirit strived to continue whatever struggle necessary. You taught me another important lesson during those years. as we worked together at Great lakes Inter-Tribal. I questioned the lifestyle of some of the "program Indians." You called me on this elitist thinking and introduced me to what later became written and titled, "Walter's World." You reminded me that our struggles are so huge, and so important, that we need absolutely everyone we can get. That ALL people, from all lefestyles, were needed to fight this fight. And you made me realize that I had fallen into the thinking that would keep us divided. I was humbled, and grateful, and never again did I allow arrogance and judgment of another human being to separate me, or them, from the cause common to all of us.

Some say you will be remembered as a warrior. As an activist. An educator. But I shall remember you as a friend, as a man who valued his relationship with all living things as the most important aspect of his life. You were a shining example of a Native American male role-model. I'll see you in the stars and in the northern lights. And I'll see you around the fire when my journey ends. Say hello to Hank and Blanche, and Harriet and Victoria, and Kathy Jo, for me. Until we meet at the fire, I shall miss you.




My condolences to everyone. We were lucky enough to have Walt here in the Grand Rapids, MI-area a couple of years ago and I was glad to have talked to him briefly about his actions and visions for a better world.


Cliff Alles-Curie
Institute for Global Education ige@igc.apc.org


It's been over a month since Walt left us and, though I've wanted to add my thoughts to the many others here, it's been difficult to find adequate words of respect and honor for one who had such a strong influence on me. From the many wonderful words shared here, I think we have all felt his influence deeply. He was a wonderfully gifted teacher.

I think one of Walt's gifts was his ability to bring out the best in each of us and to inspire us to use our talents to accomplish things we might never have imagined on our own. He could empower whole rooms full of people without even making a specific suggestion, simply by asking the right question or sharing the right story.

While always understanding the politics and ethical reality of any situation, he understood the emotions and the drama as well. He knew how to use that sensitivity to move others with his words and his presence to act on their consciences. He brought diverse peoples, talents, and energies together to work small miracles. He was a gift to whatever issue he took up.

And more than anyone I ever met, Walt seemed to have the entire grand scheme in his head and in his heart. His perceptions of how things were connected and what their impact would be were profound and were an endless education for me. His first concern was always his Anishinabe people, but he could see the concerns, pains, and scars within all of us and sincerely tried in his working alliances and in his friendships to improve this world for all people.

Though I know that time will heal the impact of his loss for all of us, his influence may always be a part of how I see things and the choices I make. I suspect that may be true for many of us. We were extroardinarily fortunate to have met him on our journeys through life. Perhaps through those of us who were moved by the integrity of his words and actions, a part of him may continue on in the world.

Carol Edgerton
former Witness for Nonviolence


The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each ghostly reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my People. That water's murmur is the voice of my father's father. The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So, you must give to the rivers the kindness you would give any brother. . . no man be he Red Man or White Man, can be apart. We are all brothers after all.
(Chief Seattle)

In loving memory, we grieve the loss of our brother and fellow environmental warrior Walt Bresette . . .a man of vision and inspiration, he will always be with us - in our hearts, our minds, and on the battlefield . . .

Linda Sturnot
Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin-
Milwaukee Chapter


We first met Walter Bressette, Cass Joy and their three children, Claudia, Katie and Robin because of Claudia, who has Down Syndrome. On several occasions we spent time with Walter and Cass and talked about the unique qualities of their children. Walter in his wise and gentle way taught us many lessons about Indian people and about ourselves as caregivers. We had the privilege of laughing and playing with Walter, Cass and their children. Walter believed that his environmental activism was absolutely essential for the welfare of his children and all the children of the world -- "our children are the hope of the future."

We want to express our deepest sympathy to Cass Joy, Claudia, Katie and Robin for the loss of Walter. They will miss him -- and so will we. To Walter's other family members, we also express our sorrow at your loss. May you find solace in knowing that Walter's energy and spirit made a difference in the lives of so many people......

Susan Heighway & Andy Bachhuber & Pam Brite


I had the honor of meeting Walt during the summer of 1997 when I signed up for a course he was teaching at Michigan Technological University called "Alternative Perspectives on the Environment". His teachings had an impact on me like no other course I had ever taken...his wisdom, sincerity, humor, spirituality and dedication created a deep imprint on my heart and soul on how important it is for us all to be 'stewards of the earth'. I was also greatly honored to have spent time with Walt and his children picking blueberries and visiting the llamas shen they were in the area...it was a very special day. I shall never forget his words one evening after ceremony when he looked at us and said..."some of you may never see me again"...and how saddened I felt at that time at the thought of never again spending time with this very special man. I never realized those words could ring true in such a relatively short period of time. You will be greatly missed, my friend....Your words and dedication will live on in the hearts of those whose lives you have touched during your short earth walk. Migwetch Niiji...

Nancy Gagnon negagnon@mtu.edu
Applied Ecology/Environmental Science student
Michigan Technological University
Houghton, Michigan



I'm saddened by Walt's sudden passing on. I knew him through our efforts at the boatlandings for the Witness for Non-violence campaign and the Midwest Treaty Network and Madison Treaty Rights Support Group work.

Walt was a great speaker and someone who talked the talk and walked the walk.

The last time I saw Walt he was at the Madison Capital Square for a Sesquacentenial event.

One of the tables honored Native American crafts and contributions to Wisconsin's history.

He was there eating an ice cream cone with a couple of his children and that familiar gleam in his eyes. He was so full of life.

I'll miss him.
I'm saddened too by the loss felt by his family and friends.
I believe the best way to honor Walt's memory is to keep up the good fight that he was engaged and gave his life for.

In Solidarity,
Harry Richardson herichar@facstaff.wisc.edu
Madison WI


In memory of Walt Bresette, I would like to share this poem which his presence and vision actually inspired. I wrote it while at the Protect the Earth Gathering at Mole Lake on July 27, 1996 after Walt had joined our campfire the night before to share his stories. We will ALL miss him dearly, but we can always draw strength from his vision of a better world to be. -

John E. Peck jepeck@students.wisc.edu , c/o UW Greens,
P.O. Box 14382, Madison WI 53714-4382
tel. #608-262-9036
fax. #608-251-3267

Abe Lincoln Meets Walt Bresette over Exxon's Dead Ore Body

"In God We Trust"

It was early dawn and it was on the road With that familiar and now somewhat tarnished profile

Good Ol' Abe Lincoln

Yep, there's copper in dem der North Woods Too bad all that other "STUFF" is in the way ...water weeds, swamp lands, blanket asses...

Still - if you hold a coin close enough to your eye, it can blot out the entire sun

Bottomline blinders for the Exxon as it does its corporate calisthetics


I picked up the cast off penny and placed it in my pocket

Soon enough, though, I could feel it burning a hole Sulfuric acid oozing down -
burning my leg, poisoning the water,
fouling the earth, searing my soul

Last night I saw another wellknown weathered face -
that of Walt Bresette - Anishinabe activist, Gaia guardian

His voice crescendoing in the campfire
His vision traversing seven generations

Everyone was there in solidarity:
old, young, black, white, twig, feather, fur, shell

Their strength and courage fueling the eternal flames,
climbing into the midsummer starlight, scattering to the four winds

Their home, OUR HOME, would be here long after the bloated Exxon beast belched its last breath of putrid profit

"Exxon, what's that?"
- the great great great great great great great gandchildren of Walt and Abe will wonder as they frolic in the North Woods

and corporate palentologists will scurry to unearth evidence of the rumored monster -

Where are the bleached bones?
Where are the toxic tailings?

and with a little luck and a lot of hard work,
they'll find nothing but a worn copper coin

"E Pluribus Unum"


Dear Friends,

Although I am deeply saddened by Walt's passing, I'd like to take this opportunity to connect with those who worked with him, and with those who would continue the work that he worked with us to accomplish. (Walt Bresette'ss 7th Generation Talk)

On a personal note, Walt told me that I should concentrate on working with women, because he couldn't do that himself. I agreed to honor this responsibility. I know that I will need to work with good and strong men as well, and with those who pray. As Walt said, "I write to ask that you join me and my friends, partners, colleagues in changing things... But what we really want is your partnership." This work must continue.

All my relations
Willi Nolan willi@web.net
Project Coordinator
International Institute of Concern for Public Health


Feb. 22, 1999
Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) received word this afternoon of the passing of a friend that was a true warrior in the struggle to protect our treaty rights, environment, and human rights of Indigenous Peoples. Walter Bresette, Red Cliff Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) of the Loon Clan died this Sunday, February 21, 1999 morning in Duluth, Minnesota. Bresette lived on the Red Cliff Ojibwe reservation in Wisconsin.

During the pass year, Bresette has been active in the development of the Great Lakes Regional Indigenous Environmental Network (GLRIEN), as well as other initiatives such as the Anishinaabeg Millennium Project. Bresette founded the Anishinaabeg Millennium Project which sought to reclaim and redefine a vision for the future of the Anishinaabe Nation.

Bresette recently was appointed as a board member to both Project Underground and Honor The Earth Campaign. IEN will miss this Ojibwe brother - uncle - father - and we send our prayers out to his family, children, friends, and loved ones.

All My Relations,
Tom Goldtooth ien@igc.apc.org
IEN National Coordinator
Bemidji, MN


I first met Walt almost 20 years ago when he was wearing his reporter's hat at a rally to stop Project ELF. No matter how serious the issue, or how dire the situation, he would always crack some joke in order to remind us of what it meant to be human. Even when the situation got intense at the boat landings, or it looked like we were losing to the mining companies, he would start telling stories about some hilarious experience he had.

Walt was considered a leader, but saw himself as someone who would get things started, and then step back to let the communities themselves take the lead. Walt would always light the first fire, in a good way, and then let others guard the flame. He lit a fire when he asked us to go to the boat landings to witness for the Chippewa spearers and their families who were under attack. He lit a fire when he reminded the Chippewa and rural white folks of northern Wisconsin that they had more in common with each other than with the state government. He lit a fire when he began telling the people that we had to defend our environment and local economy together, for seven generations, or both would be lost. He lit a fire when he mustered support for the Anishinaabe Ogichidaa on the tracks at Bad River, as they stopped acid trains going to Inmet's White Pine mine in Michigan.

One of the favorite stories that Walt told me was from 1996, when he went to Toronto to demand that Inmet drop its acid leaching mine project at White Pine. He described taking the elevator up to the top floor of Inmet headquarters, and being ushered into the suite of the company's Chief Executive Officer. Walt told the CEO why the project was a threat to Lake Superior, and what Lake Superior meant to the Chippewa and their friends. The CEO was polite but not very responsive. Exasperated, Walt challenged the CEO, and asked if he really had the power within his company to stop the project even if he wanted to. The CEO, naturally, replied that "whatever I say around here, goes."

At that point in telling the story, Walt started grinning. He explained that Canada was a fanatically anti-smoking country, with signs everywhere that forbid smoking in public or private places, including Inmet corporate headquarters. He told the CEO, "If you're really in charge of your company, well, can I light up a cig?" The Inmet attorney in the office leapt out of his chair and, practically hyperventilating, advised the CEO that to let Walt smoke would violate company codes, provincial laws, and federal laws.

The CEO looked at his attorney and then looked at Walt. He then looked back at the attorney and ordered: "Get this man an ashtray!". It was at this point, Walt told me, that he knew we could stop the trains going to the White Pine mine.

And stop it we did. The Ogichidaag from Bad River had no funding proposals, no staff, no biennial reports, no strategy retreats. All they had was the support of their community, and the support of other communities. And not only did they stop the trains, but they prevented Inmet even from reopening the White Pine mine. This was a mine in another state that had met with little publicity or opposition, and was not upriver from the reservation. If the Ogichidaag and Walt successfully took a stand there, what would happen if the Crandon mine is given a permit? This is a mine in our state, that has met with enormous publicity and opposition, and that is immediately upriver from the Mole Lake reservation. The DNR and Rio Algom should start thinking about that, and start listening to Walt before it is too late.

Because what Walt taught us is that power is not in the legislature, not in government agencies or corporate boardrooms. Power is in the elders, in the youths, in the veterans, in any people who decide it is time to act. What the people decide eventually trickles up to the politicians or the judges, but it does not start with them. People who have a spiritual reason for their actions can persevere in the long haul, and in doing so can create real hope for the future.

Walt's body is now lying peacefully in a spot overlooking the Lake Superior that he loved, and the Madeline Island that was the birthplace of the nation he dreamt of healing and unifying. His spirit is also peacefully watching us. (He has probably also joined Hilary Waukau, Evelyn Churchill, Louis Hawpetoss, and Evans and Ron Smith in the most influential Mining Impact Committee.) Walt Bresette is still with us in our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions. Let's start creating some new stories that he would love to tell others. Walt always got the ball rolling, and now it is up to the rest of us to get it rolling too.

Zoltán Grossman
Midwest Treaty Network


Dear green friends in the World,

On Monday 22nd, I was informed by my friend Judy Pratt-Shelley from Red Cliff, that Mr. Walt Bresette unexpectedly passed away on Sunday, 21 February 1999, 51 years old.

We are all in deep sorrow over this tragic event.

Walt Bresette has been a real warrior for native rights and environmental justice. I met him in summer 1996 during my travel around Lake Superior. He left a deep impact on me. He had a visionary mind and an inextinguishable inner flame of love and passion. Walt was an extraordinary human being with an incredible capacity to make dreams come true.

A true role model for the global green movement.

In deep respect,
Ursula Mueller ursula@mp.se
Milj�partiet de Gr�na
(International secretary, Green Party Sweden)

PS: You can fax condolence letters to Red Cliff Office (Att. Mrs. Judy Pratt-Shelley, fax +1-715-779- 3704)


Walt belonged to the Anishinabe Nation and lived with his family at Red Cliff, WI. He has been the founder of the Lake Superior Greens and a driving force within the environmental movement in Wisconsin. He has been the leader of the Anishinabe Ogitchida (Protectors of the People), co-leader of the Lake Superior Greens, Red Cliff Ojibwe spokesperson for the Midwest Treaty Network Northwest Wisconsin office and was active within the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Walt Bresette was the founder of numerous environmental, treaty and cultural groups, including the Lake Superior Greens, Witness for Nonviolence, the Midwest Treaty Network, the Red Cliff Cultural Institute and the Woodland Indian Craft Cooperative. An award-winning writer and radio journalist, he was the co-author of Walleye Warriors. Bresette served on the EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. He was a prominent activist and spokesperson for environmental justice.

The space in this message would be too small to count all the actions, campaigns, protests, initiatives which he accomplished. Often, he worked on several activities at the same time. Let me just recall some of the most relevant events:

His greatest political achievement - which has been a major victory for grassroots environmental organizing and traditional Native American activism - was the stoppage of the acid solution mining at the White Pine copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in 1996/97. The mining project was finally stopped by an extremely successful train blockade at Bad River Ojibwa Reservation in 1997.

In summer 1998, Walt Bresette co-organized the "Protect the Earth Journey Walk", a 320 mile walk from Lake Superior to Wisconsin State Capitol. The walk had left the Red Cliff Ojibwe (Chippewa) Reservation on Wisconsin's 150th anniversary, May 29. The purpose of the walk was to bring public attention to protecting Wisconsin's environment in this Sesquicentennial year. 150 years is the equivalent of seven generations, a time frame used by indigenous peoples for consideration in decision-making. The walk was made to garner support for a Seventh Generation Amendment to the State Constitution (and ultimately the U.S. Constitution) which would protect air, water, and other forms of "common property" from environmental threats such as metallic sulfide mining.

Most of his activities are described in the book which he published togehter with Rick Whaley - "Walleye Warriors" (New Society Publishers, 1994). "This book recounts how a grass-roots-level alliance between Native people and non-Indian supporters has successfully worked in non-violent ways (one of the main ones described is the fishing Witness project) to overcome redneck racism, and more importantly the covert interest and support of those redneck racists (against Native land rights) by large corporations who are or plan to undertake major mining efforts on or near Native lands. Though this book covers a struggle that is particular to the upper Midwest Great Lakes region, and focusses on several Wisconsin Ojibwe tribes there, it is a paradigm or model with applications to Native nations all over the U.S. and Canada, where similar overt racism and covert economic and governmental backing trhreaten Native lands and environments -- and existing or establishable Native rights" (!citation Paula Giese).


I am shocked and saddened to get the news this evening of the passing of Walter Bresette, a hero for the Peoples and a wonderful, warm and committed Indian man.

I had the privilege and pleasure of working with him closely on many occasions over the years. It was always good to share time and conversation with him, and to discuss ideas and strategies for addressing the many struggles confronting our Peoples. I can't believe that he will not be here in the same way next time I want to talk something over with him. Of course his spirit and example of selfless dedication will live on to inspire us always.

Please convey the heartfelt condolences of the International Indian Treaty Council staff and Board members to his family and his associates, who must be feeling very deeply the pain and shock of losing such a one from this world so suddenly. Our heart and prayers goes out to them. I hope it helps for them to know how fondly he will be remembered by all of us who knew him.

Respectfully, Andrea Carmen, Executive Director,
International Indian Treaty Council iitcak@corecom.net


KOLA wishes to express its sincere feelings of sympathy with the relatives of Mr. Walter Bresette. He was an awesome human rights and environmental advocate and he will be greatly missed.

Elsie Herten & Florence Bald Eagle,
KOLA International Campaign Office
Brussels, Belgium kolahq@skynet.be


Thanks so much for the information. Sorry for all those who were touched by him and sorry for Wisconsin because we needed his strength of character. Please pass on my sympathy and concern to his family and friends.

Ed Garvey GarveyLAW@aol.com
Madison, WI


It was with great sadness that I learned today of Walt Bresette's death.

He will be greatly missed by all who treasure the diversity of cultures and life on earth.

It was an honor to know him.

Bron Taylor taylor@uwosh.edu
Oshkosh Foundation Professor and Director of Environmental Studies
Professor of Religion and Social Ethics
Dept. of Religious Studies and Anthropology
The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Oshkosh, WI 54901


This is indeed a great loss for humanity. I never met Walt Bresette but I have known of him and have read his works and have followed his activism which has been inspirational. Please keep us informed as to the date of the wake so that we can have a gathering here in his honor at the same time.

Catherine Davids cdavids@flint.umich.edu
University of Michigan - Flint


You mention Black Hawk's war club, which was given to Walt to carry. He carried it well and honored the memory of Black Hawk.

I saw the club on a number of occasions, and heard Walt speak of it and how it came to him on others. But on one occasion I was thrilled to see Walter use the club in a righteous act of self-defense.

We were on the outskirts of Ladysmith, after RTZ had finished surrounding "their" property with a 10-foot-high cyclone fence and begun the grisly process of scraping topsoil into huge mounds. On top of one of these mounds, in full view of the traffic on Highway 27, a large United States flag had been planted.

Having assembled outside one of the gates leading into the mine site, the two dozen or so protesters proceeded to sing, chant, and generally carry on. No arrests had been planned for this day, and it seemed we'd all soon be heading home, one more unremarkable demonstration under our belts.

A few members of our group had broken away and were walking the fenceline, apparently sizing up the site's security. Suddenly my eye was caught by some unusual movement to my left, and I turned in time to see the first of three (I think there were three; this was eight years ago and my memory is hazy) protesters engaging in a little extra-curricular activity.

First Walt, then Jan Jacoby, then Sean Guilfoyle dropped to the ground inside RTZ territory, and as they did, each made a beeline for the hill with the flag on top. As the rest of us watched and cheered, Walt took a sharp right and began running toward a giant earth moving machine parked near the base of the hill. He ran up to one of the mammoth tires and, jumping as high as he could, "counted coup" on that monster machine with Black Hawk's club.

Walt then joined his two comrades, who had begun taking down the flag. After it was (more or less) properly folded, they ran back and tossed it over the fence and into the hands of Linda Craemer, who appeared surprised at suddenly becoming an accessory to this little crime.

Walt's explanation afterwards was that he felt an exploitive foreign company had no right to fly an American flag over land that they were about to desecrate and that the three fence climbers had not intended to keep the flag, only to safeguard it until its rightful owners could be found.

His was and is a wonderful spirit. Long may he live in our hearts.

Jeff Peterson peterson@win.bright.net
Luck, WI


I too count myself lucky to have witnessed the event Jeff mentions above. The image of Walt hammering away with the war club on the earth mover at Ladysmith has been indelibly etched in my mind because of its pathos - an Indian warrior with pony tail waving in the wind, dwarfed by the mechanical monster, and swinging away against its indifference and destruction in an act of defense for his long suffering culture and the accosted mother planet. Too bad so many of us are blinded by the glitter of the modern world, too bad so few of us carry torches of awareness in the darkness. We have lost one; let us share and fire the imaginations of others with Walt's spirit, voice and vision.

Will Fantle wfantle@mail.execpc.com Eau Claire, WI


I'm saddened to hear about Walter's sudden death. I thought that he and Walter Kuhlman were the two most influential intellectual environmental leaders of Wisconsin. Now both of them are gone. Their contributions and leadership were immeasurable.

John Schwarzmann
ECCOLA eccola@newnorth.net
Minocqua, WI


I heard about Walt's passing through IEN, too. I'm really sorry to hear this, but hope his example will lead to others taking his road.

Lilias Jones Jarding lilias@earthlink.net
Brookings, SD


Thank you for the information on Walt Bresette's funeral. I'm sad to find this on my e-mail. I'll put tobacco out for him. He was a neat person and I'll remember the times when I got to listen to his good words.

Sara Begay muttonshinnob@yahoo.com


Needless to say this is a terrible lose for the entire people and state of Wisconsin. Betsy Lawrence

Wisconsin Community Fund
Madison, WI


Please add my thoughts and prayers to the growing list.

Walt was a fighter for justice, decency, sanity in a world that seems to have gone mad with greed and exploitation. His voice and gentle but strong spirit were an inspiration to me. Though I only met him once or twice, his spirit was often with me and his works were a guide to my own work. May he journey in peace on the great road...

Peter d'Errico derrico@legal.umass.edu
Legal Studies Faculty voice: 413-545-2003
University of Massachusetts: Amherst, MA, USA 01003


This is a very sad day. Like everyone else, I've been in many "actions" with Walt, including 5 of us stopping the train in Stevens Point a few years ago... it was carrying toxins and heading for the res.

Kathy Wolf kwolf@facstaff.wisc.edu
Madison, WI

The "story" of Walter . . .

    is "a tale of ancient voices resonating from the past through the rootedness of today's Native people. It is a tale of nonviolent warriors punching at the social and political membranes, making room for the future.

    It is a tale of European-American allies and Native and African-American legacies of . . . struggle and vision."

    "This is a story of cultures coming together not only in the political struggle against racism and resource colonization, but also the coming together of visions of many cultures."

    "All of these voices now are coming together collectively, creating a multicultural choir, all saying the same thing: save the earth to save yourselves." (Walleye Warrior, pp. 1 - 3)

    "At each place, I stopped to listen and learn and make allies. And as I responded to those openly responding to me, each issue became a window to someplace else I could go to promote the meaning of treaties in the ceded territory."

    ". . . all struggles are related . . . . We ally not because we are 'alike' . . . . We ally to affirm each other's strengths. . . . If we are to build even stronger alliances for our common goals, we must accommodate and encourage our personal and cultural differences, while tolerating our natural weaknesses, and thereby solidifying our political partnerships." (Walleye Warrior, p. 85)

    ". . . the pine, are gone. Our identity, which is a woodland identity, was slaughtered, is slaughtered. All of the spirits associated with the woodland culture w[ere] devastated. A holocaust occurred in the Great Lakes that was part of our identity.

    And so, we've never mourned, we've never mourned the loss of our identity. Instead, we look at the books of Wisconsin and we see the . . . big people standing on the piles of wood celebrating the building of Milwaukee and Chicago . . . ." (Walleye Warrior, p. 87)

    ". . . as we were talking, I did a flash forward, like one of those things you do in novels or the movies. . . . I mean it was incredible. And there I was an old man. And there was a young man there next to me, and he was my grandson . . . . And he looked at me and said, 'Grandpa, do you remember when you had treaty rights?' . . . . And I cried . . . . Because I tried to imagine what kind of an explanation I could give this child. I reached inside of my heart, inside of my mind, and couldn't find an answer." (Walleye Warrior, p. 86)

"Who Will Care For Things After We Have Gone?"

    ". . . what about generations to come - what will they inherit? . . . Some of us have been worried about those unborn generations . . . and we have a proposal[:] . . . the 7th Generation Amendment - a response to [the] present anti-earth legislation in the U.S. Congress and an acknowledgment that these rights we all claim to hold so dear also reside with the future generations."

    "The right of the people to use and enjoy air, water, sunlight, and other renewable resources determined by Congress to be common property, shall not be impaired nor shall such use impair their availability for the future generations."

    "May the Great Spirit who looks over this sacred lake look kindly on your heart . . . so that as we enter our elder years our children will consider us like we today are caring for them.

    "In seven generations, . . . we will all be gone. . . . [S]urely we can commit the rest of our lives that these great grandchildren will have the opportunity to breathe air and drink safely. We must always remember that water is always more precious than gold." (Press Release, 9/20/95)

Thanks to Vern Simula vsimula@mail.portup.com Mohawk, Mich.


Friends, We did not even really know him but he was our brother and friend. We are sure his soul is at peace and smiling down on us rolling tru the great wheel of life. Shine on brightly, Amy Vas Nunes co-chair for the Connecticut Green Party and New England War Resisters League

Amy Vas Nunes amyvasnunes@snet.net
Green Party of Connecticut


I am a stranger visiting these pages about Walt Bresette and Walt's work, lovingly written by his family, friends and other folks in the community. Walt lives on through these pages --his special heart, character and good works. A very nice tribute to Walt and his work.

Karen Wright, a fed US GAO, San Francisco, CA
twodogkd@hotmail.com,(personal email)


I met Walt in 1996 at a University of Wisconsin conference on environmental resistance movements organised by Prof Bron Taylor (Oshkosh, Religious Studies).

Sitting at the meal table on the last night, Walt said to me, "The trouble with this conference is there's not enough SPIRITUALITY."

"We could fix that," I suggested.

He looked at me in a manner that required no explanation. "See you upstairs shortly," he said. "I'm off to the car to get my medicine bundle."

Upstairs I arranged with the chair, Baird Callecott, for Walt and me to make our contribution last in the panel of confernece speakers. When the time came, Walt went and shut the main doors and organised everybody into a circle. I started drumming and my Irish colleague also from the Centre for Human Ecology here in Scotland, Tara O'Leary, played haunting flute music on the pennny whistle.

Walt then explained that the doors being shut is how it now is in America. "We're all inside" he said, "whether we see it or not." "We're all native now. The doors are shut."

He then proceeded to smudge and bless everybody, welcoming them into their spiritual responsibilities for this place.

The event would have been a controversial one for some people. They were neither warned nor invited to participate. Walt was spirit-moved to do what he did. Tara and I were spirit-led to assist him in this joint spontaneous Native-American / Celtic ceremony.

The events were recorded by student TV and subsequently broadcast in Oshkosh.

I made my own record in a passing mention in a poetic piece I wrote about identity in Scotland - "The GalGael Peoples of Scotland". The mention of him is in section IV. It is published in Nature Religion Today, Edinburgh University Press, ed. Pearson, Roberts & Samuel, and I think it's also out in the USA in Indiana University Press.

(The Gal-Gael Peoples of Scotland: On Tradition Re-bearing, Recovery of Place and Making Identity Anew a contribution for Nature Religion Today, by Alastair McIntosh alastair@gn.apc.org Scotland)

(IV) Re-visioning

We are become again a people
known or unknown touched
by rose of Scotland little white rose
that smells so sharp and sweet it breaks the heart
by eagle, deer, wild cat and long-gone bear
here in spirit where extinct in flesh
Strong totems for recovery - we need strong totems at this time
Remember ... that three years before
Culloden massacred gasp from clansfolk's tribal voice
the last wolf was shot extinct in Scotland
Nature's death precursing culture's "thickest night"
Culloden - last battle mainland British soil 1746
internal colonial conquest
blood mingling inseparably soaked through moss Drumossie moor
friend and foe and which is "us" and which is "them" now?
Where the "Gaeltachd" wither "Galltachd"
Unavoidably mingled
for a' that and a' that
sacrificing, sanctifying, down to an ice-age cleans'ed strata
that is both cultural and in depth, archaeological
long stinking but now compost-rendered for new growth
Something poised
... both psychic and somatic
... genetic and prophetic
Remnant sprig from taproot of antiquity
awaiting spring to bud re-formed
and Blossom as is needed in our agitated times
... a cultural cultivation ...
Indeed! Let us observe that
the capacity of nature and of human nature
to be hurt
is exceeded
in the fullness of time
by the capacity to heal ...
And that must be joy's greatest cause for hope

So you ... our friends to whom this statement is addressed
You, we know, will understand.
Take you, First Nation Peoples, North America
uneasy unasked hosts to our Diaspora
You, Chippewa protest leader challenging Exxon's mines, Walter Bresette
says ... "We are all native people now. The door is shut. We are all inside."
You, Mi'Kmaq superquarry warrior chief Sulian Stone Eagle Herney
says ... "Your mountain, your shorelines your rivers and your air
are just as much mine and my grandchildren's
as ours is yours."
You, great teacher huntress Winona La Duke
walking troubled by the Minnesota lakes
who rejects "genocide by arithmetic"
that allows "indigenous" belonging
to be governmentally defined by statutes staturing racial purity
Rejecting thresholds like one-sixteenth blood relationship
to be a Sioux or Cree or Cherokee
for human love will always
mingle, meld, and make of prismed light
a golden melanged mockery of all pretensions
to any presumption
of racial purity
that violates sunlight's loving magic dance
a dance insisting
as it pleases, teases
Equally to be white light, coloured light
or warm absorbing dark that holds all light


Walt Bresette on voting Green

The late Anishinaabe (Chippewa) environmental leader Walt Bresette founded the Lake Superior Greens, and helped form both the Wisconsin Greens and the Upper Great Lakes Green Network. He was the keynote speaker at the 1990 national Greens gathering.

Walt Bresette wrote that "...third party politics will benefit if more people discuss and analyze more issues...In order to expand the victories we must expand the pool of voters who are willing to vote outside the Democrat-Republican stronghold... We've decided that the Third Party already exists-- it's those who don't vote or those who reluctantly vote existing parties."

White Earth Anishinaabe environmental leader Winona LaDuke recently said in her Green Party campaign for Vice President : "The rights of the people to use and enjoy air, water, and sunlight are essential to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These basic human rights have been impaired by those who discharge toxic substances into the air, water, and land. Contaminating the commons must be recognized as a fundamental wrong in our system of laws, just as defacing private property is wrong."

She added, "Walt Bresette, an Anishinaabe from the Red Cliff reservation in northern Wisconsin, proposed just such an amendment in 1996: 'The right of citizens of the U.S. to enjoy and use air water, sunlight, and other renewable resources determined by the Congress to be common property shall not be impaired, nor shall such use impair their availability for use by future generations.' "

What would Walt Bresette say if he had spoken, on November 7, 2000?

You can add to this page by e-mail .

Death of Walt Bresette

Articles on Walt Bresette

Walt Bresette on the 7th Generation Initiative

Walleye Warriors: The Chippewa Treaty Rights Story by Rick Whaley and Walt Bresette

For more information about Walt Bresette, Protect the Earth at http://www.protecttheearth.net/Walter/aboutwalt.htm

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