American Indian group living in extreme weather to protest proposed mine

By KBJR News 1

December 16, 2013 Updated Dec 20, 2013 at 9:34 AM CDT

Mellen, WI (NNCNOW.com) - An American Indian tribal group in Wisconsin plans to brave the extreme cold this winter to stay in a protest camp near the Penokee Hills.

The Lac Court Oreilles (LCO) tribe's “Harvest Educational Learning Project Village” intends to survive the cold to keep its message of protest against a proposed Gogebic Taconite mine hot.

"The Harvest Camp has been in existence for the past 7 months, and over 5,000 people have visited the camp within that time," reporter, Ramona Marozas, said.

"We're here to stop the mine,” LCO tribal member living at camp, Melvin Gasper, said.

"We're standing here on a beautiful winter day in northern Wisconsin, where we should be celebrating doing something other than be up here trying to protect where we live,” a Harvest Camp donor, Frank Koehn, said.

"If the mine was to go through, our way of life is basically changed forever,” a resident of the Harvest Camp, Rusell Buccanero, said.

As of last week, the 15 member Iron County Board of Supervisors had on its agenda a discussion considering the eviction of camp residents.

"No, I'm not leavin'. We're here to stay. I think it was an under the table thing that went on,” Gasper said.

However, as of this week, the Iron County Board of Supervisors had removed the eviction discussion from the agenda. Tribal members say eviction is a step the board should not pursue.

"There's gonna be plenty of tribal wardens and lawyers coming and there's gonna be people from all nations in the U.S. and it's a fight that they don't want to get into,” Buccanero said.

The reasons they are against the proposed mine are environmental.

"What's here we don't know. We know there are sulfides, we know there's asbestos no matter how hard they try to deny that. There's too much scientific evidence. Science apparently doesn't mean much anymore in Madison," Koehn said.

Last Thursday Governor Walker signed a bill that would close off areas of the Penokee Hills including 3,500 acres of managed forest land. The land surrounds the proposed mine site.

This land is usually open to the public for hunting, fishing, skiing and sight-seeing. People in opposition to the mine say it is not legal to evict people living in the camp because it is technically ceded territory.

"There is 200 Native American allotments here, and somehow that land was turned back over to the mining companies," Buccanero said.

The Harvest Camp has set up a fundraiser to help participants survive the intense winter weather.

Spokespeople say donations of food are what they need the most. The Harvest Camp raised about $800 which is almost double their goal.

Click here if you would like to visit the fundraiser page.

Even though the online fundraiser campaign is finished, the Harvest Camp is still accepting donations. Please contact the Harvest Camp spokesperson, Paul DeMain, at 715-634-5226 ext. 1 if you want to know how you can donate.

Ramona Marozas
Rmarozas@kbjr.com

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