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Mining Michigan Part 2: Native Americans Make the Stand and Bear the Brunt

In 2005, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community tried to lease the sacred Eagle Rock site from the State of Michigan for ceremonial use. Located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula near Marquette, Eagle Rock and the surrounding Yellow Dog Plains are part of lands ceded to the tribe for hunting and fishing by an 1842 government treaty upheld by the courts again in 1983. The DNR declined to lease them the land because of concerns about how ceremonial use might impact this pristine wildlife habitat.

In 2007, the State of Michigan leased the land to Rio Tinto's Kennecott Mining Company. Today, the lofty trees, endangered animal habitats and celebrated blueberry bushes surrounding Eagle Rock are just a memory. Kennecott bulldozed them, erected chain-link and razor wire fence and prepares to drill its entryway to the new mine, directly through the sacred rock. This destruction will seem minuscule when compared to the environmental devastation that will soon follow-damage that will lay waste the Yellow Dog plains, poison the Salmon Trout River, kill wildlife and impact one of the world's most important sources of fresh drinking water, the Great Lakes.

Why would the State refuse the gentle use of the land to its indigenous peoples but allow its destruction by a corporation known for environmental destruction and human rights abuses? Well, the answer of course, is profit. Profit has always trumped the treaties our government has made with Native Americans.

Who will stand and fight? The Native American people living in the area and their few allies. From the look of the situation today, the fight is all but lost.


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