The Advance-Titan

Menominee Tribe talks dangers of sulfide mining

Menominee Nation members and speakers Tony Brown, Lori Stiles and Jerry Maynard said UW Oshkosh students need to learn about the dangers of sulfide mining and the effects of the Back 40 Mine on the Menominee Tribe.

The Student Environmental Action Coalition partnered with different communities, student environmental organizations and the Menominee Nation to co-sponsor the event held in Sage Hall, called “Stop the Mines!” The speaking tour is about the Back 40 Sulfide Mine Canadian mining company, Aquila Resources, that has proposed to build the mine along the Menominee River.

The mine would lie on traditional and sacred Menominee land, only 150 feet from the Menominee River, which is the cultural center point for more than 10,000 years of cultural history for the Menominee peoples and the center of their origin story.

UWO student Ariannah Albrecht said she came to the event originally to learn more about the Menominee tribe’s culture and their cause.

“In my sociology club, I wanted to attend because we are trying to change the plaque of Chief Oshkosh,” Albrecht said. “Since he was a part of the Menominee tribe, we thought that this whole event would be very informative about their cause and help us towards ours as well.”

Stiles said she came to speak about this topic because communities need to come together to stop the harmful water pollution the mine will bring to the Menominee River.

“I came here to touch the hearts and the souls of people to help them realize we are all a part of the earth,” Stiles said. “We are all together in this, not just the Menominee Native people versus the corporations. We all need to take care of the earth, and we have to have clean drinking water because without it we will die.”

At the start of the presentation, Brown said the first step of stopping the mine from being made is to help people understand what toxic substances would end up in the river.

“Sulfide mining or ‘gold mining’ is when they take the sulfide rock found in mines and pulverize the pieces of it into gold, silver, zinc or copper,” Brown said. “The sulfide found in the mines turns into sulfuric acid, which is used in car batteries, when it is mixed with water. The sulfuric acid runs into the river and ruins our source of drinking water. Would anybody want to drink that kind of water?”

The second part of the event, Brown said the consequences of Back 40 Mine are detrimental to the Menominee tribe and their sense of identity.

“The size of the mine is a hole about as big as two Lambeau Fields,” Brown said. “The problem with the huge mine is there are still garden beds in that area. Our people used some of the mounds in this area as storage, while some still have remains of our people honored in the community buried beneath them. Digging up sacred spots in the land makes us lose our sense of identity as Menominee people.”

In addition, Brown said the Menominee people have a duty to protect the land from the environmental damage caused by the mine.

“Menominee people have been here for 12,000 years,” Brown said. “What people who have come here don’t understand is that this is our land because it is made from the bones and the ashes of our ancestors. With the acceptance that we own this land, is the responsibility to protect it as well. We are portrayed in the history books as ‘ignorant savages who are resisting civilization.’ I will wear that with pride because the people who came and said civilization is good is actually harming mother earth.”

The main goal in preventing the mine from being built, Stiles said is for individuals to take a stand against it.

“We need to step in as individual people, including the Menominee Nation, to say what we need to be aware of what is going on,” Stiles said. “We are not responsible, we are not our brother’s keepers, but we are our own keepers. This means we have to stand up, take action and tell corporations we do not want pollution to prevent us from swimming in the water, drinking clean water and seeing the animals drink clean water.”

Overall, Maynard said he hopes UWO students will continue to talk about this issue to emphasize the importance of keeping the water safe from pollution.

“You all mean something to us and water is the key to everything,” Maynard said. “Life is sacred for the Menominee people. Water is sacred and water is life.”

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Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Menominee Tribe talks dangers of sulfide mining