New tribal purchase provides further protection against Crandon Mine, Nov. 14, 2006

For immediate release
Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2006
For more information, contact:
Bill McClenahan
Martin Schreiber & Associates

 

The Forest County Potawatomi Community and the Sokaogon Chippewa Mole Lake Band purchased additional rights from the original owners of the proposed Crandon Mine site, resolving any potential claims. The tribes, who originally purchased the proposed mine site in October 2003, purchased the additional rights on Thursday, November 9, using revenues from their casino operations.

�This purchase provides additional protection for the groundwater, the wetlands and the Wolf River,� said Potawatomi Chairman Gus Frank. �It protects the natural resources of the Northwoods that our cultural traditions, as well as the tourism economy, depend on.�

Sokaogon Chairwoman Sandra Rachal said, �It is an honor to preserve the lands where our ancestors lived and fought to protect. We are protecting the land, the water and the air for future generations, just as our ancestors did.�

In 2003, the two tribes purchased the pristine Forest County land and all mineral rights, ending a battle that had raged for more than 20 years over proposals by a series of owners to mine copper and zinc at the site.

One of the former owners, Exxon Corporation, had agreed to make certain annual payments to the original owners of the ore-body site when it purchased the site in 1978. Since their 2003 purchase of the site, the tribes have continued to make those payments in good faith. They have also negotiated to settle any rights that the original owners may have had to those payments and any assertions of other potential rights in the land if mining does not occur. The tribes have now purchased all of these potential rights and interests from the original owners.

Despite the settlement, tribal leaders say they already had secure control of the site because they also controlled land surrounding the mine site. That meant there was no route to transport ore out of the site by rail or other means without the consent of the tribes.

�This new purchase of rights shuts the door on any potential claims regarding the ability of the tribes to prevent unsafe mining at the site,� Chairman Frank said. �We do not believe that there is any mining technology is existence that would allow the site to be safely mined.� The chairman also said no existing technology would comply with state and federal regulatory requirements, including groundwater laws. Wisconsin's mining moratorium law requires any applicant to prove that similar mines have been operated and closed without pollution.

Chairwoman Rachel said, �Our culture and our quality of life depend on natural and wild areas such as this. We were honored to purchase and withdraw the mining application in 2003 and we are privileged to continue our efforts today.�

Both tribes had vehemently opposed the mining proposals at the site for years. Under those proposals, the mine would affect water and increase sediment in Swamp Creek, which flows into Rice Lake on the Mole Lake reservation, just west of the proposed mine site. The Potawatomi reservation is also nearby, to the northeast. Swamp Creek was designated as an Outstanding Resource Water in October by the Department of Natural Resources.

The tribes said the problems with the mining proposal were numerous. For example, both the mine and a tailings dump would contain perpetually toxic wastes. The mine and the 16 million tons of wastes in the dump would be never-ending sources of groundwater contamination. In addition, the mine waste dump would eventually fail, potentially releasing massive amounts of additional contamination.

The proposed mine would also have caused significant risks of surface and groundwater contamination because of its transportation, use, storage and disposal of hundreds of thousands of tons of hazardous substances, including cyanide. Similarly, the proposed mine would cause devastating flooding, dehydration and other impacts to hundreds of acres of wetlands. Tens of thousands of tons of sediments would be dumped into now-pristine wetlands and streams.

The possibility of mining has created controversy since 1969, when Exxon began mineral exploration south of Crandon. An application to mine at the site was filed with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by Exxon in 1980 and withdrawn in 1986. The most recent proposal to mine zinc and copper at the site was filed in 1994 and substantially revised in 1998. However, the applicant had not yet submitted enough technical information for the application to be deemed complete and for the formal agency review of the permit to begin by the time the tribes purchased the site in 2003. Permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are also needed to mine.

Owners of the project have included Exxon, Crandon Mining Company, Rio Algom, Billiton and BHP Billiton. In April 2003, Northern Wisconsin Resources Group acquired the official mine applicant, Nicolet Mineral Company (NMC), from BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company. In October 2003, the two tribes purchased the mine site from NMC and the Sokaogon Chippewa became the owners of NMC.

Mining Firm Gives $8m Back To Tribe; Gift Ends Crandon Mine Saga, May 2006

The Capital Times (Madison)
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
By Robert Imrie (Associated Press)


Three years after it helped to buy the site of a proposed mine near Crandon -- shutting down the disputed project -- an Indian tribe has made its final $8 million mortgage payment to a mining company that will donate the money back to the tribe through a trust fund, a tribal official said Tuesday.

"It is a gift. It is basically a gift out of the blue," said Tony Phillippe, administrator for the Mole Lake, or Sokaogon, Chippewa band. "It is going to be a charitable trust."

The BHP Billiton Fund for the Sokaogon People will be managed through the Madison Community Foundation, which holds more than 680 other endowment funds to enhance philanthropy for the long-term benefit of diverse individuals and organizations.

In October 2003, the Mole Lake Chippewa and Forest County Potawatomi agreed to pay $16.5 million to buy Nicolet Minerals Co. and more than 5,000 acres associated with the proposed underground zinc and copper mine just south of Crandon. The purchase was from Northern Resource Group, a new company started by a Laona family.

Northern Resource, with expertise in logging and wood products, had acquired the project in April 2003 from BHP Billiton, an international metals company headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, which had also provided $8 million in financing to the Laona company, authorities said. But Northern Resource said it was unable to find other investors and a partner with mining expertise to proceed with the mine.

The two tribes, with new wealth from casino profits, opposed the Crandon mine project for years, warning that it would pollute valuable water resources, including the pristine Wolf River nearby, and that the risk wasn't worth the mining jobs that would be created.

When the tribes bought the mine site, the Potawatomi paid cash for their share of the deal, and the Mole Lake made a $250,000 downpayment and acquired the mortgage from BHP. The $8 million payment was due in April, Phillippe said Tuesday.

The tribe borrowed all but $52,000 of the remaining debt as part of a $20 million, 20-year loan it acquired that was backed by future revenue from its casino, Phillippe said.

It was important for the tribe to pay off the mortgage and "honor our debt," he said.

But the tribe had approached BHP about making a donation to help the tribe, given the tribe's long and costly legal fight against the mine, when the mining company offered the trust, with no strings attached, Phillippe said.

"They are not maintaining mineral rights or anything. We own it all," he said.

The offer left tribal leaders "flabbergasted," he said.

BHP was the last of a string of mining companies to own the land, including Exxon Coal and Minerals Co. of Houston.

The tribe will be the sole beneficiary of the $8 million endowment's annual $400,000 to $600,000 earnings, Phillippe said.

The money can only be used for certain things, such as education or environmental projects, the tribal leader said.

"It is not going to be used for industry building or for gaming," he said. "This is strictly for the people of the community."

A five-person advisory committee, including Madison Community Foundation President Kathleen Woit, director of American Indian studies at UW-Madison Ada Deer and representatives of both the tribe and the region, will recommend how the funds will be distributed to the community.

Gibson Pierce of Toronto, BHP's project director for closed mining, said, "Creating this fund signals our permanent exit form the project. Our goal with this endowment is to help the Sokaogon people build and sustain a vibrant community by allowing the mining project to add value at its final closure."

The Crandon mine had been disputed for years after the minerals were discovered in 1976 in a deposit described as one of the 10 largest ore bodies of its type in North America.

In 1994, Exxon and Rio Algom Ltd. of Toronto applied for state permits to mine 55 million tons of mostly zinc and copper ore.

The regulatory review was expected to take about three years.

But a study by the state Department of Natural Resources never reached the point of recommending whether the project could be done without harming the environment, in part because new owners kept getting involved.

Exxon eventually sold out its interest to Rio Algom, which sold out to BHP.

In September 2002, BHP decided to close its Nicolet Minerals office in Crandon and sell the mine project to pursue more profitable ventures, leading to the sale to Northern Resources.

Over the years, the DNR billed the mining companies about $7 million to pay for the review, officials said in 2003.

Phillippe said Tuesday the land will be used for conservation purposes, such as public trails and parks, and the mining project will never be developed.

"The minerals underneath it are basically sacred from now on into eternity," he said. "We own it all."

WISCONSIN PUBLIC RADIO REPORT

Celebration At The End Of A Long And Winding Road 06/01/06

Members of the Sokaogon Chippewa tribe and environmental activists celebrated an unusual victory yesterday. After thirty years of battling a proposed zinc and copper mine they signed an agreement with the largest mining company in the world to keep the minerals underground. Gil Halsted has the details… http://clipcast.wpr.org:8080/ramgen/wpr/news/news060601gh.rm

BACKGROUND

Wolf River Protection Fund http://WolfRiverProtectionFund.org

Sokaogon Chippewa Community http://SokaogonChippewa.com

Midwest Treaty Network http://treaty.indigneousnative.org/content.html

Defending a Common Home: Native/non-Native Alliances against Mining Corporations in Wisconsin http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-64531-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html

 

  VICTORY ON THE CRANDON MINE! Oct. 2003

This page - CONTENTS:

Tribes celebrate end of mine saga

Mole Lake and Potawatomi Tribes Purchase Crandon Mine

Crandon mine victory won by a historic alliance

State Tribes' Influence Has Broadened Over Years

�Under new management� in Wisconsin

Terry Anderson: Purchase of mine site is well worth it

VICTORY ON THE CRANDON MINE! Oct. 2003
page 2,  page 3, Related links

Please send A NOTE OF SUPPORT for the movement and the tribal purchase of the mine site. We will post them on our website at http://treaty.indigneousnative.org/support.html� Please send the messages to mtn@igc.org.

Quotes from October 28 in Crandon:

"We rocked the boat. Now we own the boat."
--Dennis Shepherd (Potawatomi)

" I fought in Vietnam. When I came back, I swore I would not fight another war except in defense of my country. And then I had to fight the mining company to defend my own soil. And we have won this war. Now the war is over."
--Jerry Burnett (Mole Lake)

"Regime Change, Oct. 28, 2003... Mole Lake will be here forever."
--Blackboard in the former Nicolet Minerals Info Center

"I think it is dead and gone forever. I think it is essentially the end of mining in the state. Obviously, I am disappointed, very disappointed. It is a bitter pill."
--Dale Alberts, President of Nicolet Minerals Co. for 7 years, Wisconsin State Journal (10/30/03)

The Wolf River Protection Fund is seeking private contributions to help pay for the land.
Make checks to:     Wolf River Protection Fund
Mail donations to:   Sokaogon Chippewa Community,  
                                    3051 Sand Lake Road, Crandon, WI 54520


As provided by law, gifts to the Wolf River Protection Fund are tax deductible.
You cancelled check will be your receipt unless otherwise requested.
Contribution Form for the Wolf River Protection Fund: .pdf or .doc format
You may download the free . pdf Reader


Wolf River Protection Fund

      The Mole Lake Chippewa and Forest County Potawatomi Tribes stopped the Crandon mine by paying $16.5 million to purchase Nicolet Minerals Company (NMC) from the Connor family. Although the Potawatomi paid with cash for their half of the purchase, the Mole Lake Tribe paid for their half with a loan. The tribe will owe a $8 million note in 2006 to BHP Billiton, the mining company that sold NMC to the Connor Family.
       The Wolf River Protection Fund has been established to help the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Community pay the note.
       The Tribe has also incurred other costs related to closing the mine project. There are $500,000 worth of core holes drilled in the 70's that need to be filled and there are mining company maintainance costs that need to be paid. Managing the land and waters will be an added burden that the Tribe is seeking resources to address.
       People can protect the Wolf River and help the Mole Lake Tribe by making a tax-deductible contribution.

For more information contact Tina Van Zile, 715-478-7605.

========================

Tribes celebrate end of mine saga

By Richard Ryman
Green Bay Press Gazette
Dec. 07, 2003

ASHWAUBENON -- Wisconsin Indian tribes on Saturday celebrated a successful, nearly three decades-long fight to keep land near Crandon from being mined.

A powwow to celebrate the resolution of the Crandon mine issue was held Saturday afternoon in the Brown County Veteran's Memorial Arena.

Before the grand entrance ceremony, a coalition of 33 environmental groups honored the Forest County Potawatomi, the Menominee Nation and the Mole Lake Band of the Sokaogon Chippewa tribes for buying the land and putting to rest nearly 30 years of acrimony.

"It's the perfect conclusion. The right people bought it," said Dave Blouin of the Mining Impact Coalition.

On Oct. 28, the Forest County Potawatomi and the Mole Lake Band of the Sokaogon Chippewa paid $16.5 million to buy the property from Northern Wisconsin Resources Group. The sale includes 5,770 acres in Forest County and 169 acres in Shawano and Oconto counties. The deal includes an agreement between the tribes and Nicolet Hardwood Corp. of Laona to cooperatively manage the forested land for at least 15 years, with the tribes owning the timber rights.

Zoltan Grossman of the Midwest Treaty Network said the deal was a combination of gaming revenue and the renaissance of Native American culture in Wisconsin, and a willingness of tribes to work together.

Gus Frank, chairman of the Forest County Potawatomi Community, said a woman who works in his office best summed up the importance of the deal.

''She said 'Now my grandchildren will have water to drink.' That was just a very profound statement," he said.

Environmentalists and the tribes said acidic mine runoff and cyanide used in ore extraction would jeopardize groundwater and adjacent wetlands, including the Wolf River.

Frank said gaming revenue made it possible for the tribes to buy the land. He warned that revenue is in danger because of a lawsuit by Republican legislators challenging Gov. Jim Doyle's gaming compacts with the tribes.

Bob Schmitz, a founder of the Wolf River Watershed Alliance in 1976, said the Mole Lake Chippewas put everything on the line to purchase the property.

"These people have mortgaged their homes and their futures and probably their children's and grandchildren's futures," he said. "They don't have the money the Potawatomi do."

Ken Van Zile of the Wolf River Protection Fund said the effort to save the Crandon site is not over.

"Our tribe is one of the poorest tribes in Wisconsin. We need help now," he said.

 

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For immediate release
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
For more information, contact:
Martin Schreiber & Associates
Bill McClenahan
608.259.1212 ext. 4


Mole Lake and Potawatomi Tribes Purchase Crandon Mine

Casino Gaming Monies Used to Protect Wolf River, Tourism Jobs & Culture

          Declaring a victory for the environment and Northwoods tourism, two Indian tribes purchased the proposed Crandon mine today.

          The Sokaogon Chippewa Community Mole Lake Band and the Forest County Potawatomi Community will divide ownership of the mining project land and the Mole Lake tribe will assume ownership of the mining applicant, Nicolet Minerals Company (NMC).

          "With this purchase, we can prevent environmental threats from unsafe proposals to mine at the headwaters of the Wolf River," Sandra Rachal, Mole Lake Chairwoman said. "The risks to the water, the land and the air from the proposed project were much too great."

          "This purchase protects the Wolf River, the wetlands and the groundwater of Northern Wisconsin," Gus Frank, Chairman of the Forest County Potawatomi Community stated. "It ends the threat to the tourism economy - the economy that most of us in Northern Wisconsin, including the tribes, depend on. We all depend on the waters and natural resources of the Northwoods - for recreation, to bring tourists to our State, and, for the Tribes, to sustain our traditions. We're proud to be a part of protecting this area for future generations."

          "The proposed mine would have created only a fraction of the jobs that tourism would have lost," Chairman Frank continued. Chairman Frank noted that a statewide poll in July said that opening the mine could cost that area of Northern Wisconsin more than 23% of its in-state vacationers. "A 23% drop in tourism would cost 1,650 tourism jobs and $65 million per year in lost revenues in the three counties surrounding the mine, devastating the area economy."

          Tina L. VanZile, Vice Chairwoman of Mole Lake said the tribe would withdraw the applications to mine at the site, saying, "NMC's mining proposal is environmentally unsafe and technologically unsound."

          Kenneth VanZile, Councilman of the Mole Lake said the purchase protects lands of cultural, historic and religious importance. "The purchase will end the threat to Rice Lake, where the Sokaogon Chippewa have taught their children to harvest manomin (wild rice) for many generations. The purchase includes Spirit Hill, where more than 500 Chippewa and Sioux were buried after a battle over the rice beds 200 years ago."

          "The mine site and surrounding area also includes lands, waters, plants and other resources needed for traditional cultural practices," Chairwoman Rachal stated.

          Northern Wisconsin Resources Group LLC (NWRG) sold its mining assets, including the mine project site, mineral rights and other lands, to the two tribes. The purchase includes 5,770 acres in Forest County, as well as 169 acres in Shawano and Oconto Counties, that will be divided between the two tribes.

          Al Milham, Vice Chair of the Forest County Potawatomi Community said the purchase of the mine site will allow Forest County to focus on sustainable development. "The Northwoods can create jobs without threatening the natural resources that our tourism and our quality of life depend on. It's time to focus on long-term and sustainable development."

          Chairman Frank said pristine areas, such as those at the mine site, are becoming increasing scarce in Northern Wisconsin, limiting the ability of tribal members to conduct traditional practices. "We have lost so many resources, so many wild places, in just a few generations. This purchase protects some of the remaining resources, from the groundwater and wetlands to the waters of the Wolf River."

          "Protecting these lands has required a great personal sacrifice for tribal members. But it is a sacrifice that honors our ancestors and our children," Thomas VanZile, Mole Lake tribal secretary said. "Our ancestors lived here. They fought and died to protect these lands for future generations. It is our responsibility to continue that tradition. For this reason, we have used our financial resources, including gaming revenues from our casinos, to protect this important Northwoods area. Without gaming revenues, we could not have purchased the mine site."

          Both tribes have vehemently opposed the mining proposals at the site for years. Under those proposals, the mine would affect water and increase sediment in Swamp Creek which flows into Rice Lake on the Mole Lake reservation, just west of the proposed mine site. The Potawatomi reservation is also nearby, to the northeast.

          The tribes said the problems with the current mine proposal are numerous. For example, both the mine and a tailings dump would contain perpetually toxic wastes. The mine and the 16 million tons of wastes in the dump would be never-ending sources of groundwater contamination. In addition, the mine waste dump would eventually fail, potentially releasing massive amounts of additional contamination.

          The proposed mine would also cause significant risks of surface and groundwater contamination because of its transportation, use, storage and disposal of hundreds of thousands of tons of hazardous substances, including cyanide. Similarly, the proposed mine would cause devastating flooding, dehydration and other impacts to hundreds of acres of wetlands. Tens of thousands of tons of sediments would be dumped into now-pristine wetlands and streams.

          The possibility of mining has created controversy since 1969, when Exxon began mineral exploration south of Crandon. An application to mine at the site was filed with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by Exxon in 1980 and withdrawn in 1986. The current proposal to mine zinc and copper at the site was filed in 1994 and substantially revised in 1998. However, the applicant had not yet submitted enough technical information for the application to be deemed complete and for the formal agency review of the permit to begin. Permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are also needed to mine.

          Owners of the current project have included Crandon Mining Company, Rio Algom, Billiton and BHP Billiton. In April, Northern Wisconsin Resources Group acquired the official mine applicant, Nicolet Mineral Company (NMC), from BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company. The Sokaogon Chippewa now own NMC.

"The Long Road To The Mine Purchase"
by Paul Johnson Potawatomi Traveling Times
http://www.fcpotawatomi.com/nov_15_03/environ

========================

Crandon mine victory in Wisconsin won by a historic alliance


By Debra McNutt and Zoltan Grossman

On October 28, 2003, the 28-year fight to stop the proposed Crandon mine in northeastern Wisconsin came to a sudden end. Not only had opponents defeated the controversial zinc-copper project, which they had long contended would harm the local environment, economy, and Native cultures. But in the end, two Native American tribes actually ended up owning and controlling the mine site itself.

Two Native communities next to the site, the Forest County Potawatomi and the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa (Ojibwe), paid $16.5 million for the 5,000-acre mine site. Mole Lake now owns the Nicolet Minerals Company. On October 28, tribal members and non-Indian mine opponents flooded into the Nicolet Minerals Information Center in Crandon to celebrate.

As he hung a giant �SOLD� sign on the building, Potawatomi tribal member Dennis Shepherd exclaimed: �We rocked the boat. Now we own the boat.� Native children climbed up on mining equipment, in a scene reminiscent of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The two tribes divided the Crandon mine site between themselves, to ensure that a metallic sulfide mine could never threaten them in the future. The move could be compared to the Allies carving up Germany after World War II, to ensure that the country would no longer be a threat.

The remarkable victory by Wisconsin�s grassroots movement against the Crandon mine goes beyond stopping the project. In the process of organizing, the opposition movement also helped build bridges between groups who had previously been adversaries. It brought together Native American nations with sportfishing groups, environmentalists with unionists, and rural residents with urban students.

This unusual alliance first drove out the world�s largest resource corporation (Exxon), and then the world�s largest mining company (the Australian-South African firm BHP Billiton). The shaft mine was proposed in an area with many wetlands, Ojibwe wild rice beds, Native burial sites, and prized trout, walleye and sturgeon in the Wolf River just downstream from the site.

Through old-fashioned grassroots organizing (such as speaking tours and local government resolutions) the movement reached people throughout Wisconsin for a state mining moratorium, and a still-proposed ban on cyanide use in mining. Through the Internet (through websites such as treatyland.com and nocrandonmine.com), it got the message out around the world, even leading to a rally in Australia. The alliance is an example of �globalization-from-below� in the midwestern Heartland.

International mining journals in Britain and Canada complained that the Wisconsin organizers were �barbarians at the gates of cyberspace� that were becoming �increasingly sophisticated.� They portrayed the Wolf Watershed Educational Project as a �threat to the global mining industry.� One mining industry think tank, the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute, earlier this year gave Wisconsin the lowest �Investment Attractiveness Index� of any political unit in the entire world, with a score of 13 out of a possible 100.

The movement against the Crandon mine enabled the tribes to purchase the site at a "rummage sale" price, by driving away potential mining partners for the tiny Nicolet Minerals Co., and driving down the site price by tens of millions of dollars. The former mining company director, Gordon Connor Jr., complained that Wisconsin�s �anti-corporate culture� defeated the mine, adding, "We have engaged every significant mining interest in the world. The message is clear. They don't want to do business in the state of Wisconsin.� Former company president Dale Alberts said that the Crandon mine �"is dead and gone forever. I think it is essentially the end of mining in the state�It is a bitter pill."

Why did this movement develop in Wisconsin? Because it effectively drew from four strands in the state�s history. It personified our history of progressive populism, which mistrusts Big Business. It exhibited the environmental ethics of John Muir and Aldo Leopold, which are still strong in our rural areas. It tapped into the historic resentment of rural northern Wisconsin residents against state government in Madison. It was the historic perseverance of Native American nations (such as the Ojibwe, Potawatomi and Menominee) to protect their treaty rights and tribal sovereignty that proved to be the main deciding factor.

During the treaty rights conflict over Ojibwe spearfishing in the 1980s and early 1990s, Native Americans and sportfishing groups fought over the fish resource, but during the Crandon fight they united to protect the fish, and healed some of their divisions. Native and non-Native rural people mistrusted the Department of Natural Resources to defend their interests, and found that tribal environmental regulations were stronger than state laws in protecting the Wolf River�s tourism economy.

The mining companies not only tried to pit whites against Native Americans, but rural northern residents against urban southern residents, and union members against environmentalists. They failed each time. The mining companies could not divide Wisconsin communities by race, by region, or by class.

Resource corporations are used to dealing with environmental groups made up largely of white, urban, upper-middle-class people. The companies have been able to portray such activists as yuppies or hippies who do not care about rural jobs, and often because in some parts of the U.S. these activists have not let rural communities take the lead.

What corporations face in Wisconsin is something new--an environmental movement that is rural-based, multi-racial, middle-class and working-class, and made up of many youth and elderly people. This movement does not just address a corporation�s environmental threats, but also their threats to Native cultures, local economies and democratic institutions, their "boom-and-bust" social disruptions, and their mistreatment of union employees.

This type of �people power� movement also defeated Perrier springwater drilling in central Wisconsin, and is opposing an electric transmission line in northwestern Wisconsin, and other corporate projects. New environmental groups are going beyond a message of �Not In My Back Yard� to one of �Not In Anyone�s Back Yard,� with a deeper critique of our corporate economy and politics. They are asking why we need centralized electric grids instead of renewal energies, bottled water instead of cleaner public water supplies, and new sources of metal instead of recycled materials.

The victory over the Crandon mine is not simply the defeat of a single dangerous project. It points toward new paths for diverse communities to live together. It also shows how these communities can together build a sustainable future on the land. The former mine site will now be managed to protect its natural and cultural resources, and develop a local sustainable economy.

But for the local Native and non-Native people who have spent so much time and money to defeat the project, the victory finally brought a sense of peace, after a quarter-century of struggle. At the Information Center, Mole Lake veteran Jerry Burnett brought out an American flag that he had long carried upside down, as a symbol of distress, and turned it back upright.

Burnett told the gathered crowd, "I fought in Vietnam. When I came back, I swore I would not fight another war except in defense of my country. And then I had to fight the mining company to defend my own soil. And we have won this war. Now the war is over."

 

Midwest Treaty Network, P.O. Box 1045, Eau Claire WI 54702;
Web: www.treatyland.com ; Tel.: 715-833-8552; Hotline: 800-445-8615;
E-mail: mtn@igc.org (e-mail messages of support for the tribal acquisition are welcome and will be posted.)

Debra McNutt and Zoltan Grossman are members of the Midwest Treaty Network ( www.treatyland.com ). McNutt is a longtime anti-racism and environmental organizer. Grossman is an assistant professor of Geography & American Indian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (www.uwec.edu/grossmzc) Updates, photos and movies on the Crandon mine victory are posted at http://treaty.indigneousnative.org/victory.html

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November 2, 2003

State Tribes' Influence Has Broadened Over Years

Wisconsin State Journal Forum
November 2, 2003
Ron Seely
http://www.madison.com/archives/read.php?ref=wsj:2003:11:02:286559:FORUM

In the 25 years I have covered news in Wisconsin, I have never watched a story unfold like the one that was played out over a handful of days last week -- in the conference room of a Milwaukee law firm, under the glare of television lights at the state Capitol, and finally in the streets of a Northwoods village.

Week before last, the property on which the proposed Crandon mine would be built was owned by Nicolet Minerals Co., a subsidiary of a northern lumber operation called Northern Wisconsin Resources Group. In Madison, the Department of Natural Resources was still working on the mining company's permit application and preparing to issue a draft environmental impact statement.

By Tuesday morning, two Wisconsin Indian tribes were suddenly owners of the mineral rights to the mine they have fought for 25 years.

An attorney for one of those tribes was ensconced as project director in the mining company's Crandon office, fielding calls for the former manager and telling the callers that the outfit was under new management. A huge "sold" sign was plastered across the Nicolet Minerals office building. And tribal drums echoed through the streets of Crandon.

It was as startling a turn-around in a news story as anyone has seen. Covering the press conference at the state Capitol as leaders with the Forest County Potawatomi and the Mole Lake Chippewa made their announcement, I was struck by how shocked the tribal members themselves seemed. Behind their brief statements and that look on their faces is a story worth retelling.

In 1978, the reservations were places where alcoholism was epidemic, early deaths were common, and government handouts were the rule.

In the years since, the reservations and the life led by Wisconsin's Native Americans has undergone a sea change. Today, the "res wrecks" have been replaced by newer cars, the dilapidated houses by nice homes. There are new child care centers, elderly housing apartments, clinics.

Yes, much of the change can be attributed to the influx of dollars from the casinos. But the changes in Wisconsin's Native American community - changes which, ultimately, led to that moment in the lights at the state Capitol Tuesday - seem too deep and too profound to be credited only to more money.

Before the purchase of Nicolet Minerals by the tribes, one of the bigger stories I covered in northern Wisconsin was the fight by the Chippewa to reestablish their rights, granted in treaties in the 1800s, to hunt and fish off their reservations. That fight, nearly a decade long, was eventually successful because of a Supreme Court decision and the courage of tribal members who went out on spring nights and speared fish beneath a barrage of rocks and beer cans.

The treaty rights victory was the beginning of something. On those cold spring nights when tribal members carried their drums to the landings and stood together as protesters shouted taunts and racial insults at them, a quiet pride that had always been there began to grow even stronger. It was easy to see, both at the landings and on the reservations in conversations with the spearers -- a sense that by making their stand, they were following ancestors who had fought years before to carve out and keep their cultures alive and to retain at least small pieces of their ancient homelands.

As important was the growth in cultural pride that came in the years after the treaty rights decision. When visiting the reservations 20 years ago, it was rare to come across indigenous language classes or cultural teachings. Now they are the norm. Attend a tribal pow wow sometime and notice the strength and the pride in the faces of the children.

It was the same look on the faces of the tribal leaders who announced that they have purchased the rights to the Crandon mine. In the deal that was struck in Milwaukee last week, Wisconsin's tribes have not only demonstrated they are an economic and political power in the state, they also showed that the strength and the will and the spirit of their ancestors burns strong in them, too.

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November 21, 2003

�Under new management� in Wisconsin

 


Indian Country Today:
http://www.indiancountry.com/?1069437446

The news is a couple of weeks old but we still catch up with awe at the happenings in Crandon, Wis., where two tribes long engaged in environmental struggles against mining concerns have now resolved the issue by buying out the mines.

It cost the Sokaogon Mole Lake Chippewa and the Forest County Potawatomi $16.5 million, but the tribes have now put to rest fears that mineral contamination from the proposed zinc and copper mine - particularly sulfuric acid and the copper - will ruin precious wild rice beds and the drinking water of thousands of people. The deal calls for the most recent owner, Nicolet Hardwood, to keep the timber rights to the site, but the tribes will own the mineral rights. From all reports, the Potawatomi put up most of the funds, and in doing so backed up a long-standing and heartfelt struggle by a neighboring Native nation, the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa, who have fought long and hard to save their precious wild rice beds from their potential worst fate of suffering destructive contamination under the proposed mine.

Media observers commented on the integrity of the Native perspective and action on this case about tribal values and practices and how they can run counter to developments that contaminate environments. Regional journalists were impressed with the long and sustained contention by the tribe that the mining proposal was way out of line if the rice beds would survive.

This is one long-term Indian struggle that started way before Wisconsin tribes had ever heard of gaming as any kind of economic option. The fight was over environmental quality and the potential destruction of the water tables in this pristine part of Wisconsin. Beyond the rice beds, the headwaters of the sacred Wolf River, one of the most natural bodies of water left in Wisconsin, were at stake. Stated then-Menominee Tribal Chairman John Teller: "The Wolf River is the life-line of the Menominee people, and central to our existence. We will let no harm come to the river. Water quality and tremendous ecological diversity are imperiled, including bald eagle, wild rice, lake sturgeon and trout habitat." The Sokaogon Chippewa felt the same way about their ricing beds. The 550-acre mine was particularly threatening to the Sokaogon�s abundant but fragile wild rice beds. These "gifts from the Creator" are revered, treasured. Much tribal activity and tradition follows the ricing year. "Our people stand to lose our very existence," said Arlyn Ackley, Sokaogon Chippewa chairwoman.

The proposed Crandon mine, owned most recently by Nicolet Minerals Co., itself a subsidiary of Northern Wisconsin Resources Group, has been a strong issue for the northern Wisconsin tribes since the early 1970s. Exxon first discovered the huge ore deposit in 1975 and various companies have vied to possess it ever since.

The Sokaogon Chippewa immediately rallied around the survival of their most appreciated food gift. Monomin, the "food of the Indian people," according to tribal elders was too precious a subsistence basis of food security, as well as a revered connection to the land and the natural world. As the tribes organized to fight back, many groups ranging from environmentalists to independent conservatives joined them. Many rallies and marches, year by year, plus intense legal action, slowed the proposed development to a crawl. The kind of mining proposed, which its likely 44 million tons of sulfide ore tailings, to be left in lagoons and in runoffs, met significant resistance among a citizenry wary of extractive mega-projects. The tribal resistance over their core issue of protecting natural bounties became the core expression of the overall issue. The case of the Mole Lake/Crandon mine and how the local tribal people stuck to their cultural strength and demanded a hearing, and ultimately won a struggle, has its heroic proportion.

While the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was still processing the mining company�s permit application and working on a draft environmental impact statement for the mine, the two Wisconsin Indian tribes went ahead and bought the mineral rights to the mine they have fought for a quarter century.

The "sold" sign draped across the Nicolet Minerals office building was clear, while news stories reported that tribal drums "echoed through the streets of Crandon." At corporate headquarters, an attorney announced to callers that the company was "under new management."

"Under new management" has a nice ring, as we see American Indian tribes gain the capacity to make serious and long-lasting tribal acquisitions and directly exhibit their cultural values. We salute this particular use of tribal assets as an intelligent and profoundly well-placed decision to use financial gains to further long-held traditional teachings. It displays an example of nation building at its best.

The changes among Wisconsin tribes in the past two decades are "too deep and too profound to be credited only to more money," stated one local observer. The gaming revolution has helped and of course this is obvious from the result of a tribe having serious finances. But it is clear that it simply applies economic strength to back up a resolve that was already there and was gaining ground throughout the quarter century of the fight against the Crandon Mine and the very intense fight to protect tribal fishing rights. These mobilizations by Native activists and tribal governments, allied with a good range of other publics, reaffirmed something very intense for the Wisconsin tribes.

Probably the breakthrough in the sense of actual accomplishment and pride in identity came during the fishing struggles of the 1980s, when racial hatred spewed against Indians generally and the tribes organized successfully across the state. "Spear an Indian, not a fish," read one popular sign, nevertheless, night after night Native spearfishers braved rocks and racist insults to defend their right to fish under tribal laws, and won. We salute such great warrior activists as Ingrid Washinawatok and Walter Bressette as early leaders on these essential tribal ecology struggles. They kept the Indian issues at the forefront and won a serious public respect doing so. Among the most important allies is a brilliant local professor, Al Gedicks, whose recent book "Resource Rebels," contains an account of the 27-year movement to stop the Crandon mine.

These days, there is money in some tribal coffers and such tribes are gaining a range of clout seldom imagined in American society. Among those showing great class, the Sokaogon and their beneficent partner nation, the Forest County Potawatomi, have both exhibited excellent leadership, regionally and nationally. Just a few years ago, the mining companies negotiated with local townships and would totally ignore the tribal representations. Now, tribal representatives are buying out whole mining operations. Tribal identities are profoundly American but Native tribal peoples often still think outside the big, square, American box. Creativity flows from this extra perspective. Add a good ethical base and controls to the strategic use of financial assets and the mix can bring positive results, for tribes and for many others. We�ve said it before: Indian sovereignty is good for America.

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November 4, 2003

Terry Anderson column: Purchase of mine site is well worth it

Green bay Press Gazette
Wisconsin Outdoors
http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/sports/archive/sports_12988767.shtml

If you're an environmentalist in Wisconsin - and who isn't - the purchase of the Crandon mine site by the Mole Lake Band of the Sokaogon Chippewa and Forest County Potawatomi is good news.

It's good news for the whole state because it helps to ensure the protection of one of our most treasured resources - the Wolf River.

The tribes are spending $16.5 million for almost 6,000 acres in Forest, Shawano and Oconto counties. It was purchased from Northern Wisconsin Resources Group, which is headed by Gordon Connor of Nicolet Hardwood Corp. in Laona.

As part of the deal, the tribes will cooperatively manage the forested land for 15 years with the Connor family.

Inevitably, some critics will lament the mining jobs that could have been while ignoring the potential for environmental degradation.

The trade-off wasn't worth it.

Anyone who paddles the cold, fast waters near Langlade, skis in the adjacent forests, rides a river raft on the Menominee Reservation, angles for the biggest bass in the Navarino or revels at the sturgeon spawn near New London - owes thanks to the foresight of these tribes.

I'll also shout out some praise to those stubborn, conservation-minded citizens who stood in front of the steamroller of a high-paid lobbying effort.

The tribes are using revenue from their casinos to protect something for themselves, for all of us.

While thanks will be appreciated, let's hope that Wisconsinites and out-of-state visitors show their debt of gratitude by enjoying and cherishing this precious resource. While they're there, maybe they'll put some dollars in the local economy.

I will.

Let's be frank: the zinc and copper aren't going anywhere, so if the nation finds itself with an urgent need for those minerals, mining is an issue that may resurface.

With time, the science of mining should only get better, safer, more dependable.

In the meantime, the Wolf River will continue flowing clean and wild as it has for thousands of years.

 

Terry Anderson writes about recreational sports for the Press-Gazette.
Call him at (920) 431-8214 or e-mail him at tanderso@greenbaypressgazette.com.


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