Winona LaDuke (center) with Emily Saliers (wearing a sticker supporting the Town of Nashville) and Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, at the Honor The Earth concert in Keshena, Menominee Nation, October 19, 2000. Credit: Christine Munson
Green Party vice presidential candidate Winona La Duke, and the national recording artists the Indigo Girls and Annie Humphrey, visited Crandon and Mole Lake, Wisconsin, on Thursday, October 19, to attend a state court hearing on the Town of Nashville Local Agreement on the Crandon Mine, and a feast at the Mole Lake Ojibwe Reservation. They were in Wisconsin as part of the Honor The Earth Tour, which is raising funds nationally for indigenous environmental issues, such as buffalo restoration and nuclear waste on Indian lands. The Honor The Earth Campaign is a project of the Indigenous Women's Network and the Indigenous Environmental Network.
In Wisconsin, LaDuke called for the London-based South African company Billiton to drop its plans for the Crandon metallic sulfide mine, proposed to be built upstream from Mole Lake Chippewa wild rice beds and the Wolf River. LaDuke also opposied private utility plans for a Duluth-Wausau transmission line, which would provide power (through a feeder line) to the Crandon mine.
On Wednesday, the Honor The Earth Tour (including Jackson Browne) was at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for a rally of 500 against the Crandon mine and transmission line, and put on an evening concert that drew 2,000. On Thursday, they put on on another public performance at the Menominee High School in Keshena, to remember the late Menominee activist Ingrid Washinawatok, who died last year in Colombia.
WINONA LA DUKE is the Green Party Candidate for Vice President, running (as she also did in 1996) with presidential candidate Ralph Nader. The ticket came in fourth in 1996, and is nationally running third in the polls this year. La Duke lives on the White Earth Ojibwe (Chippewa) Reservation in Minnesota. She is a longtime Native American rights activist who serves as the Program Director for Honor the Earth Fund, board co-chair for the Indigenous Women's Network, and director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project. A graduate of Harvard and Anitoch University, LaDuke was named in 1994 by Time magazine as one of America's 50 most promising leaders under 40 years of age. She is the author of several books, including All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life (1999), and has three children.
THE INDIGO GIRLS, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, are from Georgia. In 1985 they begin to use the name Indigo Girls, and in 1987 released their first album. Three of their albums have gone platinum: Indigo Girls (1989), Rites of Passage (1992), and Swamp Ophelia (1996). They won the 1989 Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Recording, and a nomination for Best New Artist. Nomads*Indians*Saints earned a Grammy nomination in 1990, and Back on the Bus, Y'all one in 1991. More recent albums include Shaming of the Sun and Come On Now Y'all Socia , a 1999 album with musical styles ranging from rock to traditional.
ANNIE HUMPHREY is a singer-songwriter from the Leech Lake Ojibwe Reservation in Minnesota. She has released three albums, including her acclaimed 2000 Makoche Records album The Heron Smiled. Humphrey wrote the music for all but one of the songs on the album. She recorded the regionally released album For the Children in 1989. She joined the U.S. Marines in 1990, during which she played in several bands as lead singer and guitarist. In 1994, she attended the University of North Dakota, and in 1995 released Justice Hunter.
FOR MORE INFORMATION on the Honor The Earth Tour, log on http://www.honorearth.com; on the Crandon mine and Billiton buyout of Rio Algom, log on the Midwest Treaty Network at http://www.treatyland.com; and on Nashville's fight to overturn the Local Agreement with the mining company, log on http://treaty.indigneousnative.org/nash-twn.html or http://www.nashvillewiundersiege.com.
" We are right in the middle of that environmental slum Manitoba Hydro has created " --Kenny Miswaggon, Chair of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation of Cross Lake, Manitoba.
"We have reaffirmed our historic commitment to protecting the lands, waters and people of Wisconsin, We are sending a clear message to our utilities that we oppose the construction of power lines that will bring more harm to the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Hayward and the Pimicikamak Cree Nation in Manitoba." --Tom Maulson, President of the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council.
A 250-mile, 350,000-volt electric transmission line jointly proposed by the Minnesota Power and the the private utility Public Service Corporation of Wisconsin would bring power from hydroelectric dams in northern Manitoba Cree communities. The line would run from Duluth across the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe reservation to Wausau, Wisconsin. A smaller ll5,000-volt spur line would run from Rhinelander to the proposed Crandon metallic sulfide mine site next to the Mole Lake Ojibwe Reservation in northeastern Wisconsin. That line, and increased cooperation and mergers between utilities, has linked Crees from northern Manitoba, with farmers, landowners and Native nations in northern Wisconsin--in a pitched battle to preserve the Wolf River, Mole Lake, and the stunning waterways and boreal forests thousands of miles apart.
For almost two decades Native communities, sportfishers, and environmentalists have together waged successful opposition to the Crandon mine, proposed at first by Exxon and then by Rio Algom, which is being purchased by the South African company Billiton. The copper/zinc/gold mine is projected to produce 11 million tons of metals over a 28-year mine lifespan, and leave behind 44 million tons of acidic wastes, becoming Wisconsin's largest-ever toxic waste dump. Data from the mining company itself indicates that contamination would affect the local groundwater for more than 200,000 years. The proposed mine would use up to 20 tons a month of cyanide, as well as other chemicals for processing the ore. The mine would also pump more up to 1400 gallons a minute out of the mine impacting not only the immediate mine area, but Mole Lake, the precious Ojibwe wild rice beds, and the Wolf River, one of the most pristine rivers in the nation.
"I 'd like to see my children have everything I had, and I believe the wild rice beds will be contaminated if the mine goes through " says Roger McGeshick, Mole Lake Sokaogon Ojibwe Tribal Chairman, "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."
Zoltan Grossman of the Midwest Treaty Network observes, "The Crandon proposal has already united former adversaries over treaty fishing rights into an alliance to protect the fishery from mining companies. It has not only brought together tribes with sportfishers, but environmentalists with unionists, and rural residents with urban students." He adds, "Many rural groups, tribes, and townships around Wisconsin that are opposing mining, transmission lines, power plant proposals, and Perrier springwater pumping, are also beginning to come together in a new statewide anti-corporate movement. In the spirit of Wisconsin's progressive and environmental traditions, they believe in 'people power, not corporate power'."
The transmission line itself is expensive: an estimated $200-300 million would be spent on its construction, according to the Wisconsin state agency Public Service Commission (PSC). The line is controversial because high-voltage transmission lines are considered dangerous, and because it would cut a swath through the property of over 7000 Wisconsin residents and diminish farmlands and forests alike. An estimated 50% of the power is lost between the point of origin and the point of use, with increasing concern about the possible health consequences of the electromagnetic fields on human beings, dairy cattle, and wildlife.
Northern States Power (NSP) is the single largest export contract for power from huge dams in northern Manitoba, dams which devastate not only the environment, but the people who live there. At present, NSP and it's affiliates purchase l000 megawatts of power from Manitoba Hydro moved through immense transmission lines to the south. The proposed 345 kv Arrowhead- Weston Transmission Line, headed from Duluth to Wausau, is being opposed by many human rights, farmers', environmental and indigenous groups--notably the group that calls itself "SOUL"--Save Our Unique Lands.
That contract, the dams, and proposed transmission lines through northern Minnesota and Wisconsin are ecologically and socially devastating. In the early l970s, Manitoba Hydro put in a series of seven dams on the Nelson and Churchill River systems in northern Manitoba. Lauded as a source of "clean energy " from the north, Manitoba Hydro joined with neighboring Ontario Hydro and Hydro Quebec in selling that power to the United States, the single largest market for energy in the world. Since that time, things have gone pretty well for Manitoba Hydro ($1 billion in gross revenues in 1999) and Northern States Power, with banner years for profits at both companies, and the appearance to a larger world good choices for " green energy", even though the companies have cared little for the people and land devastated by the projects.
Five of the twelve dams are on the Nelson River, the river which runs through Cross Lake on its way to Hudson Bay. The first set of dams have already destroyed 3.3 million acres of land. Rivers have been turned to toxic reservoirs now laced with methylmercury. Fish from the Nelson River, a staple of the Cree, have been contaminated. Pregnant women, elders and children must severely limit their intake or risk dire health consequences . Large tracts of boreal forest have been flooded, displacing and destroying animal habitat. Both of these consequences have made the Cree environmental refugees and paupers in their own lands.
The human consequences are also devastating. Unemployment has reached an estimated 85% in Cross Lake, and with that are all the social and human costs of the environmental destruction. Cross Lake is considered to have among the highest suicide rates in Canada, a community of 4000 has more than l00 residents which attempted suicide in the second half of l999 alone. More than 50 members of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation have been killed directly or indirectly by the megaproject, as many others drowned trying to travel on unstable reservoir ice and water. A Canadian Treaty Court has found Manitoba Hydro legally liable for a number of these deaths. Manitoba Hydro has suggested "compensation" in the form of $l5,000 each for the deaths.
There is a set of simple reasoning for the logic of future development. If new transmission lines are allowed to go through, Manitoba Hydro will have increased access to markets, and thus the potential for more dams in the north. That reasoning does not escape the Cree. "If you're gonna double the exports, that means you're gonna double the misery," said Kenny Miswaggon, tribal leader from the Pimicikamak Cree Nation of Cross Lake, Manitoba.
With at least 75% of Manitoba hydroelectric potential is as yet "untapped", more proposals are under consideration. Much of this power would head into Minnesota and Wisconsin as export markets--down the high voltage transmission lines, and to U.S. consumers. There are obvious alternatives. Northern State Power's Buffalo Ridge wind project is a banner energy producer, with additional potential for wind energy in the Midwest estimated to be able to provide up to three quarters of US electrical needs. The recent Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Madison, drew almost 10,000 people to talk about the potential for alternatives, and the Ojibwe, like other tribes, are clear on the need to prioritize. The Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe recently passed a resolution calling "for greatly increased investments by tribal, local, state and national governments, as well as by individuals and corporate and institutional entities in energy conservation and genuinely renewable energy sources in Wisconsin and the upper Midwest, to displace the 'need' to purchase additional environmentally and socially destructive electricity from Manitoba Hydro."
The electricity from the Duluth-Wausau transmission line, as well as from new proposed electrical generating plants in rural southern Wisconsin, would not be used to provide power to state residents, but rather by used by private utilities to sell power to Chicago and other urban markets. The private utilities threaten to use eminent domain to condemn land for a project that will not even benefit Wisconsin residents. Instead of approving yet another outdated utility transmission line, the Wisconsin PSC could be exploring alternatives that would benefit consumers.
The PSC's own studies indicate that Wisconsin could reduce energy usage by 35% over 20 years through a variety of measures, including process improvements in manufacturing, lighting efficiency measures in commercial sector, and fuel switching for residential needs. Keith Reopelle, of Wisconsin's Environmental Decade, points out that utilities have backed away from spending money on their energy efficiency programs. "The Public Service Commission records show that utility programs aimed at reducing household and business energy use and bills have dropped by $94 million or 64% over the past four years. Purchases for instance of high efficiency furnaces snared 90% of the rebate assisted market in l993, as opposed to 20% today." There are, in short, no absence of alternatives to destructive dam megaprojects, mines, and dangerous transmission lines.
1. Write to Governor Tommy Thompson (State Capitol, Madison WI 53702) asking him to protect Wisconsin's unique natural resources, and to oppose permits for the Crandon mine and Duluth-Wausau transmission line.
2. Write to the Wisconsin Public Service Commissioners (615 N. Whitney Way, Madison WI 53705) asking that they attend all the upcoming public hearings on the Duluth-Wausau transmission line. Come to the first PSC line hearing at the Rhinelander Holiday Inn on November 28, and join the 12 noon rally against the line and mine.
3. Support a prohibition on the use of cyanide in Wisconsin mines, following the lead of Montana and the Czech Republic. Ask your legislative candidates and local governments to support a cyanide ban in mining. Print off and circulate the cyanide ban petition available at http://treaty.indigneousnative.org/petition.html
4. If you are from outside Wisconsin, you contribute to the state's $8-billion annual tourist industry. Ask Wisconsin Department of Tourism Secretary Richard Speros (201 W. Washington Ave., Madison WI 53703) to use his good office to protect the clean environment and quiet rural lifestyle that draws tourists to Wisconsin. firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Get involved in a group in your area, or start your own. Join us in the battle to protect the environment, sustainable economies, human rights, and Native sovereignty.
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR
SPEAKERS, AND TO HELP OUT:
Transmission line and dams:
SAVE OUR UNIQUE LANDS (SOUL)
P.O. Box 11, Mosinee WI 54455.
Tel.: (800) 270-8455 [toll-free];
WEB: http://www.WakeUpWisconsin.com or http://www.UnplugManitobaHydro.org
Mine, transmission line, and dams:
MIDWEST TREATY NETWORK /
Wolf Watershed Educational Project
P.O. Box 14382, Madison WI 53714-4382
Tel.: (800) 445-8615 [toll-free];
Tel./Fax (608) 246-2256
Menominee singer-songwriter Wade Fernandez (left) jammin' with Jackson Browne at the Honor The Earth memorial for Ingrid Washinawatok, Keshena, October 19, 2000. Photo: Christine Munson.
KESHENA - It seemed as if Ingrid Washinawatok was alive and well at Thursday night's Honor the Earth concert at Menominee Indian High School.
To friends, family and community members, though, the Menominee Indian woman killed in Colombia in March 1999 was definitely there in spirit.
Ingrid's sister, Gina Washinawatok, was speechless after hearing musical artists like the Indigo Girls and Jackson Browne talk about Ingrid so positively. They even included her in their song lyrics.
"I should have known that she touched their lives, their music," she said of her sister. "It's quite an honor for her, her family, as well as the Menominee Nation."
Winona La Duke came to the concert not as the Green Party ice-presidential candidate, but as a private citizen, trying to honor a friend.
La Duke is the director of Honor the Earth, a national native foundation that raises money for grassroots native and environmental land organizations. She also co-chaired the Indigenous Women's Network - one of the sponsors of the concert tour - with Ingrid.
But when La Duke spoke of her fallen friend, issues of the Green Party were raised. La Duke noted Colombia was the second-largest recipient of federal funds for military aid, La Duke said. They get $1.3 billion from the U.S. government.
"Essentially, I paid for the bullets that shot her," she said. "We are opposed to providing military aid to a country that produces gross human rights violations."
The Ralph Nader- La Duke ticket also believes in appropriating a third of the budget to aid in inner cities, instead of defending European countries.
"It's a gross misappropriation of funds," she said. "It's a third of our budget. That's eight times more than we spend on education, 10 times more than on the environment."
Environmental issues addressed during the concert were all things Gina said her sister "spoke for, lived for and died for."
Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls said the point of the three-week long Honor the Earth tour has been to raise political awareness and money for indigenous and environmental ground groups.
"We wanted to end up in Menominee because the community is real special to us because Ingrid Washinawatok was one of our board members, one of our activists that inspired us," Ray said. "We wanted to play in her community as a way to wrap up the tour."
"And the political reason we are here is we've been standing in solidarity to the people opposing the Crandon mine," she added.
Ray, her partner Emily Saliers, La Duke and others even appeared in Crandon Thursday to show their support for the opposition for the first day of the legal battle between the Town of Nashville town board and Nicolet Minerals Co.
Although the judge delayed a ruling for four months for mediation, Saliers said "the people are so opposed to the mine, we just don't see how it could happen."
Kenneth Fish of the tribe's Mining Impacts Office asked his people to continue to fight, as their ancestors did for the land they still call home and the Wolf River they still appreciate.
If not - if the people opt to surrender an expensive battle - it all could come to an end and the area's water supply would have to be imported, he said.
"We have what we have today because our ancestors laid down their lives to stay here," he said. "Now what we can do is lay down some money so in our future, 150 years from now, they can say our ancestors protected our land and our water."
La Duke expressed frustration as she spoke of big corporations impinging their business on Indian communities.
"Why must we change our way of life for a corporation?" she asked. "Why don't you clean up your mess?"
She stressed how important it is for the Menominee people to continue their fight against the Crandon mine.
"We tried, stood up and made a difference," La Duke said. "We try to do the right thing in our work. That's what she (Ingrid) did, in her work, in her life. She did things with a good heart."
In the simplest terms, a video showed Ingrid saying, "I'm just a "res' girl who grew up in Chicago and has been living out in New York doing some work for the people."
Her work, as she saw it, was always for the people, people that were said not to survive, people who's children don't know what it is to be Menominee.
The world has been without such a fighter for more than a year and a half now, but Ingrid's cousin Steve Dodge said the type of work she did still continues.
"Her life has touched so many, she is living on through them," Gina said.
"All the energy and unity here (at the concert) shows her work is still alive," Karen Washinawatok, Ingrid's cousin, said. "It makes me proud to be a Washinawatok."
Having such powerful performances from the musicians Thursday helped the family in their grief, Gina said, since there still has been no resolution to Ingrid's death.
Besides the trip to Crandon, the Girls visited Ingrid's grave in Zion, which Ray said was tough, but reminded her of the connection they have to the spirit of all the people they work with.
On a national basis, Ray said this year's tour is fighting against the nuclear waste dumping on Indian lands out west and the buffalo slaughters in Yellowstone National Park.
The 2000 tour started in Billings, Mont. September 30 and has moved though the west towards the east ending up in Keshena.
"Ending up here is just perfect," Ray said. "It's perfect because Ingrid had so much to do with everything we've ever done. She's always been a part."
Saliers said the tour - in its seventh year - is more recognizable now. She attributed it to a combination of doing it for years, continuing to stay in contact with communities fighting the same issues, and attracting big name musicians like Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, and David Crosby to tour with them.
"The whole point is to get the public to get the connection of what's happening in various communities and I think that's happening more now than ever," she said. "If we can't do that, we can't ever be successful."
NASHVILLE, WIS. -- Nashville Town Board Chairman Chuck Sleeter said he discussed local opposition to the proposed Crandon mine with Vice President Al Gore during a trip to Washington, D.C., last week. Sleeter was attending a national conference on rural development when Gore stopped by for a surprise visit.
A vocal opponent of the large zinc and copper mine proposed in nearby Crandon, Sleeter said he spent the better part of 40 minutes briefing Gore and about two dozen mayors from around the country on the potential long-term environmental and economic problems posed by the mine.
"The vice president looked at me and said that he is concerned, that he will follow through with this, his staff will follow through with it and that he wants to be personally advised of the status of that mine," Sleeter said. "Isn't that great for a little town chairman to wind up in there?"
The state is reviewing an application from Nicolet Minerals Corp., a subsidiary of Ontario-based Rio Algom Ltd., to build a 55 million ton zinc and copper mine in Wisconsin's Northwoods. The proposal has pitted those who say the mine will bring needed jobs to the economically depressed region against environmentalists and others who fear acid drainage from the mine will harm the region's many lakes and rivers.
Sleeter said his discussion with Gore led to a further briefing the following day with the vice president's senior advisor on domestic affairs.
The overall focus of the conference was empowerment zones -- rural, tribal areas designated throughout the United States that receive federal assistance to attract stable, environmentally sustainable development. Sleeter said the Mole Lake Sokaogan Chippewa Tribe brought Nashville into the program as a partner, along with the Menominee and Lac du Flambeau tribes. In the two years since the communities were designated an empowerment zone, the tribes and the town have received $550,000 of a $3 million grant.
"This is a strategy for the vice president to help rural America, to make it sustainable, to relieve the unemployment and bring in good safe jobs," Sleeter said.
The federal money can be used to stimulate sustainable economic development, he said, and to fight the mine.
"This is contrary to the mission, and that's why they're concerned," he said of the mining proposal.
On June 28, Chuck Sleeter was in attendance with 24 other community leaders at a meeting organized by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development in Columbus, Ohio. The meeting was organized to discuss community development issues. Nashville and Mole Lake Sokaogon member, Sylvester Poler were there to represent the Northwoods NiiJii Enterprise Community, which received a federal grant to help develop sustainable industry in the region. After a presentation by the Vice President to the group, Chuck met with Gore for 40 minutes and discussed the potential impacts of the proposed Crandon mine on the communities of Nashville and Mole Lake. Chuck also met with David Baird, Gore�s senior advisor on domestic affairs, the next day. Baird told Chuck that he would review the mining issues with the Corps of Army Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies.