Bad River Ojibwe and water protectors honored for defense of environment during solstice

By News From Indian Country - (Transcription by REV)

“Hello, everyone. Thanks again to the Sioux Chef for the wonderful cooking. I’m just gonna say a little bit about why we’re here. My name is Winona LaDuke and I’m the executive director of Honor the Earth, and this is our feast where we are thankful for the water that we have, because water is what brings us life.

“Today as I woke up by the lake and heard the lapping I remembered that this is a fifth of the world’s water, one of the most beautiful and most precious places in the world, and what a great gift it is that we get to be the people who live here by this great lake.

“So, we are just grateful for this moment in the middle of our winter, as it comes during the full moon. A time to be grateful for all of the gifts that the water in our territory has given us, and our opportunity, our spiritual opportunity to be the people that keep our commitment to this territory and our water.

“Take care of our water and take care of our future generations. So tonight is the night when we’re gonna honor some of those people who are doing that, ‘cause there are people everywhere that are doing the right thing and to remember that this is our opportunity to just summon up what we got to do.

“You know, you have that opportunity all the time, but this is a night that we are acknowledging some of those people. So as I thought about what to be grateful about, you know, our water, our territory, the life that was given to us here, I also wanted to make some special thank yous.

“We are headquartered on the White Earth Reservation a bit West of here, but we also have a new office here in Duluth because this is our lake and our territory. And so as Honor The Earth we’ve spent a lot of time... You know, I say I’ve spent most of my life trying to deal with stupid ideas?

“First it’s like this mine or maybe this power plant or maybe this pipeline project or ... You know what? It’s endless. Joe Rose, my uncle here, same thing. A lot of mining projects, things that would hurt our water.

“You know, but our organization has worked on a lot on advocacy issues and supported other organizations through a grant program to many indigenous people on a world-wide scale, but mostly in North America to protect their water and work on their language, protection of sacred sites, and protection of future generations.

“So we’re grateful to be that organization that does that, and a lot of you know that this past five years we’ve been working on these pipeline projects, these bad ideas that come from Canada. It seems like we have a lot of bad ideas that come from Canada these days, I have to say. But in this case it was ... First it was fracked oil pipelines from the Dakotas. Now it’s called the Sandpiper project intended to go here to Superior. We defeated that together in 2016. There is no more Sandpiper Project by the Enbridge Corporation.

Members of the Bad River Ojibwe Tribe join (l-r) Philomena Kebec, Beatrice Matus, (in front), Aurora Conely, elder Joe Rose, Lori Lemieux and Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins while receiving recognition for their efforts to protect the waters of Lake Superior and the Bad River Watershed from mines, pipelines and corporate farming in the Chequamagon Bay Region of northern Wisconsin. Photos by DKakkak

“That’s what happens when people work hard and work together and you push the system and the social movement change that is going to be history.

“We write our own history. And now we are fighting the Enbridge Line #3, which is the single largest Tar Sands project out there.

“And I just wanted to give a little context, and I like to say this, because it was not my idea that I grow up and be a pipeline fighter. That wasn’t like my plan. But it’s such a bad idea that we had to organize on this one.

“But to give you a little context, a year and a half ago there was five big Tar Sands pipelines proposed. One of those was called Energy East to go from the Alberta Tar Sands to New Brunswick. One of them was called Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline intended to go from the Tar Sands to the Pacific Northwest. One was called the Trans Mountain Pipeline, intended a Kinder Morgan pipeline to go from Alberta to the Pacific Northwest to the west coast.

“And one is called the Keystone Excel Pipeline. You’ve heard of this one, right?

“And then one is called Enbridge Line Three. Five pipelines. Within the last year and a half we have seen most of those pipelines stopped. That is to say that Energy East, the single largest pipeline, never got approval at the National Energy Board in Canada.

Youth Intervenors in the Pipeline #3 permitting process and court cases on several levels were honored by representatives Nina Bergland (r) and her brother Nolan (r).

“That is to say that Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline did not get approval either. And then this fall a project known as the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Project, intended to go from the Alberta Tar Sands to the British Columbia, the Indigenous coast of that territory. In the Canadian appeals court, that court ruled that that pipeline project had not received consent from First Nations, consent from Indigenous people, and all permits for that pipeline were deemed null and void.

“What happened though is that the Premier Trudeau purchased that pipeline. But that is a pipeline without permits that is stuck in legal hell in Canada.

“The fourth pipeline is known as the Keystone XL, and last month (November) the Montana courts ruled that despite that Trump wanted to issue permits for that pipeline, they could not. He had to have a reason to issue a permit. He had to have reason to overturn Obama. And so that pipeline is also stuck.

“So what did I just tell you? That four of the five Tar Sands pipelines are stopped either in court or have never received permits. I’m thankful for that. That is what citizens movements and good political decisions and attorneys will do.

“Well today, something else happened in the state of Minnesota, and I don’t know if you all noticed that, but we have been fighting this Enbridge Line #3, because that 915,000 barrels a day of Tar Sands Oil is a bad idea. A bad idea for Minnesota, a bad idea for the world. It’s the equivalent of 50 new coal fire power plants. We don’t want that pipeline.

“So we’ve all been fighting away, doing our best, a little scrappy group. Honor The Earth. Little, just duking it out with the other citizens of Minnesota. Although that permit was issued by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, they issued the certificate of need and the route permit yesterday. Honor The Earth, White Earth Band, Red Lake Band, Friends of the Headwaters appealed those decisions, and today (Dec. 21st) the state of Minnesota’s Department of Commerce appealed the bad decision of the PUC.

“We’re very grateful. Which means that the state, the DOC is suing to stop this project too. So I just want to thank the state of Minnesota, the Department of Commerce and Governor Dayton for standing up for the little people and the water. Really grateful. Sometimes something good happens. And I just wanna be thankful for every time the system works, ‘cause I’d really like the system to work. That’s my prayer. One of my prayers.

“I’m also ready for the next economy. I wanna mention that. This last one I didn’t like too good, so we’re gonna move on.

“So that’s a little bit of our work at Honor the Earth. First of all I wanna thank the Sioux Chef for making it all happen with the food. You’ve got your dessert coming, so be good and you get dessert. But thank you to the Sioux Chef for this wonderful food.

“Now a lot of people are volunteers for this event and some of you are standing on the side. Can you all stand up? We got all kinds of volunteers that came out from our communities to help serve you and make this event possible, and I’m really grateful, ‘cause our organization ... All of us, this is about all of us working together to make a change and to make the beautiful things our descendants deserve.

“Thank you to Sacred Heart here for helping us with this beautiful site, this beautiful, beautiful location, and for your support for this event tonight.

The Sacred Heart Music Center was the site of the 2018 Solstice Gala for honoring Water Protectors and featuring the Sioux Chef crew. The structure built in 1896 and saved from demolition in 2007 is now days used for concerts, artisans and local gatherings in the Duluth region.

“I also wanna thank my Honor the Earth team. Now ladies, you wanna stand up? I got some water protectors back here. Come on, my ladies. You know, Honor The Earth is blessed with a lot of young people. There’s miss Emily and miss Kylie. You wanna give a wave? Then I got Eva back there and I got Alyssa and Nicolette. And my board chair is here. Do you wanna stand up Paul? This is the board chair of Honor The Earth, Paul DeMain.

“So I was thankful to have a lot of them come over to celebrate things, but I wanna say just a couple words. Emily and Kylie are water protectors. These are water protectors, and these are the kind of people that we honor and recognize.

“First I met Emily and then I met Kylie. But they, like Nicolette, they come from a place that you can’t drink the water any more. They come from Pennsylvania, and you can’t drink the water where those women live. And they came out here because you could still drink the water. And then those young women went to Standing Rock, and they stood with our people at Standing Rock. A lot of us all went to Standing Rock, but those young women they went to Standing Rock and they were arrested and charged. Felony charges for standing to protect the water.

“And I just wanna say there are some pretty courageous water protectors out there, and tonight we wanted to recognizing them, because to be a water protector is a good thing. It’s a good thing for all of us at this moment in time.

“Then I got Rick and Danielle from Wild Crafting. They provided the chaga for us tonight. One of our medicines from a territory, and you only get the medicine if you take care of the land, ‘cause the medicine grows where you take care of your good land, you know?

“And then John and Anne Hamilton from White Winter Winery provided the meat tonight. So I wanna thank and on behalf of the Bear Clan which likes meat very much we’re very grateful for that tonight. And Sarah Agatha Halls, from House of Halls in the back, she helped us with the awards. But she as a designer provided us a lot of support and tonight the awards come from her fine work.

“So that’s what I wanted to say. A little bit of the acknowledgment of that. And speaking of those awards I wanted to just start acknowledging some of the cool people that we came for tonight.

“Suzanne Deider is someone I don’t actually know, but we put out there as Honor The Earth, for people to nominate someone that they thought was a water protector, and this woman received a number of nominations. And so, Suzanne, I know that you checked in, but I don’t know where you are. Would you please come to the front?.

“She’s from the Spirit of the Lake community school, she’s a leader of the grandmother’s gathering at Madeline Island, which seeks to restore our innate human connection to water. She in the school provide important leadership for seven generations, and lead by example with reverence for the sacredness of the land, the people, and how we care for one another and how we show up for what’s important. So she was nominated by many members of the community tonight, so we wanted to honor her with a water protector award.

“Alyssa Hoppe, made a lot of this event possible and she is helping me blanket people tonight.”

Suzanne Dieder (pictured above): Alright, alright, wow. Well thank you. I’m not really worthy to be standing up here in front of you all. I’ve been sitting at a table listening to people talk who are working for water protection ... taught me all about corn tonight. And there are just so many amazing people in this room, so I guess I thank all of you for doing what you’re doing. I know we’re all in this together. We’re all by this big lake, and we love this big lake so much, as well as all the water that comes in. But thank you very much.

Winona LaDuke: So next we wanna honor Water Legacy as an organization. And so Gimiwun Naganub is gonna come up and accept the award on behalf of Water Legacy. And I just wanna say a couple of things about Water Legacy. When I look out there across our territory, Water Legacy is some guys that have been fighting bad guys for a long time. Protected a lot of our water and had a relentless battle against Parliament. And while bad decisions may be made by state agencies to issue permits, and backdoor deals maybe made by politicians to go and trade land, some bodies are standing up for us. And the legal battles ahead are gonna be led by Water Legacy, and we thank you for your hard work.

“And then I just wanna say that his grandmother and I, Esther Naganub, she is a fearless water protector, a great hero of our community, and so I’m really glad that we are able to provide this award to her grandson tonight on behalf of Water Legacy.

We’ll put this cool Sarah Agatha Halls blanket on you. It’s all great.

Gimiwun Naganub: I accept this blanket for Water Legacy, for which there are many more worthy people. I am truly humbled to be with that organization, because just the caliber of people. Paula Maccabbee, she is amazing. So thank you, and let’s keep the fight going.

Winona LaDuke: I had talked to Paula earlier on and she has a lot of commitments, and she was really happy to send Gimiwun, but you know, I thought of Paula Maccabbee who is relentless in her protection of the water here, and she is a Maccabbee. She is a Maccabbee. For those of you who know the story of Channukkah, the family that was holed up in the temple and the miracle of eight days of oil was the Maccabbees. That was the tribe. And that is where Paula’s name comes from. And you know, to think about that miracle ... When Channukkah came around this year I was praying for some miracles, ‘cause we will need some miracles. And so again just express our gratitude to Paula Maccabbee for their fearless work of Water Legacy. So thank you again to Water Legacy.

“So the third award we are gonna give is to the really tough guys of Bad River. Can we call you that? So you look out there across Indian country, and you know, I don’t know how it works out, but it seems like every Indian reservation is, they wanna do some dumb thing to ‘em. You know what I’m saying? Like I’ve been out there wandering around a lot in my life, and like you know, if it’s not a strip mine or nuclear waste dump or a pipeline or some crazy thing that somebody has proposed for some Indian Reservation, it just wouldn’t be the Rez. That’s just the way it is.

“And they’re on the shore of the lake, is the Bad River Reservation, and pretty much in my adult life I’ve seen one bad idea come out of that community after another, and every time these guys have stood up to it. This is the most ... I don’t know if there’s the scrappiest Ojibwe award, but you guys might have it. You guys totally might have it. It was the mines in the ‘80s and building multi-racial alliances to oppose big mines. Bad River has a long history of protecting the waters of our lake, and I’m really grateful for that and your courage. And last year there was the battle against the GTAC mine. Big, big taconite mine proposed just up at their headwaters. It’s like every time some new proposal comes in at Northern Wisconsin I look at that map and they say they’re gonna try to do something to Bad River, I say “Good luck. Good luck, that’s probably not gonna happen, ‘cause those guys are super, super tough.” So here we have the tribal chairman of the Bad River Reservation, as well as Joe Rose, one of their elders have come in.

“And actually, Philomena Kebec is in the back. Aurora, my niece. We’ve got one blanket we’ve gotta wrap you all in, so you gotta figure that out. And thank you all for being, I hate to use this word, but just being badass at Bad River.

“Come on, all Bad River. I mean just look at these guys. You would not wanna mess with these guys, right? I’m gonna give you guys all a hug. Thank you all very much..

“This is Mike Wiggins, who is the tribal chair of Bad River. A good, good friend of mine, and I’m grateful to be his friend and ally.

Mike Wiggins: Excellent. It’s an honor to be here tonight. And could we have a round of applause for Winona LaDuke? You know, I just had a spirited debate with a tribal member that was from a reservation who was receiving royalties from a recent decision for allowing pipeline and oil through their rez. And in some of that debate, there was a few moments where I felt like maybe I was on my heels, and the vision and the determination and the value and the messaging and that I always think of it as Thunderbird Vision, that ability to see the big picture, that birds-eye view of Winona LaDuke, in those moments when I’m on my heels, she arrives and helps me stand back up straight, and I’m just so grateful for that. I just wanted to acknowledge Winona.

“In 2017 we rejected Enbridge Line #5 on a lease renewal. Our tribal council at that time stood up and said Gaawiin (No) to the renewal of a lease for Enbridge Line #5 to operate on our reservation.

“Our tribal council speaks for our whole community. During a public hearing that our tribal council had, we had all of these folks and many more send a very, very overwhelming message of “no way”, to our tribal council, and they responded in kind by hearing us and echoing that with a tribal resolution. And so one of the things that’s happened since then is it’s been kinda quiet. And so quiet that even some of our own  members have been wondering like “Hey, what’s going on? I thought we were supposed to be battling Enbridge?” And after that initial rejection, our tribal council chose to enter into a confidentiality agreement, and it went into this dance of mediation. And mediation at first sounds really scary, like man, that seems like an acquiescence to selling out. But it wasn’t. It was a process of allowing Enbridge to look at a couple of, really I guess you would say, scary anomalies, as they call it. But scary sites within the boundaries of our reservation on that pipeline. Allowing them to look at that to check for safety while at the same time allowing our tribal environmental experts to swarm that integrity dig, as they called it.

“So they were taking soil samples and looking at the depth, looking at the pipe, looking at all of the things that they would need to determine if it was safe to just abandon and leave that thing in the ground, or if it ultimately had to be removed. It’s pretty complex, when you’ve got this big haz-mat snake running through your lands and underneath your rivers and stuff. So our tribe was using those opportunities to gather data. Data and intelligence that would allow us to go to war, and eventually battle in the courts and in the media and in the grassroots activism in the spiritual realm, with our ceremonies, to just say gaawiin to Line #5. I’m happy to say that our confidentiality agreement ended back in October, and we pushed hard to get out from underneath that.

“And so we’re at a point where we were gonna do something here tonight. Winona and I talked about that, and obviously we decided not to, but January 15th we’re gonna start telling the technical details, the environmental details of our story of why our land and water are leading us in that effort to reject Line #5.

“I would say really quickly that the power of the Bad River, the, the river itself, is just ... if left alone the Bad River would have that line destroyed in a matter of probably under 10 years. There’s another spot where, I like to look at the world this way. Where the Thunderbirds came and pounded our land and blew out a huge beaver dam that released and slammed right into the Line Five area and created another area where Line Five is compromised and is on its way to disaster. The work of those Thunderbirds, the work of the power of our river, are clear, tangible, animate leadership signals to us that our home says “No, get out”, right? And so we’re gonna follow that up with the work that we have to do as a tribe, as a people, to get Enbridge off of our reservation and remove that imminent threat to our waters and to Lake Superior. So I wanted to share that with you tonight and just give you a quick update.

“And so since I’ve already talked too long, I’ll just go a little bit further. I just wanna acknowledge my elder, Joe Rose. Joe Rose has been in just about every environmental battle our tribe has had for the last 60 years, and his leadership, his grace under pressure, and his tireless effort has just been unbelievable. Not only from I think way back to the Nutralysis Garbage Incinerator, and all this other stuff. Recently the GTAC battle. In moments where all of us were exhausted, Joe would come in with energy and that warrior mentality and just light everybody up, and we’re off and running again. And we hosted legislators that were moved. Some of ‘em, like Senator Bob Jauch, and Dale Schultz, talk about time spent with Joe and our people and ceremony at Waverly Beach, at Joe’s roundhouse, as some of the most significant and important days they’ve ever had in their careers and their lives. And so he’s been that kind of warrior for us.

Bad River elder Joe Rose has been involved in every environmental battle in the Chequamagon Bay area of Lake Superior for the last 60 years. Ran for county office in 2016 and won a seat on the Board of Supervisors.                                   Photos by DKakkak

“Recently, through his efforts on the Ashland County board he led numerous committees head-on into the battle against this 9,000 strong pig CAFO they wanted to locate up in the headwaters of Chequamegon Bay. A pig CAFO that would release about 9,000,000 gallons of pig sewage a year untreated into that system and into the big lake. And you know, over in Wisconsin here, for you guys that may not be from Wisconsin, down by Madison, ironically enough, where Scat Walker ... Did I say “Scat”? Sorry. Where Walker held court there as the governor, you know, their lakes are turning green. Their lakes are turning green with that toxic algae bloom, and you know, I pray that they can find a way to clean that stuff up, but when massive water bodies like Lake Monona and the Waushara River and that, when those are turning pea-soup green, it underscores the importance and the integrity of the work that guys like Joe Rose and all the other folks in Chequamegon Bay region or Lake Superior region by us. The work that they’re doing to say “no” to some of the CAFOs and all of those other issues that are on the wingtips of those types of pig operations, and stuff like that.

“So I just can’t say enough, and I would just like you to give a round of applause to my elder Joe Rose here and all of his water protection work. So. With that I’m just gonna end my comments and just say it’s an honor to be here with all of you. There’s so many heroes and warriors and just amazing folks in a crowd, it’s just really cool to see everybody.

Joe Rose (pictured above): My Anishinaabe name is Rising Sun, I’m Eagle Clan of the Bad River band, and a member of the Midewin, or the Grand Medicine Society. Anishinaabe tradition tells us that we have recently entered into a new age. We refer to it as the Age of the Seventh Fire. And it was prophesied that in the age of the Seventh Fire, the Anishinaabe people would turn and look back and retrace their footsteps. Their footsteps would take them back to ancient times and ancient knowledge. They’d begin to pick up the sacred bundles that had fallen by the wayside, and go to those elders who had to take them underground for generations because of persecution.     

“And it was also prophesied that in this age of the Seventh Fire that a new people would arise. The Anishinaabe people were given a very special gift. We refer to it as Maskiki. Loosely interpreted, it means “medicine”, but along with that medicine goes the knowledge and the wisdom of how to live in harmony and balance with the four orders of creation. With the physical world, the plant world, the animal world, and the human world.

“And so along with a special gift goes the responsibility. So it’s a responsibility of the Anishinaabe people to share that knowledge of how to live in harmony and balance with the natural world with the people who come in all four colors on the medicine wheel. Red for the native American people, yellow for the Asians, Black for the Africans, and White for the Europeans. And so it was also said that in this age of the Seventh Fire that a new paradigm will arise, a new way of thinking. Wealth will no longer be measured in terms of money, materialistic good, the insatiable lust for political power and control. But true wealth will be measured in terms of clean water, fresh air, pristine wilderness, and a restoration of the balance. And as I look out here tonight I see you. You are the new people. Mio-minik Indiniwaemagunadug.

Winona LaDuke: Migwetch Joe Rose, for that teaching tool. So, and our last awardees for tonight ... One more time I just wanna thank Bad River. Are they a cool bunch, or what? They came far, too. And our last honorees are dear to my heart. They’re all very dear to my heart, but tonight I wanna in particular Honor The Earth wanted to honor the Youth Climate Interveners. Now these are some young people, as you gathered in the name “Youth”, that have stood up. Teenagers. Teenagers up to in their 20s, and they have stood with us as Honor The Earth, fighting the pipelines. And what they said is, they’ll talk about who they are, but when you’re out there in the state regulatory process at the Public Utilities Commission and you’re looking across the table at Enbridge’s many, many lawyers dressed in white shirts, and you’re the people, and you know that that’s a big corporation that’s got one plan for you, that someone’s gonna have to stand up, and not everybody’s gonna like you when you stand up, and it takes a lot of courage, and they’re gonna try to smack you down in that system as much as they can, and discourage you.

“But you look up there and you see these young people. I went to a lot of hearings. We had a lot of lawyers, and I’m thankful to our lawyers, but what I have to say is the best lawyers there were the Youth Climate Interveners. They spoke their hearts, they asked their questions, and they stood for the youth. And so when I thought of how proud I am of this next generation, and how grateful I am, we really wanted to honor them tonight. So I’m gonna ask Nina and Nolan to come up here. Bring your sister up too. I believe your mother has come. But these two, every hearing. Every hearing. I’m really proud to know them, and really proud to stand with them as water protectors. And the next generation is beautiful. So we’re gonna give you a little blanket. The Nolan family can share the blanket,

Nina Bergland: (Lakota/Northern Cheyenne) Hello, everybody. My spirit name is Northern Lights Woman, and my English name is Nina Bergland. I am 19 years old, and I grew up in the East side of Saint Paul, here in Minnesota.

“I’m really honored to be here, to be able to speak in front of all you guys, to be able to receive this award on behalf of the Youth Climate Interveners. It’s been a long road. It’s been a long road for us, over this past year from having to attend all these hearings, attend all these different meetings and speaking in front of these people with the intimidation factor that they were really trying to push onto us, but we kept going. ‘Cause we cannot let these people make these bad decisions on behalf of our futures. We refuse to accept, defeat at the hands of a corporation that only is controlled by greed, that only cares about money. That our grandchildren deserve such a beautiful future that we will never stop fighting. That we refuse to stand down, because if our ancestors did that we would not be sitting here today.

“So always think about what kind of ancestor do you wanna be? Because I know that the ones who came before me thought, and did, and acted with me and my family, with my grandchildren in mind. So it’s upon us. We take it upon ourselves to enforce that same thought, because that’s what’s going to keep us going. That’s what’s going to ensure our children a beautiful future, it’s if we do every decision, we make every single decision with them in mind. So when we talk about how important it is that we continue on, we would not be able to drink the water now if it was not our ancestors saying “no”. We want our grandchildren to be able to have clean water. We want our grandchildren to be able to hunt and gather in the way in which they were. And so we did everything that we could with this regulatory process. We filed legal briefings. We wrote opinion articles. We spoke in front of these commissioners, in front of Enbridge themselves, and we straight up said “We refuse to let this pipeline go through.” So we fought it in the courts, and you will catch us on the front lines fighting for our future and fighting for our people, ‘cause we will never stand down. Because every day is a good day to die if it’s for your future. Thank you.

Nolan Bergland: Hello, my relatives. My Lakota name is Morning Star. My American name is Nolan Bergland. I’m 17 years old. I grew up here in Minnesota. I’m an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, but I’m also a proud Oglala Lakota. And throughout the last few years me and my family have gotten more into the pipeline movements, and learning more about how what happens to our lands impacts us, and when I look around at my nieces and nephews, I want them to grow up in a future where they can see the beauty that I was able to see. They will be able to breathe the clean air and drink the fresh water, ‘cause like my sister said, that’s what our ancestors thought about us. They wanted us to be able to see that glory that this earth has to offer, and I can only wish that we can continue fighting for our future, for our grandchildren.

Winona LaDuke: My sister here, Liz Jacquela and her family come up and sing again as an honoring for this.

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