Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Friday, October 07 2011
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Strib ignores 1854 Treaty
A 1,700-word Star Tribune story about copper-nickel mining in northeastern Minnesota described the issue as the state's "biggest environmental decision in a generation: Whether to open its arms to hard-rock mining, an industry that could bring thousands of jobs - and a record of environmental calamities - to the wildest and most beautiful corner of the state."
Reporter Josephine Marcotty's article in late September featured comments by local property owners opposed to sulfide mining and flacks for the mining companies prospecting in the "Duluth Complex," a geological formation in the Arrowhead region that contains an "enormous" amount of copper, nickel and other metals.
However, the article framed the controversy as tourism versus mining, and did not mention the involvement of the Ojibwe bands up north. The Fond du Lac, Bois Forte and Grand Portage bands lie within the 1854 Treaty Ceded Territory.
The Indian bands are especially concerned about sulfide pollution from the proposed PolyMet open pit mine and processing facility, and other copper-nickel projects. As I have written in this column, sulfates from mining wastewater settle in river and lake sediment; microbes change the sulfates into sulfides, which impede the root development of wild rice plants.
Making matters worse, Minnesota passed an omnibus environmental law this year, which suspends the longtime environmental standard for sulfates in wild rice waters, pending completion of a new study by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. This was a matter of collusion between politicians and the foreign-based copper-nickel mining companies.
The sulfide mining juggernaut keeps on rolling, and the public is mainly uninformed about the stakes in this "biggest environmental decision in a generation." But some residents at ground zero of the mining schemes are taking action. Eric Seitz, communications director of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, recently wrote on his Star Tribune blog that the supervisors of Stony River Township, near Ely, "unanimously passed a resolution calling on Minnesota to enact a moratorium on sulfide mining, and short of that, not allow any mining in the township."
An outfit called Twin Metals proposes to do copper-nickel mining in Stony River Township. As Seitz noted, a township supervisor told the Duluth News Tribune: "We've got clean water and a healthy forest and we want to keep it that way."
Local resistance to sulfide mining is a positive development; but Seitz pointed out that the township resolution "is non-binding. State and federal governments will ultimately decide whether or not Twin Metals ever mines. But the supervisors of Stony River Township, and the community members who encouraged the resolution, have given an answer to this great environmental decision our state faces: Clean water will always be more valuable than any precious metal."
Songs for Peltier
The Iranians recently released two American hikers, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, who were arrested on bogus spying charges and jailed for two years. A third hiker, Sarah Shourd, was released about a year ago.
Upon his release last month, Bauer, a left-wing journalist, made a statement, thanking the Sultan of Oman. He added: "Two years in prison is too long and we sincerely hope for the freedom of other political prisoners and other unjustly imprisoned people in America and Iran."
Bauer's statement annoyed a number of people, including Elliott Abrams, whose malign activities go back to his tenure in the Reagan administration, where he aided and abetted bloodletting by fascist regimes in Central America. In a blog post, Abrams asked: "Who exactly are the 'political prisoners' in America? Can we have some names?" He went on to suggest that no one has been "unjustly imprisoned" in the U.S. - anyone locked up has been accorded "due process of law," according to Abrams.
In fact, Abrams is a dangerous lunatic; and most readers of this column are aware that the U.S. justice system is seriously flawed. For starters, the U.S. has the highest incarceration in the world. We're No. 1! For American Indians, the case of Leonard Peltier, serving two consecutive life sentences for the murder of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge reservation, has symbolized this nation's injustice system for more than 35 years.
A group called One People ( recently sent me a CD titled "Inhumanity: Free Leonard Peltier." The compilation of topical songs - spanning hip-hop, blues, rock, reggae and Indian drum music - raises the issue of Peltier's unjust and lengthy imprisonment, and is designed as a fundraiser for the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee. (
In September, Peltier was moved to the U.S. prison at Coleman, Florida.

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