Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mining For Trouble In The Northwoods

Three months ago, the state department of tourism came out with a lame commercial to promote the great outdoors of Wisconsin.  I pointed out that one of the issues with said commercial was that the Northwoods was again becoming the site of a lot of heated rhetoric:
The tribes are well within their legal rights to do this. The reasoning for these high declarations is also pretty clear, as blue cheddar succinctly points out:
Officially, the expanded spearing has nothing to do with
mining next to somebody’s sacred rice beds.

Officially the expanded spearing has nothing to do with the law to allow hunting of Wisconsin wolves with dog packs (the only bloodsport wolf hunt of that nature in the U.S.)

Officially the spearfishing has zero to do with disrespectful treatment of native tribes by a certain bullheaded Governor.

Unofficially we know it has everything to do with those things.
Listening to talk radio, you could hear them already ripping out a page from Tommy Thompson's playbook, stirring up the racism that is innate to their base. They already had callers ranting about those "Damn Injuns."

I have also heard reports from my friends in Northern Wisconsin that the usual suspects up there are really starting to grumble about the fact that their white supremacy isn't being observed.

Not once have I heard a conservative make the connection between their own actions and these consequences for their poor behaviors. And no, that doesn't surprise me one bit.
Sadly, in the past three months, the corporate special interests haven't slowed down one bit on their own Northwoods version of "divide and conquer" in order to advance their own agenda of raping the land.

Just last weekend, it was announced that Gogebic Taconite - the mining company who wrote the loathsome mining bill and then bought the Republicans who passed said bill - was ready to do exploratory drilling.
The sovereign people of the Bad River Band, of course, objected. The back and forth in the story was rather telling, in my humble opinion:

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has asked state authorities to halt plans by Gogebic Taconite to conduct exploratory drilling on a proposed iron ore-mining site in northern Wisconsin.

But the Department of Natural Resources said Monday it doesn’t plan on reversing its decision to approve the company’s request to drill eight exploratory holes that will be used to evaluate the site for iron ore mining.

The tribe says the DNR failed to consult or to formally notify the tribe during a review of a drilling request by the company.

The tribe says the drilling activities may harm natural resources on ceded territories where the tribe retains certain hunting, fishing and gathering rights. Ceded territories are subject to treaties.

Ann Coakley of the DNR said attorneys for the agency do not believe that the tribe’s treaty rights come into play on the issue of exploratory drilling.

The tribes also objected to the drilling work on technical grounds and raised concerns about waste water and the effect of storm water when the work begins.

Coakley, the DNR’s top mining regulator, said that the agency believes the company is taking prudent steps to avoid environmental harm.
Egads! What a condescending and insulting approach taken by the mining company and the DNR (but I repeat myself)!

As if to draw attention to this issue, Tonette Walker decided to make one of her "Walk with Walker" stunts in Copper Falls Park which is right where the proposed mine is supposed to be.  Watching the news clip of the Tonette's little walk, one can see two obvious things:
  1. The protests, albeit more mild mannered and more polite, are still going on.  No wonder Scott Walker still runs around like a thief in the night. He's still trying to avoid the very people he's supposed to be leading.
  2. It's pretty obvious that no one in Tonette's group even knows how to walk through a groomed park.  If they actually went into the wilderness, they wouldn't make it a day without making some bears' tummies very happy.
But I digress.

It should also be noted that while Tonette and her paid staff hikers were trying to make it appear all was niceties, happiness and sunshine, the underlying and building racial tensions were also very much present.

At Bayfield High School, more racial tension was shown when called out by the valedictorian, Victoria Gokee-Rindal, a member of the Red Cliff Band:
Gokee-Rindal said her main concerns were about “basic human rights.”

She said she had also been influenced by the Canadian First Nations “Idle No More” movement in support of indigenous rights.

“There is a lot of cultural insensitivity at the Bayfield School District,” she said.
One of those instances of insensitivity revolves around the Native American practice of “smudging,” or burning sage and using the smoke as an aid to purify body and mind. According to Gokee-Rindal, the practice was banned for students before they came to classes in the morning.

Victoria Kokee-Rindal 
“It is a concern, but there are many other concerns that are basic human rights that we are concerned about. The whole smudging issue is just the single issue that put people over the top,” she said. “It seems to have gotten a lot of media attention, and it is giving the impression that it is the only issue at the Bayfield School, but its not.”

Gokee-Rindal said a teacher had personally belittled her in a room full of people because she was Native American.

“They had no right, it was very unprofessional, very disrespectful, and it was not handled in the right way at all,” she said.

Gokee-Rindal said that efforts by the school district to increase cultural sensitivity have not gone nearly far enough.

“Bayfield School receives so much funding because of the amount of Native students in the school. We are almost 80 percent of the school. They get money to do cultural things around the school, and if they really wanted to make an effort, they could do so much more.”

Among those efforts was an increase in the proportion of Native American staff at the school, Gokee-Rindal said.

“I would like to see the staff reflect the number of Native Americans in the school. I think it is only right that if 80 percent of the students are Native, 80 percent of our teachers should be Native American,” she said. “Hopefully as Native American teachers become more abundant in the near future, I hope that Bayfield will be able to create awareness of all the injustices that happen with teachers throughout the entire school. Don’t get me wrong; there are teachers who do support us, and they are amazing, but it needs to be a school-wide effort.
At the graduation, there was also an organized walk out by some of the members of the tribe to protest the racism and bigotry that is prevalent in the school. Yet as clear as they could be, school officials were as obtuse as they possibly could be. The most telling was this quote by the district superintendent, David Aslyn (emphasis mine):
Aslyn declined to comment specifically on Gokee-Rindal’s valedictorian remarks.

“The graduation was a day of celebration for everybody, and I’ll focus on all of those students and the good work they did and made graduation the pinnacle of their high school careers. Beyond that I don’t have any insights to share with you.
Expect the tension in the Northwoods to continue to build.

 Walker and his Teapubligoons will continue to do what they can to maximize profits for their corporate owners, regardless of who they hurt or what rights they must trample.  They will continue to provoke the tribes and force the sovereign nations to take action to defend themselves and the land.

And speaking of the corporate overlords, expect them to continue their not-so-subtle whisper campaign and against the Native Americans, blaming them for everything from the poor fishing caused by the Republicans' disregard for the environment to the rampant, Walker-induced unemployment problems, pointing to the defensive actions taken by the tribes, whether it be through protests, educational rallies or through the courts of law.

They know nothing plays with the Teapubligoons like some old-fashioned racial fear and smear.  And given the poor economy, the high rate of unemployment and higher taxes, people are more prone to give in to their basic prejudices rather than look at the facts and admit that their votes for Walker and his Teapubligoon allies are now working against them.

For too many people, it's easier to falsely place blame on others than it it is to accept responsibility for the consequences of their own actions.


  1. This post demonstrates more than enough Republican cognitive dissonance to fill a shelf of doctoral dissertations. Republicans have no qualms about feeding racism to pay off their corporate financiers. Republicans proudly wear blinders as their corporate financiers plunder the landscape, while they marvel about the beauty of Wisconsin’s Northwoods.

    Check out First Lade Tonette Walker’s Facebook page
    “Copper Falls State Park in Mellen, WI was beautiful,” she wrote.

    Does she have any clue how much damage her husband’s fast-track mining approval policy will despoil that very beauty? Has she ever seen the permanent devastation to the environment that large-scale open pit mining creates? Does she realize that her husband will permanently destroy what makes the Northwoods so special?

  2. Heck...even Kim Simac's son James Maillette, Jr. (who lost his bid for Vilas Co Sheriff) appears to have threatened that immigrants will be made to "disappear" in the Northwoods. So alarmed was a Northwoods resident that the exchange was documented in the Vilas Co News Review: This screen show was captured before being scrubbed just prior to Jimmy Maillette being appointed by Julaine Appling as the EVP of the extreme RW WiFamilyAction.