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Chippewa resistance to the Gogebic Taconite mine

Wisconsin State Journal:

About 30 miles southeast of Ashland, at the very edge of the proposed pit, is a rustic camp, started by members of the Lac Courte Oreilles Chippewa band, where tribal members have launched an apparent cultural offensive to turn public opinion against the mine.

But the camp’s organizers say it has an even deeper purpose. Tribal officials and a treaty law expert say the Iron County camp, dubbed a harvest camp by Ojibwe, or Chippewa, lays the foundation for a possible legal case invoking their federal treaty rights.

The goal: Block construction of the Gogebic Taconite mine. ...

The Chippewa have a powerful weapon – treaties negotiated in the mid-1800s. Those treaties, [Glenn Stoddard, a lawyer who represents the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa] said, are more than dusty historical documents. They may soon come into play as Iron County challenges the legality of the camp. ...

The Chippewa signed pacts with the federal government in 1837 and 1842 in which they ceded land in about the northern third of Wisconsin in exchange for retaining rights to hunt, fish and gather on those lands. The rights were tested during a period of ugly protests in the North Woods in the 1980s and early 1990s as the Chippewa began spearing walleye on lakes off their reservations.

Following years of courtroom battles, U.S. District Judge James Doyle, Sr. upheld off-reservation treaty rights in a landmark decision. And after years of protests, the federal decision was upheld, the Chippewa continued spearing, and things quieted down in the North Woods.

As was the case with spearing, Stoddard said an important first step in bringing the treaties to bear is actively exercising the rights.

For decades, tribal members were arrested and jailed for hunting on public lands off their reservations if they didn’t have a hunting license. Because of the spearfishing decisions, hunting, fishing and gathering off-reservation are now legal.

Stoddard said the harvest camp is helping make real the practices the treaties protect, including collecting food and natural medicines, from wild onions to mushrooms to maple syrup and tamarack bark.

This is really great. The Penobscots have done great work against the landfill up here. For example, they can fund water testing that most private individuals can't afford.

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