March 4, 2015
UPDATE: Gogebic Taconite (GTac) allegedly closed their Hurley office on March 1, 2015. With the price of iron ore crashing, GTac said it was the proliferation of wetlands in the Penokees Hills that made the area un-mineable. However, the power of the people coming together to protect the water also gave the seeds of justice a chance to prevail.
This blog, originally published in December 2011, illustrates the power of people coming together in community to make decisions for the good of all and having an impact. With the global war on water now raging, we remain ever vigilant in the Penokees, a shining example of the importance of standing united in defense of the water.
December 19, 2011 by Barbara With
Last week, I volunteered at the Ashland Recall Walker Office, which easily met their goal of 3500 signatures by day 16. There seems to be no end in sight to their devotion to collect as many as names possible, right up until the last minute. And when that’s done, they are already planning the voter ID education and registration campaign to follow on its heels.
It’s true, mining is the biggest issue around up here. The lies and propaganda being issued about mining makes it virtually impossible to believe anything that you don’t see for yourself. “Support for mining” the Republicans talk about is based on lies, funny figures, lack of any real information on mining’s affect on the region, tools for Walker at the newspapers and on county boards, rushing the issue and playing on the hopes of a desperately poor population, one of whose main source of revenue is the State. Now that the handouts are ending, their desperation multiplies and more than ever they want to believe Bill Williams’ lie about leaving behind water cleaner than they found it and a big pile of sparkling beach sand.
For me, I saw the truth for myself at the Ad Hoc Committee of the Ashland County Board on September 28, , when five pro-miners were made to talk one-to-one with 15 of their neighbors from La Pointe, Bad River, Mellon, Saxon, Washburn–telling them why this mine will kill us. The Board had already voted to sign Walker’s “Responsible Mining Resolution” at the August meeting, on the caveat that someone determine what “responsible mining” actually meant. This ad-hoc committee, organized originally in July, was supposed to do that before they signed a resolution. That they were still meeting after it had been adopted meant they actually had no power to do anything.
But it was advantageous for neighbor talking to neighbor, that we could tell them to their faces that they just risked killing the tourism of La Pointe, Washburn, Bayfield, Red Cliff, Ashland, and destroying the biggest employer around, Bad River Casino and hotel; that they just signed away forever Copper Falls, never to return; that they put our lives into the hands of untrustworthy proven liars, Cline Mines, who is currently being reported to the Department of Justice in Illinois for possible fraud down there. And they just made it likely that we would all have to start shipping water in. We told them everything, from our hearts.
Mike Wiggins, Chair of Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa finally said it so eloquently, so heart breaking: That by signing the resolution from Walker to support “responsible” mining, the Ashland County Board just took the first step to the genocide of the Bad River people. Their water and wild rice beds will be destroyed, their main source of food. Next go the sturgeon, then the eagles, the air, the whitefish and then …
“I wish you luck with your committee,” Mike quietly ended.
The longer we talked to them as neighbors, the paler they became. It was powerful to watch the citizens stand up and hold them accountable. One by one we told them: your “yes” votes have just supported creating a system that will ruin our watershed, kill our fish, destroy our tourism, bring noise, air, light and toxic pollution that will kill the Bad River people. Your “yes” votes have just been turned into the propaganda, “ASHLAND COUNTY SUPPORTS PROPOSED MINE” not “responsible mining.” I myself wept real tears as I told them I would hold them personally, politically, environmentally and spiritual responsible for their actions.
We watched all their pro-mine faces turn pale and by the end of the meeting, they unanimously agreed to recommend to the Ashland Board that they rescind their support.
Once neighbor talks to neighbor, people realize they’ve been lied to. They do not want to destroy their neighbors. That’s Wisconsin, that’s who we are. I have no doubt that the good citizens of northern counties, once they hear the truth, will agree: there is no such thing as responsible mining right now. If it destroys my neighbor, it’s not responsible.
The good news is, since February, 100,000s more people know the truth around the state, and every day more and more of my “pro-mining” neighbors in Iron County know the truth. But then that’s the reason for the rush, isn’t it? So people won’t know the truth and rescind their support. Because they will and they are.
In the meantime, it won’t matter what bills they make into law. The answer is and will remain no. We are stewards of our territory. We have been since much longer than Gaylord Nelson decreed this the wilderness it still is today. Mining destroys everything that we are.
The answer still is and will always remain, no mining in Northern Wisconsin. And not because I say so but the because the will of the people is the law of the land.