North American Indigenous Mining Summit
Impacted Communities from North America Build
United Strategies Against Mining
Over 200 Indigenous Peoples and non-native allies from all over Turtle
Island (North America) came together mid-June in Mole Lake, Wisconsin,
the homeland of the Mole Lake Band of Sokaogon Chippewa, to begin to build
a united strategy against destructive mining on and near Indigenous lands
locally and globally.
Co-sponsored by the Sokaogon Chippewa Community of Mole Lake and the
Indigenous Mining Campaign Project (a partnership between the Indigenous
Environmental Network and Project Underground), the Indigenous Mining
Summit brought communities currently experiencing the detrimental impacts
of mining, like the Din� (Navajo), the Hopi, and the Gros Ventre to meet
communities that are fighting proposed mines like the Sokaogon Chippewa
of Mole Lake, the Mohawk, the Menominee Nation, and the Quechan.
"We are evolving as a movement of native peoples. The program and goals
of the summit encompassed our traditional values and responsibilities
and provided a space for those of us impacted by the same issue to learn
and organize together locally, nationally and internationally," said Tom
Goldtooth, National Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network.
The summit was a traditional gathering that began with the lighting
of the sacred fire. On the morning of each day there was a sunrise ceremony
and prayers were said throughout to strengthen and support the intentions
and work of summit participants. The opening invocation was done by Mole
Lake tribal member/elder Fred Ackley, and the Mole Lake Drum group sang
the opening songs. Tom Goldtooth formally opened up the circle as the
Master of Ceremonies and everyone was welcomed to Mole Lake by tribal
chairwoman, Sandra Rachel.
On the first day, summit participants gave an educational overview of
mining and its impacts on Indigenous communities in the United States,
Canada, and internationally with a special focus on the Mole Lake community�s
struggle against the proposed Crandon Mine. Delegates returning from the
World Summit on Sustainable Development, PrepCom IV meeting in Bali, Indonesia,
helped to connect the struggles of Indigenous Peoples internationally
who are facing increased threats of mining due to economic globalization.
For the last 26 years, the Sokaogon Chippewa community, along with other
local tribes, environmental organizations, and citizens have successfully
prevented the construction of the Crandon Mine, an underground copper/zinc
mine proposed for a site just one mile away from the community�s reservation.
One of the key ingredients of success against the mine is the alliance
between native and non-native peoples that crossed entrenched racial barriers
to build a united resistance for the pristine Wolf River watershed.
"Our alliances brought together Indigenous peoples with sportfishing
groups, environmentalists with unionists, and rural residents with urban
students. This is perhaps the broadest environmental alliance in the state
of Wisconsin's history, and it would not have been possible without the
tribes' treaty rights and sovereign rights," said Zoltan Grossman of the
Midwest Treaty Network. The proposed mine, now owned by BHP Billiton,
has changed hands five times over the past 26 years, and each mining company
that has attempted to push the mine forward has met with unprecedented
Native and non-Native resistance.
A large number of summit participants were youth from affected communities,
because mining impacts all stages of life, including elders and youth.
Youth from all over the US and Canada attended the summit- like the Hopi/Din�
Black Mesa Water Coalition from Arizona, the Native Youth Movement (representing
36 chapters across Canada and the United States) and the San Francisco-based
International Indian Treaty Council�s Youth Program.
"We gathered to galvanize the urgency of youth organizations already
fighting mining and the impacts on their land, culture and communities.
We created a concrete plan of action for the next three years and our
goals include becoming self-sufficient as we build the movement, creating
support systems and empowering youth," said Heather Milton, Youth Coordinator
for the Indigenous Environmental Network.
The final two days of the Indigenous Mining Summit focused on building
a united strategy against unwanted and destructive mining that is proposed
or currently taking place. The Sage Council, a community-based organization
in New Mexico that works to stop the construction of an extension of the
Paseo del Norte highway through the Petroglyph National Forrest, taught
summit participants a method of strategizing called "power mapping".
Originally developed by Anthony Thingpen with the Environmental and
Economic Justice Program, out of Los Angeles, California, power mapping
is used to plot key decision makers, the kind of power they have, where
the power of civil society lies, and what a community can do to change
the power dynamics in a given situation.
"Everyone who experienced the power mapping process thought that it
was very dynamic. It revealed to them where the actual power and decision
making occurs. It clearly showed participants ways to access that power
and what strategies to undertake to empower ourselves. We hope that everyone
will be able to take home with them the power mapping process so that
they can utilize it in their local struggles to access power," said Coleen
Poler, on-the-ground organizer of the Indigenous Mining Summit, Board
member of IEN and a Mole Lake Tribal Member.
Four working groups were formed at the end of the summit, called Youth,
Metals, Uranium, and Coal. These working groups will continue the work
of building a united strategy against unwanted and destructive mining
and will use the base work of the Indigenous Mining Summit as a foundation.
"The Summit has helped to strengthen the struggles of all of our people
against destructive mining practices. We want to share the success we
have had in preventing the Crandon Mine from being approved. We want to
assist other communities in building their campaigns and we want to combine
our struggles into a powerful force," said Poler.
SOURCE: By Sayo�:kla
Kindness, Indigenous Mining Campaign Project mining organizer, June 28,