As I sit in a Madison Hotel tonight it’s giving me some time to reflect on things that have transpired over the course of the past twelve months. It is no secret that Bad River has been uncompromising in our opposition to mountaintop removal in the Bad River Watershed. To spend a year actively engaged in the reality of it happening has been heartbreaking, infuriating and humbling. Tonight I sit here in awe and wonder, truly humbled by some of the things I saw and heard along the way……Please bear with me…I’d like to share some of them.
I have seen rocks ride out to big water on Lake Superior waves.
I have watched babies play blissfully on the floor outside public hearings where their parents testified and begged for stewardship of the earth.
I witnessed Red Cliff leader Marvin Defoe share with everyone that he had to tell his daughter “I have three minutes to change the world.”
I have seen Northland citizens in West Allis who had rode a bus for 7.5 hours for the possibility of five minutes testimony.
I have been told “this is not a game.”
I have seen Cranes, Eagles and Herons appear and stay in places that defy reality.
I have watched Tribal Leaders I used to read about, use their gifts of speech and persuasion to help Bad River and fight for all of us.
I have watched time tested Bad River Ogitchidaa rise to the occasion.
I have watched time tested Bad River Ogitchidaa stir restlessly waiting on other fronts.
I have watched new Bad River Ogitchidaa and Ogitchidakwe rise to the occasion.
I have watched people of the four colors come together to eat, laugh and talk about their love of blue clean water.
I have been told to “show some respect.”
I listened to elders talk of babies and thunderbirds.
I listened to corporations promise millions and millions, but fail to promise the world.
I have watched our Tribal Council in consensus.
I watched Joe Rose’ arm rise in the air and hold for a tenth of second, then drop and launch the loudest drum beat I’ve ever heard through the center of the Capital Building in Madison.
I listened to Danny Powless say to the Madison Singers “no offense, but this is who we are.” Picture Rock Anishinabe
I have been taken aside by Bad River elders to have them say “I pray for you.” “I pray for us.”
I was there when George Newago told the Assembly Committee..”I live here, don’t piss in my cheerios!!”
I have listened to Jo Dan Rose and Jerome Powless stand and deliver like heroes with hand drums.
I have been told the mining company can put enough money aside to fix the aquifers under Bad River if they ruin them.
I listened to Bill Williams describe how GTAC was merely going to participate in and recreate the circle of life with their open pit mine.
I have had the pleasure of telling Bill Williams to clean up his dirt that he left on a testimonial table.
I have had a Senator say “I believe you.”
I have heard us called “The Bad Tribe”, “Bad Water”, “Bad Land” by Republican Legislators.
I have been told by the Governor that he is not driving the mining initiative.
I have told the Governor in a meeting, that if he is going to come to Indian Country and meet with Lake Superior Chippewa he may want to put mining and water issues on the agenda for our meeting.
I have seen pictures of a ceremony where a drum and Mother Earth became one at the hands of Tony Deperry and BR Vice Chair/Elder Bing Lemieux.
I have listened as Lake Superior Chippewa Tribal Leaders talked with our ancestors.
I have seen them all helping these things around us.
I have heard Bad River Elder Joe Rose tell the Creation Story.
I have drank sacred water from Midewin Water Ceremonies
I remember another Bad River Elder Sonny Smart’s talk, and I truly came to realize I know this much
I have been told that 1.5 million was earmarked in Legislation for Bad River but it was never made public. I was asked “did you know that Mike?”
I have said that our wild rice and Kakagon Sloughs are worth a penny.
I have said that without our wild rice and Kakagon Sloughs, we won’t live.
I have seen a warrior dancing in the antlers of a big buck, in my fire.
I have seen mothers, babies and wolves in my fire.
I have come to completely understand the dreams that were given in Vision about this stuff.
I have come to understand and accept that there is a spectrum of people reading this right now and some understand what I’m saying and some think I’m nuts. But it’s all true. And it’s been a hell of a long year. With everythin…I’ll end my self disclosure with this……….I have been moved to tears of gratitude with the thought of all your hard work and the roles that all of you stepped up to fulfill. All of you.
These are words that each of us need take to heart. It is in protecting the water, living sustainably, and standing up for our rights, that we are able to protect the environment from Corporate America, that would devour us.