Crandon Mine threatens Chippewa wild rice beds WI Reservation and Township Battling Mine Suits State loses Mole Lake clean water suit Supreme Court upholds Indian hunting, fishing rights
Flintsteel Restoration Association, Inc. A Non-profit Organization Providing Natural Resource Restoration, Conservation & Preservation Page sections:
Sokaogon Chippewa Statement to U. N. Human Rights Com. Background on Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Community Changes in Mole Lake Tribal Government, Jan. 1998 Where Food Grows on the Water, Sept. 1999 Where Food Grows on the Water Rice Lake is priceless to the Chippewa Wild Rice recipes
Sokaogon Chippewa Statement to United Nations
The Mole Lake Sokaogon Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, residing on sacred trust reservation land within territory now known as the state of Wisconsin, USA, bring to this Commission numerous violations of our human rights as indigenous peoples and global citizens. Exxon Corporation (USA), Rio Algom Ltd. (Canada), and Broken Hill Proprietary (Australia) are proposing to develop massive underground zinc and copper mines approximately one mile from both the eastern and western borders of our 1800 acre reservation.
The mineral deposits are located on land reserved by us in our 1837 and other treaties with the United States government, which have since been broken by the US and rejected in their courts. The land is now considered "ceded territory" open for multinational mineral exploitation. Since the orebody adjacent to, and running under our Reservation has been discovered in 1974, in the name of collecting exploratory and projected environmental impact data, these above corporations, with approval from the state of Wisconsin, have drilled approximately 1200 bore holes into Mother Earth, and have destroyed much of the historical battlegrounds between our peoples and the Dakota Nation.
They have also conducted cultural/archeological surveys around the proposed mining and waste areas that have resulted in the desecration and destruction of several sacred burial sites. Despite our personal requests and efforts in the courts, these remains have still not been returned.
In September of 1994, Wisconsin amended state statutes to allow the introduction of pollutants from drilling fluids for mining activities into groundwater. Shortly after that, Exxon and Rio Algom conducted a surface and groundwater manipulation, a pump test, that was state permitted for 72 hours of pumping, but lasted for 30 days. We estimated their wastewater discharge at six million gallons; it flooded Native and non-Native historical sites and polluted our waters. The discharge also flooded the heart and spirit of the Sokaogon Chippewa Reservation and peoples--our sacred Rice Lake and its life giving manomin, or wild rice.
In the summer of 1995, following the pump test, the entire year's harvest of manomin failed. Rice Lake is the primary subsistence base for our people, the most productive and genetically isolated wild rice bed in Wisconsin and much of central North America, and an ancient, spiritual source of our Nation.
The projected hydrological impacts from full scale mining dwarfs these pre-mining activities. The proposed Exxon and Rio Algom mine, for example, includes a toxic waste tailings facility upstream from our Reservation that will cover the equivalent of 340 football fields, tower 90 feet high, and if ever exposed to air and water, will produce toxic sulfuric acid for 9,000 years and leach directly into our treaty-protected waters. Our manomin, Rice Lake, and other on-Reservation resources, such as our trout fishery in Swamp Creek--in short, our lifeway as Indian peoples--will be destroyed by the acute and chronic impacts of mining adjacent to our Reservation.
To protect our peoples, our waters, our manomin, and all our relations, we, the Sokaogon Chippewa, have attempted to set and enforce our own water quality standards and criteria for our Reservation waters. The state of Wisconsin, with the support of the mining companies, have responded by suing the US Environmental Protection Agency for recognition of our water quality standards. If our sovereignty and water quality standards are not recognized, and these mines and their toxic waste facilities are officially sanctioned and permitted, we as a people will perish, and the perpetrators, namely the US government, the state of Wisconsin, Exxon, Rio Algom and BHP, will have crossed the boundary from cultural to physical genocide.
Sokaogon Chippewa Community
Background on Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Community
(from the Great Lakes Intertribal Council http://www.glitc.org/mlchip.htm)
In the early autumn when the leaves begin to change color, the Sokaogon Indians of Mole Lake make their way to Rice Lake, and one of the last remaining ancient wild rice beds in the state of Wisconsin. The annual harvest of wild rice, an essential part of the Indian diet, has altered very little in the hundreds of years that the Sokaogon have lived here.
Family clans migrated from eastern Canada to Madeline Island a thousand years ago, led by a vision that their journey would end in a land where the "food grows on water" --Manomin or wild rice. The Sokaogon band's journey ended here in this area of abundant wild rice. Competition from the Sioux resulted in the Battle of Mole Lake in 1806. Today there stands a marker on Highway 55 in the Village of Mole Lake to mark the battleground where more than 500 warriors were slain in fierce hand-to-hand battle.
Sokaogon means "Post in the Lake" people, because of a spiritual significance of a post -- possibly the remains of a petrified tree - that stood in Post Lake nearby. The Sokaogon Ojibwe are also known as the Lost Tribe because the legal title to the 12 mile square reservation from the treaty of 1854 was lost in a shipwreck on Lake Superior. The band, under the leadership of Chief Willard Ackley, finally and after a long struggle, received federal recognition and reservation status in 1937. The Sokaogon (Mole Lake) Band enjoys three beautiful lakes either on or adjacent to the small reservation: Mole Lake, Bishop Lake, and Rice Lake which lies at the headwaters of the Wolf River.
Mole Lake is located seven miles south of Crandon on Highway 55, 30 miles east of Rhinelander..... teeming with wildlife in the vicinity. If you are looking for bald eagles, they are easy to spot soaring above the village of Mole Lake and nearby lakes and streams. For more information about Mole Lake, call (715) 478-5915 or (800) 236-9466.
Route 1, Box 625
Crandon WI 54520
Changes in Mole Lake Tribal Government,
The Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Community tribal council voted to oust Chairman Arlyn Ackley yesterday, January 29. Vice Chairman Charles Fox will serve as acting chairman until elections are held next year. The report was broadcast last night on Rhinelander TV, and confirmed by tribal members. The federal National Indian Gaming Board has shut down the casinos for noncompliance with agreements.
On January 28, tribal planner DuWayne Derickson and his wife were indicted
by a grand jury for allegedly stealing $370,000 of tribal gaming profits.
Both men were targets of an dissident occupation of the tribal center last May by 50 members of the Sokaogon Defense Committee. See background at http://www.ienearth.org/past97.html#mole.
Mole Lake is one mile downstream from Rio Algom's proposed Crandon mine. Both sides in the occupation publicly stated opposition to the mine. Sokaogon Defense Committee members criticized what they saw as influence in tribal government by the mining company and the administration of Governor Tommy Thompson. Ackley and the tribal council later passed a resolution reiterating full opposition to the mine.
The Midwest Treaty Network repeats its hope for a settlement of the Mole Lake dispute. While some may use the dispute to attack both gaming and tribal environmental regulations, we can see that Mole Lake tribal members and officials want to take steps toward healing their community.
Roger McGeshick, Jr. was elected chairman of the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Community
Last month, Fred Ackley, Jr., spent several days a week paddling around shallow water in a canoe. But he wasn't being idle--he was harvesting wild rice, a grain he calls "sacred." Ackley, also known as "Macoonse" or "Little Bear," is a tribal member of the Mole Lake band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.
Wild rice is an annual aquatic grass (Zizania aquatica) that grows in the shallows of lakes and rivers throughout Eastern and North Central North America. Its seed is a nutritious food source not only for humans, but for mallards, blue-winged teal, ring-necked ducks, wood ducks, and others.
But this year has been a lean year for the grain, according to Ackley. High summer water levels on many northern lakes and rivers will likely result in a reduced wild rice harvest in 1999, according to wild rice surveys conducted by state and tribal biologists.
"Low water levels last spring combined with warm temperatures had us optimistic that it would be a very good wild rice season, because those are generally favorable conditions for rice germination," said Peter David, a biologist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. "However, rice that came up in 2 feet of water found itself growing in 3 to 3 1/2 feet of water, which is much more of a challenge for rice."
John Olson, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist in Park Falls inspected rice beds and reported "somewhat of a lean year" for wild rice harvest.
This is distressing news for ricers, who have seen wild rice beds decline in recent decades. The native grass suffers from water pollutants, boat and Jet Ski wakes, exotic species, and other disturbances. An increase in water levels due to heavy rains has just exacerbated a long-term decline.
Ackley is troubled because the native grain is part of his life. "Years ago, every fall we gathered the whole band for the harvest and rice ceremonies in which we'd honor those who passed on and those who come later and we thank our creator." Members of his tribe still gather for ricing, and use the rice as a food staple for family meals and tribal ceremonies.
Harvesting, drying and cleaning the grain "is a lot of work, but worth it," according to Ackley. Generally, ricers work in teams of two. One person guides the canoe through the shallow, marshy rice beds using a long push-pole. The other person uses a "knocker" or ricing stick to stroke the rice off the stem and into the boat. Only a few of the grains will be ripe at any time, so repeat visits every few days are needed to fully harvest the stand.
Then, once it's harvested, the rice needs to be "parched" or roasted to dry it. Next, ricers "dance" the rice, by using the soles of their feet to take the hulls off. Finally, the dried and danced grain needs to be separated from the chaff by fanning.
At the end of the season, Ackley will have harvested about 500 pounds of green rice. By the time the rice is processed, he'll be left with about 300 pounds of rice ready to prepare for eating.
"There's a circle of life around the rice--fish muskrat, beaver, otter, insects, ducks and other birds" all rely on the plant for food. "Man is just a part of it," said Ackley. He's happy to share the food with the other creatures.
The plant is sacred to Ackley and other tribal members because it was once foretold that his ancestors would find it and settle here. "It's our migration story," said Ackley, that when the tribe left the East Coast of North America they would come to "where the food grows on the water."
Rice Lake is priceless to the Chippewa
by Melinda Naparalla
Special to The Green Bay News-Chronicle
Thousands of years ago the Sokaogon Chippewa settled in the Mole Lake area, following their elders prophecy that their final home would be where food grows on the water.
On Rice Lake, the Sokaogon found their food - wild rice. Wild rice has become the lifeblood of the Mole Lake tribe both as food and as a source of income for much of the tribe. Women collect the rice, which grows so thick it looks like wheat, by hand, and it's shucked with birch bark baskets and the wind.
But the proposed Crandon mine lies two miles east of the reservation, and the tribe sees its delicate, valuable resource in danger.
"Our biggest concern is the possibility of contamination of the wild rice beds," said Roger McGeshick, chairman of the Sokaogon. The small community lacks jobs and many residents live in small houses or trailers.
Even a slight amount of acid could destroy the beds, said David Anderson, executive director of a non-profit environmental consulting firm Flintsteel Restoration Association, which does consulting for poor and minority organizations. The firm is doing consulting for the tribe.
As far back as 1914, the rice beds were protected, Anderson said. In 1914, the federal Indian agent shut down a logging dam on the Wolf River because it might affect the rice beds.
"We lost lives for it before the state existed," Anderson said. "The tribe fought the Sioux to keep the land."
The rice beds are respected and revered as an active part of the tribe's oral tradition, Anderson said.
"There's a lot of concern over some of what Nicolet Minerals Company is planning to do," McGeshick said. "They say there will be no contamination, but it's hard to say that. What happens if it leaks 40 years down the road?"
The tribe has tradition in the area, and tribal members want to see the traditions passed on.
"I'd like to see my children have everything I had, and I believe the beds will be contaminated if the mine goes through," McGeshick said.
In the '70s, Exxon wanted to mine, and then again in the '80s. Now it's Nicolet Minerals, Anderson said. All of them want to mine the same ore body, which lies upstream of the tribe's waters.
"Local landowners can lease their land to the company and move to a different area," McGeshick said. "We can't. We were given the land by the federal government. We aren't going to sell. We can't move our families. We see (Nicolet Minerals Co.) coming in as a government trying to force us out of our homeland. We fought to stay here, and we will."
The tribe doesn't know what the future holds for its water and land if the mine is allowed to proceed.
If the ground or surface waters were contaminated, the tribe wouldn't be able to use this resource, McGeshick said. The tribe wouldn't be able to eat the fish
or drink the water. "I'm an outdoorsman and I fish the lakes near the site. They're crystal clear. I can't imagine pollutants soaking into it," McGeshick said. "I utilize Rice Lake as my dad used it and my uncles and grandfathers used it."
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the proposed mine site doesn't lie within any of the tribes' reservations, but does lie within ceded territory in which the tribes, by treaty, have guaranteed various fishing, hunting and gathering rights on public land.
"We've always been opposed to it," McGeshick said. "Especially as Native American people you just have to look at the history of the tribes, not just in Wisconsin, but across the country. Tribes are pretty much the protectors of the environment and its natural resources."
The Crandon issue has shaken the tribe's faith in the Department of Natural Resources.
"My job is to protect the reservation, and I don't see the DNR protecting it. If we allow a company like this to come in, I don't see the protection for the citizens of Wisconsin," McGeshick said. "I used to be a conservation warden, and I don't understand the DNR. The DNR is supposed to protect."
McGeshick has traveled to various mines in the United States and Canada, many of which had contaminated the environment and hadn't been cleaned up.
"I saw the degradation first hand," he said. "I see it as a money issue. They have dollar signs in their eyes.
"A big corporation has all the money, but money doesn't mean anything to people here. What's important is their way of life. Water quality is part of their way of life and of ensuring our way of life."
He added: "Even though we're small, I'm confident we'll be able to put a stop to the mining issue."
The company said it would do everything it could to ensure the protection of the wild rice beds, including regulating the air and water near the reservation closely, said Dale Alberts, spokesman for Nicolet Minerals.
The company also will remove pyrite, a metal which becomes acidic when mixed with oxygen and water, from the waste mine ore. The waste water will be treated through a filtration system and then deposited in absorption beds to allow the water to flow through the soil and to re-enter the water table.