march for Indigenous dignity must be a march of Indigenous and
non-Indigenous. Only thus can we build a house called the world
in which all of us fit, where all are equal and each one different."
Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN),
Mexico, February 28, 2001
The Midwest Treaty Network was founded in 1989 as an alliance of Indian
and non-Indian groups supporting Native American sovereignty in the
western Great Lakes region. The MTN coordinated the Witness for Nonviolence,
which stood with Ojibwe (Chippewa) families during the Wisconsin spearfishing
crisis of the late 1980s, to deter and monitor harassment and violence
by white sportsmen. Using their peaceful presence, public education,
and support for a federal court injunction against anti-Indian harassment,
the more than 2,000 Witnesses by the early 1990s helped create a climate
in which the Ojibwe could fish in peace.
Since the anti-treaty groups declined in Wisconsin, some of their
ex-followers have woken up to the reality that outside mining companies,
not the tribes, are the real threat to the fishery in northern Wisconsin.
The MTN has worked against metallic sulfide mining projects that threaten
the fishery for Indians and non-Indians alike, particularly the proposed
Crandon mine next to the wild rice beds of the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa
Community and upstream from the pristine Wolf River.
The late MTN leader Walt Bresette saw common ground with some anti-treaty
protesters even during the spearfishing conflict; today sportfishing
groups are working with the tribes to protect the fishery. In 1995,
the MTN started the Wolf Watershed Educational Project campaign to organize
regional speaking tours on the Crandon mine, as a way to bring together
Native nations with white sportfishing groups, environmentalists with
unionists, and rural residents with urban students. This alliance has
helped not only to evict Exxon and other corporations, but to change
racial relations in northern Wisconsin for the better.
At the same time, the MTN is working with numerous tribes and tribal
organizations throughout the region on issues of cultural respect (such
as sacred site protection), opposition to spiritual exploitation and
cultural trivilization (such as Indian mascots), support for environmental
protection and land claims, and building cultural and economic ties
between Native and non-Native communities. Its award-winning web site
at http://www.treatyland.com serves as a touchstone for Native peoples
and supporters of sovereignty throughout the world. Our toll-free Hotline
at (800) 445-8615 has an updated calendar or events and alerts.
The MTN is oriented toward carrying out regional projects which
local affiliate groups feel they can accomplish only with the help of
other local groups. It has carried out public educational campaigns
with written brochures, research reports, web pages, an extensive e-mail
alert list, press releases, petitions, legislative testimony, and documentation.
The MTN has carried out numerous rallies, gatherings, concerts, speaking
tours, conferences, presentations to classrooms and organizations, support
for runs and walks, and many other actions. See the MTN Chronology for
a detailed history of the network.
The MTN's main tools have been community education and action,
in response to requests from tribes and tribal organizations. The MTN
has no paid staff, and donations have gone almost exclusively toward
printing, postage, and phone costs. We tend to see lobbying and legal
work as tactics to be used in a larger strategy of mobilizing and empowering
communities, rather than only as ends unto themselves. We believe in
supporting tribes, townships and counties on the frontlines of the mining
fight, for example, rather than relying on state or federal agencies
to defend their interests.
While many of our members have worked mainly within tribal communities,
MTN's work has often centered on educating and organizing those with
the least knowledge of Native issues. The non-Indian community has historically
served as an obstacle to treaty rights and sovereignty. We are committed
to wearing away that obstacle, through community education and mobilization.
We believe strongly in the philosophy of "people power," and have experienced
our greatest successes when we have helped unite different communities
at the grassroots as a powerful tool in bringing about change. We do
not believe only in unity at the top, between leaders, but in deeper
interaction between communities.
If you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
or at the board members addresses below. Members of the Midwest Treaty
Network Board of Directors (below) are authorized to speak on behalf
of M.T.N. The Board may authorize other individuals to speak on its
behalf. Please check with board members to verify the authenticity of
purported spokespeople or written documents using the name of the Midwest
Treaty Network or its projects.
The Midwest Treaty Network
M.T.N. BOARD OF DIRECTORS
What is the Network?
The Midwest Treaty Network is an alliance of Indian and non-Indian community groups that support the sovereign rights of Native American nations. While founded in the context of the Chippewa (Ojibwe) treaty struggle, it is concerned generally with defending and strengthening Native cultures and nationhood, protecting Mother Earth, and fighting racism and other forms of domination throughout our region. The Network has taken a stand against economic and political pressure on indigenous nations to give up their rights.
What are the goals of the Network?
While they are each involved in important local issues, Network groups have identified three regional priorities to work together on. First, we have stressed safety at the boat landings during Ojibwe spearfishing seasons in Wisconsin and Minnesota. This has meant recruiting and training hundreds of Witnesses for Nonviolence to serve as a presence at the lakes, to document and divert anti-Indian harassment and violence. Second, we support tribal efforts to assert their sovereignty and treaty rights to protect Northern waterways from sulphide mining contamination, nuclear waste storage, and other threats to the Earth. Third, we promote forms of resource co-management on ceded lands, such as those used in Washington state. This also involves promoting economic alternatives to destructive development in Indian and non-Indian communities, and backing the economic sovereignty and self-determination of Native nations. All these goals involve building bridges between Indian and non-Indian communities around issues of common concern: peace, environmental protection and economic stability.
Native American Leadership
The Midwest Treaty Network was founded on July 4, 1989 at Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin. The Wa-Swa-Gon Treaty Association and other grassroots Native groups provided the critical leadership and direction for the Network. The stance of peaceful witnessing and educational outreach came from the courageous stance of the spearers (in the face of taunt s, rocks, snipers, wrist rockets, and pipe bombs) who reached out for understanding and reconciliation. We can only build on this principled appeal for justice by ensuring the protection both of those who harvest the resources, and the resources themselves.
What are the Treaties?
The treaties are international agreements between the United States and Native nations. They are protected by Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, and have been upheld in federal courts. The two treaties with the Lake Superior Ojibwe Nation, for example, guaranteed off-reservation harvesting rights. This a right similar to selling your land but retaining water or access rights. In the U.S., people do not have "equal rights" to other people's property or inheritance.
What have been the Main Treaty Issues?
The violence and racial taunting toward Wisconsin Ojibwe spearfishers each Spring became a growing concern in the late '80's throughout the Midwest. The issue was not simply about fish or deer; the Ojibwe have caught only up to 3% of the state's walleye harvest, and fewer deer than are killed by autos. Larger issues of law, resources, and racism have been involved.
Many concerned people in northern Wisconsin have been caught in the campaign of misinformation and hidden agendas created by the leadership of Protect Americans' Rights and Resources (PARR) and Stop Treaty Abuse (STA). Their escalation against Ojibwe treaty rights came at the same time that Exxon, Kennecott and others find they need to sidestep treaties that block their plans to exploit minerals, and utilities and the Department of Energy are looking for nuclear waste dumpsites. The national effort to abrogate treaties and reduce tribal sovereignty manipulates people to open up their lands to outside exploitation. And now, the treaty controversy has spread to Minnesota, where Ojibwe were arrested in 1993 for spearfishing.
What are Alternatives to this Conflict?
It is time to move to common ground -protection of the water, wildlife and forests from the grave dangers of sulphide mining, acid rain, timber exploitation, waste from the paper industry, and radioactive waste; respect for cultural and racial diversity; and sustainable economic plans under the control of local communities. As one Wisconsin Oji bwe leader has said, Indian and non-Indian people in the North have more in common with each other than they do with the state government or multinational corporations. Together, communities can not only overcome differences, but find they can solve problems together.
.....PROTECTING THE LAND
How do Treaties Protect the Environment?
Treaties provide protection of the environment by protecting Ojibwe access to fish and game resources in ceded territory. Because the treaties have afforded the Ojibwe the status of a sovereign nation, they have been used to raise and replenish fish stocks. Treaty rights and tribal sovereignty can also be a legal tool to fight for clean air and water, to stop mining, an underground nuclear waste dump in Northern granite, and nuclear power plant waste storage (as is planned next to Minnesota's Prairie Island Dakota Reservation).
What is the Movement Against Mining in the North?
Mining companies have exploited indigenous lands around the world, and now they are returning to our region. In Wisconsin, the movement against mining has not only included the Ojibwe and their supporters, but other Native nations, environmentalists and even sportfishing groups. The resources that once divided Northerners are now bringing them together, to protect the fish from the outside threat of sulphide mining. The Network has played a key role in uniting these groups, in conferences, speaking tours, rallies, and the annual Protect The Earth Gathering.
Where are the Mines?
- Opposition in Wisconsin has centered on three sites, all in Ojibwe treaty-ceded territory:
- First, Kennecott / Rio Tinto Zinc opened the Ladysmith mine in Rusk County in 1993. The copper-gold mine is on the Flambeau River, 25 miles south of the Lac Courte Oreilles Res.
- Second, Noranda wants to open the Lynne zinc-silver mine in Oneida County. The site is on the Willow River, about 25 miles south of the Lac du Flambeau Reservation.
- Third, Exxon and Rio Algom want to open the huge Crandon zinc-copper mine in Forest County. That site is upstream from the nearby wild rice beds of the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Reservation, and the sacred Wolf River that flows through the Menominee Reservation. The Forest County Potawatomi, Stockbridge-Munsee, and Oneida have joined these two tribes to oppose the mine. The Network is working with the tribes to build a strong movement to completely stop the Exxon mine. The Network has gone full circle- from working on divisions between neighbors, to uniting neighbors against a corporation.