As I arrived at the American Indian Center of Chicago for “Water at Risk: A Tribal Leaders Perspective” on August 17, chairs were being added to the seating area to accommodate an the impressive attendance. The event was moderated by Doug Kiel, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History at Northwestern University and a citizen of the Oneida Nation. The featured speakers, Chairman Gary Besaw of the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin and Chairman Dave Archambault II of the Standing Rock Tribe of Sioux had a critically important message: the safety of our water is being threatened in locations across the United States.
Besaw opened with a presentation of the scope of the proposed Back 40 Mine along with an explanation of the shocking proximity of this project to the Menominee River, a major tributary feeding Lake Michigan. The proposed mine calls for a massive footprint which results in an almost incomprehensible amount of earth being displaced. The combination of the resulting mound of earth and the mine construction will result in sulfuric acid being created as a byproduct. You read that right — sulfuric acid, the same battery acid that prompts the use of HAZMAT gear.
I was amazed when I learned that the Great Lakes represent approximately 20% of the world’s fresh surface water supply. The message is clear, the pollution of the Menominee River with sulfuric acid is not the Menominee Tribe’s problem, it is everyone’s problem. Bottom line: our government’s shameful and sleazy maneuvering to permit this proposed project to continue must be met with determined resistance. What can you do? Take action. Taking action comes in many forms. Anyone reading this can take a few seconds to share this post to help spread awareness and support for this issue. Especially if you live in Wisconsin or Michigan, please call your congressional representatives to vehemently oppose this project. Even if you live in another state, make your voice heard that this project is utterly unacceptable. You can also join me in donating to this cause.
Besaw was followed by Chairman Dave Archambault II of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Archambault re-lived not only the Dakota Access Pipeline struggle but also the long history of the Sioux in protecting their land at all costs. As he explained the emotional toll of that time and the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation and leading his people through an almost unimaginable struggle, he took the high road and described the atmosphere at the Standing Rock camp of 10,000 supporters as sacred. He focused on the outpouring of support and insistence on peaceful resistance as opposed to the outlook many might have shared after that sort of experience. He also took the opportunity to share suggestions for how to live in balance with the land. Archambault explained that the only thing preventing us from powering everything in our country with renewable energy was the will to do so.
All portions of the evening had the added bonus of a history lesson. Archambault’s portion pointed out through a series of slides the impact of rail, pipelines, the interstate system and line breaks have had on our country. Watching slide after slide of the web of infrastructure, I couldn’t help feeling constricted. It was powerful to say the least. But the slide showing an ominous number of line breaks really made it hit home. It was a sad testament to what some would call progress, but it was the dose of reality that everyone in attendance came to hear.
Another takeaway from Archambault’s talk was to always be sure that donations are going to the intended recipient. He explained that the Standing Rock tribe received approximately $11,000,000 in donations. But more than $40,000,000 was donated outside of the tribe, with the whereabouts of much of these funds unknown. Evidently countless opportunistic fundraising sites cropped up as the Stand with Standing Rock campaign gained traction. I have no words to describe a person who would take advantage of a beleaguered tribe and donors alike, donors who in many cases certainly gave when there was little to give. The fact that happened and on such a scale is so much more than disappointing.
The outpouring of support that the Standing Rock Tribe received is what the Menominee Tribe needs to successfully put an end to the proposed Back 40 mine. If you haven’t yet seen the impact mines have on areas where they are built, be sure to watch National Geographic’s “From the Ashes.”
To support the Menominee tribe, visit their website at: https://www.gofundme.com/menominee-nation-noback40-mine-fund
Thanks for reading. Please share and keep fighting the good fight!