Al Gedicks: Wrong to ignore Bad River Tribe in mining negotiations
Wisconsin State Journal
Sunday, February 10
The framing of the mining controversy by mainstream media as an issue of jobs vs. environmental protection gives short shrift to the issue of cultural survival for the Bad River Chippewa tribe.
Tribal chairman Mike Wiggins Jr. has testified that the sulfide minerals in the waste rock from the largest open pit taconite mine in the world would pose a threat to the tribe’s sacred wild rice beds on the Bad River reservation.
Sulfates would destroy their wild rice while increased mercury loadings would result in fish consumption advisories in an environment already at risk from mercury contamination from past and present iron and copper mining. These are threats that go far beyond environmental tradeoffs.
When Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, states at a public hearing that he doesn’t think it’s our job “to provide a seat at the table for the tribes,” as he did last year, he is fueling a form of environmental racism that denies the right of American Indian nations to participate in decisions that will affect their well-being.
As sovereign governments under treaties with the federal government, Indian nations have the right to be consulted about laws and policies affecting their members. Meetings where Indians are told about the plans of Gogebic Taconite do not constitute consultation.
Government-to-government consultation has to include the possibility that Indian nations reject proposals that threaten their survival.
– Al Gedicks, La Crosse, executive secretary, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council