Press Release: “Keweenaw Bay Indian Community stands 500 strong at Eagle Mine Court of Appeals Hearing”

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community stands 500 strong at Eagle Mine Court of Appeals Hearing (PDF)

For Release: June 5, 2014

Contact: Donald Shalifoe, Sr., Tribal President

Phone: 906-353-6623

Baraga, MI — About 500 members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) KBIC Drummingstood united around the importance of keeping their waters clean from contamination associated with sulfide mining on June 3, 2014 at the Michigan Court of Appeals.  Oral arguments were heard involving the Eagle Mine, Michigan’s first permitted sulfide mine in the Upper Peninsula.

“This is the first time in our generation that the community as a whole came together to fight for true sovereignty and engage in spontaneous government participation.  The goal of the new moving-forward Tribal Council is to bring transparency and involvement to the Anishinaabeg (the people),” said Donald Shalifoe, Sr., KBIC’s Ogimaa (Chief).

Many tribal members carpooled and traveled about eight hours to line up for the 10:00 a.m. Lansing hearing.  KBIC’s remarkable presence overwhelmed the Michigan Hall of Justice whose staff reported it was their largest turn out ever for a court hearing.

Tribal leaders and elders observed the hearing from within the court room, while hundreds watched and listened to the proceedings in an overflow video conferencing room.  Traditional drumming and singing resounded outside the building following the hearing.

KBIC’s Vice President Carole LaPointe remarked “it was a very educational experience for our membership and youth.”

The Anishinaabeg band has opposed the Eagle Mine development, located on Treaty of 1842 ceded homeland, since it was first permitted by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) in 2006.

Unsettled concerns involve the mining regulatory process, improper permitting and inadequate assessment of impacts to the area environment, cultural resources and water quality, including groundwater contamination and the potential for perpetual acid mine drainage upstream from Lake Superior.

Tribal member Jeffery Loman said “the hearing today is another testimony to the fact that inadequate regulation and collusion between industry and government results in endless litigation.”

One aspect of the evolving case questions what qualifies as a “place of worship” under Michigan’s sulfide mining statute.  An initial ruling by Michigan Administrative Law Judge Richard Patterson recommended mitigation of impacts to an Anishinaabeg sacred place, Migi zii wa sin (Eagle Rock), but the MDEQ made a final permit decision asserting only built structures are places of worship.

Discriminatory enforcement of Michigan law has led to substantial degradation to KBIC’s sacred site.  This includes obtrusive mine facilities and a decline access ramp into the base of Eagle Rock, non-stop noise and activity, and hindered traditional access and use.  Spiritually significant high places like Eagle Rock are used in solitude by the Anishinaabeg for multi-day fasting, vision quest and ceremony.

Despite the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, Native people still struggle to protect their remaining sacred places in the face of extractive development agendas.  “It is a shame that the United States of America, proudly founded upon values of religious freedom, has trouble guaranteeing this right to all of its nation’s first people,” said tribal member Jessica Koski.

KBIC anticipates a decision from the Michigan Court of Appeals within six months.  The Eagle Mine’s timeframe for production start-up is the end of 2014.  “While the court deliberates, it is important to remember that regardless of the outcome, we are in the right for standing up for the Yellow Dog Plains.  We hope the court understands their decision will have long lasting implications for this place, as well as other areas that are slated for mining,” said Emily Whittaker of Big Bay, Michigan who gathered alongside KBIC and other locally affected residents.

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruling will be an important precedent for additional sulfide mining proposals threatening Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and waters of the Great Lakes.



Supreme Court Declines to Review Appeal Involving Eagle Mine

Here is today’s order list. The case is captioned Huron Mountain Club v. Army Corps of Engineers.

News coverage here. H/t How Appealing.

Lower court materials here.


Sixth Circuit Rejects Challenge to Eagle Mine

Here are the materials in Huron Mountain Club v. United States Army Corps of Engineers:

CA6 Unpublished Opinion

Huron Mountain Brief

Federal Brief

Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company Brief

Huron Mountain Reply

An excerpt:

Plaintiff-Appellant Huron Mountain Club (“HMC”) appeals the district court’s denial of its motion for injunctive relief, which sought to enjoin Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company (“Kennecott”) from constructing and operating the Eagle Mine (“Eagle Mine” or “the Mine”), a nickel and copper mine in Marquette, Michigan, and compel the United States Army Corps of Engineers1 (the “Corps”) to “administer” the federal permitting programs under the Rivers and Harbors Act (“RHA”), 33 U.S.C. § 403, and the Clean Water Act
(“CWA”), 33 U.S.C. § 1344. We AFFIRM.

Lower court materials here.

KBIC, Eagle Rock, and Kennecott Mine in Scientific American

The article is Part 5 in a series called “Pollution, Poverty and People of Color”

“A Michigan Tribe Battles a Global Corporation”:

An abundant resource, this water has nourished a small Native American community for hundreds of years. So 10 years ago, when an international mining company arrived near the shores of Lake Superior to burrow a mile under the Earth and pull metals out of ore, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa had to stand for its rights and its water.

And now, as bulldozers raze the land and the tunnel creeps deeper, the tribe still hasn’t backed down.

“The indigenous view on water is that it is a sacred and spiritual entity,” said Jessica Koski, mining technical assistant for the Keweenaw Bay community. “Water gives us and everything on Earth life.”

The Keweenaw Bay Indians are fighting for their clean water, sacred sites and traditional way of life as Kennecott Eagle Minerals inches towards copper and nickel extraction, scheduled to begin in 2014.

It’s a good longreads article. Our previous coverage, including the multitude of lawsuits the article mentions, is here.

Federal Court Suit Filed to Stop Mining Activities in Northern Michigan/Upper Peninsula Mine

Here are the materials in Huron Mountain Club v. United States Army Corps of Engineers (W.D. Mich.):

Huron Mountain Club Complaint

Huron Mountain Club Brief in Support of PI Motion

Here is the Interlochen Public Radio coverage of the suit. An excerpt:

A private club in the Upper Peninsula has filed a federal lawsuit suit to stop the construction of a new mine in Marquette County. The nickel and copper mine, owned by Kennecott Eagle Minerals, has received permits from the state. But the Huron Mountain Club says the U.S. Army Corps needs to review the project to make sure it doesn’t violate the Clean Water Act.

The club owns nearly 20,000 acres of forest downstream from the mine on the Salmon Trout River. The lawsuit says sulfuric acid produced by sulfide mining could pollute the river. And the club is “horror-struck” by the prospect of the watershed collapsing because part of the mine will be dug directly underneath it. The lawsuit also says the federal government needs to consider the potential for damage to Eagle Rock, a site near the entrance to the mine that is sacred to American Indians.

Kennecott says the mine has been extensively reviewed and survived multiple legal challenges going back to 2006. Eagle Mine has been under construction since 2010 and the company says it is 75 percent built.

IPR on Eagle Rock Controversy

From IPR:

Photo courtesy of Yellow Dog Summer

By Bob Allen

Protestors of Michigan’s decision to permit underground mining at Eagle Rock near Marquette took petitions to the state capitol Thursday. Members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community say Eagle Rock is a sacred site to them, and a mine dug into the face of the rock will destroy it.

Eagle Rock is located on state land leased to Kennecott Minerals.

State law says mining operations have to take into consideration impacts to places of worship. But state officials ruled that places of worship means those located in a building such as a church.

Matthew Fletcher is an American Indian and professor of law at Michigan State University. He says any appeal of the state’s ruling about sacred places may not be a sure winner.

Listen to Bob Allen’s chat with Fletcher by playing the audio above.

CIC-AIS Graduate Conference Prize Winners

Dear Colleagues:

Please spread the news that all three of the submitted prize winners at the recent graduate conference were women!!!   FIRST PRIZE went to Nicole Marie Keway for her remarkable paper on Emerson:  “The Piquancy of Particularity: Emersonian Savages and Speaking Beyond the Woods.”  The SECOND PRIZE winner was Sandra Garner for “Rhetorics of Traditions: Troubling Tradition in the Lakota Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality” –  Sandra is completing her degree at Ohio State University and will be at Miami University as a post-doc this fall.  Finally, a law student, Adrea Korthase, received THIRD PRIZE for her work on the “Kennecott Eagle Mineral Project and the Need for a Michigan Religious Protection Act.”

To see these outstanding women, please go to our website — –  you can see their pictures as well as many of the other participants.  Conference planning, spearheaded by Susan Krouse, the director of the MSU AISP and her able assistant, Sakina Hughes, made this another memorable event.  The University of Wisconsin, University of Chicago, Ohio State, and the University of Michigan added a tremendous variety of  new scholarly approaches to the program – be sure to look at the program, which is on-line at our website.

Susan Sleeper-Smith

Director, CIC-AIS Consortium