According to a Facebook posting by Nick Vander Puy, a potent legacy of Anishinabe commitment to care for their water was passed on to Felina LaPoint, a resident of the Penokee Harvest Camp. On July 19 Charlotte Loonsfoot presented LaPoint with a blanket that was first presented to other activists working to protect Wisconsin waterways by the well known activist Walter “Walt” Bresette, Red Cliff Ojibwe.
Bresette, who passed on in 1999 was a prominent activist who worked tirelessly in support of environmental and treaty rights. Bresette was a spokesman for the Anishinabe Ogitchida (Anishinabe warriors) who stopped a train carrying sulfuric acid to be used in copper mining from crossing the Bad River reservation. The Bad River Train Blockade of 1996 brought national attention to the power of indigenous treaty rights and scrutiny to the lack of Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) oversight of the White Pine Mine in Michigan where the acid was to be used.
The work of activists such as Bresette helped drive passage of the 1999 mining moratorium for the infamous sulfite Crandon in Wisconsin located near the Mole Lake Ojibwe Reservation. Subsequently, the mining industry has ranked Wisconsin as home to the most hostile anti-mining climate in the country.
Bresette originally presented the blanket to Roscoe and Evelyn Churchill during the Ladysmith mine fight. The Churchills are considered by many mining activists to be the “grandparents” of anti-metallic sulfide mining movement in Wisconsin. They helped draft legislation to protect Wisconsin waters including the Flambeau River near the Ladysmith mine. Protection efforts surrounding the Ladysmith mine produced the now famous “Prove it First Law,” that requires prospective miners to prove that a similar sulfide mine has not polluted surface or ground water during or after mining. So far the industry has not been able to produce a single example meeting this criteria.
The most recent change in Wisconsin mining regulations allowing Gogebic Taconite to move forward with their proposed 4.5 mile open pit iron ore mine is considered by mining opponents to be a direct attack on the “Prove it First” law. Gov. Scott Walker has indicated that one of his administrations priorities are to overturn the law.
Loonsfoot of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community was arrested in 2010 as she and other activists had camped at Eagle Rock in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Eagle Rock is considered to be a sacred place by area tribes. Loonsfoot and others were trying to protect the site from development of a nickel and copper mine by Kennecott Eagle Minerals. Tribes are continuing their opposition to the mine that is scheduled to open in 2014.
Bresette’s also known as Makoons or Little Bear powerful legacy of grassroots indigenous resistance lives on. The blanket, passed on to another generation of Ogichidaa (warriors) is a potent reminder of the power of tribal sovereignty and commitment to the land and the water.