Thursday, June 19, 2014

Lessons from an Ancient Giizhik Forest

Last Friday, the Kinomaage (Earth Shows Us the Way) class I teach took a field trip to the southern shores of Michigan's Upper Peninsula into the Garden Peninsula to visit both the windfarm and, more importantly, Snail Shell Harbor at Fayette.  With rural orchards, farm land, forests rooted in limestone, and land surrounded by michi-gami (Lake Michigan), the area is picturesque and welcoming.  This quiet, out of the way place also, interestingly, in many ways represents a hub for Manifest Destiny both past and present.

The Garden Peninsula itself has a long human history and is only across the bay from the Stonington Peninsula where another ancient history is found with marine fossils 400-500 million years old lining the michi-gami shores.  The Stonington is also home to one of the oldest known trails in the Upper Peninsula, the Bay de Noc - Grand Island trail, that connects Lake Superior with Lake Michigan and has been used by Indigenous nations for time immemorial to travel from one great lake to the other - it travels, technically, between the two largest freshwater lakes in the world.  The Stonington is also known as a bird migration route and as the jumping off point for monarch butterflies on their journey to Mexico.  The Garden shares these migration features as well.

In terms of officialdom, the iron ore industry is the human history most celebrated on this Peninsula.  The Michigan Department of Natural Resources runs the Fayette State Park, promoted as home to the former iron smelting village of Fayette.  Founded in 1867, Fayette lasted for around only 20 years, yet it is the primary human history celebrated at Fayette.  Amidst the houses, tools, and display boards celebrating this feat of Manifest Destiny nestle two display boards of other significance.  One tiny paragraph states that artifacts have been found dating human presence here to at least 3000 years ago, when Snail Shell Harbor was evidently used as a summer residence.  The other, slightly larger display stuck in a dark corner of the visitor center, discusses the giizhik (cedar) trees of Fayette and states that "an ancient forest ecosystem" unique in the world lives on the limestone cliffs of Snail Shell Harbor and supports a giizhik forest in which a typical cedar tree is at least 900 years old.  Both of these bits of information are not highlighted in any way.  In fact, they are lost among the factoids detailing every scrap of history from the smelting village, historical minutiae that go so far down as to ask people not to disturb the slag heap where industrial wastes were thrown along the beach (near, of course, where the low-paid, low-status workers lived) in order to protect this supposedly valuable piece of history.

This is not to mention that the oldest giizhik in the park is said to be over 1,400 years old.  Something that seems thrown in as a mere aside to the, evidently, more important things.

The giizhik forest at Fayette was old when Columbus landed.  Yet it is the Columbian legacy that is celebrated at Fayette and not the people or the forest who predated him by millenia.

Walking in that forest is nothing short of an experience, if you are mindful of its antiquity.  In class the previous weeks, we'd discussed, read and watched material on the nature of plants.  This included the Mother Tree concept under research by British Columbian botanists.  The Mother Tree concept is related to what Indigenous peoples have said all along - the forests are connected to each other underground with "Mother Trees" actively nurturing all.  This connection is formed through the plant roots in unity with mycorrizhal fungi.  Thus, when we walk through an ancient forest such as the one at Fayette, we are walking through age-old connections, with elders who knew our ancestors, who knew what life was like prior to colonization.  What must these elders have thought of a smelting village such as Fayette?  Stinky.  Noisy.  Destructive.  The hardwood forests destroyed to fire the kilns.  The limestone mined to process the ore.  And yet, it was a mere blip, an eye blink, in the history of the forest.  And it is this blink of an eye that the DNR chooses to celebrate.

In many ways, the village of Fayette represents a hub of Manifest Destiny Past.  Iron ore from the Jackson Mine further north in Negaunee was shipped via rail to Escanaba and by boat to Fayette for processing.  Most of the ore was made into Bessemer steel and used mostly to build railroads.  In this small nugget of history we have the takeover of an entire continent.

The Jackson Mine did not just appear magically.  It was opened only after the original inhabitants, the Anishinaabe, were pressured into signing away their homeland in the mid-1800s.  With the fur trade declining in the early nineteenth century, thus rendering the wilderness of the Northwoods no longer economically profitable, an expedition set forth in 1820 to assess the monetary wealth that could be made by converting the region's forests into timber and sucking dry the bowels of the Earth.  The 1820 Cass Expedition determined that "timber" and ores offered much potential profit.  This expedition, surveilling the Anishinaabe homeland without their consent, was sent to evaluate how much the Anishinaabe homeland was worth to the Americans.  It was a predatory mission that returned with the goal of obtaining access to the forests and minerals of Anishinaabe territory.  This directly resulted in the treaties of the mid-1800s wherein the Anishinaabe signed away millions of acres of rich land and were confined to small areas of land we now call reservations.  The results of this and similar policies have been horrific both in terms of loss of human life, cultural practices, and ecological health.

As the smelter at Fayette mowed down the hardwood forests in its area and mined the limestone for its processing, the material it produced for railroad building helped export Manifest Destiny across what we now know as the United States.  The railroads built of Bessemer steel entered the homelands of the Dakota and Lakota and related nations, the homes of the Cheyenne and Kiowa, the Ute and Apache.  The railroads bisected the homelands of these Indigenous nations as well as of our other relations such as the buffalo.  The trains brought in recreational hunters who killed for the pure joy they found in ending another life.  Species populations declined.  Some became extinct, never to walk fly, or crawl our planet again.  Near the end of the nineteenth century, those same railroads stole away the children of entire nations in order to obliterate Native languages, cultures, and land knowledge.

And all of this can be found at Fayette...if you read between the lines.  And if you notice what is not being celebrated.

Fayette represents Manifest Destiny Past.

The Heritage Windfarm north of Fayette on the Garden Peninsula represents Manifest Destiny Present.

Consisting of 14 wind turbines spread out over a large swath of land, the windfarm is situated in the middle of a major bird migration flyway.  The Michigan DNR has been instrumental in placing the Heritage Windfarm on the Garden.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service has opposed the windfarm because of the bird migration, particularly the large migrations that occur at night.  The USFWS also cites considerable concern over the migizi (bald eagle) population in the area, estimating that about one eagle each year will be killed by the turbines.  This concern is based on daytime observations of bird activity in the area and does not include the limited nighttime studies that have been done. 

Interestingly, just today, news was announced that the Obama Administration is in hot water over its granting leniency to windpower companies and their killing of eagles, a federal offense.  According to the Associated Press, "An AP investigation last year documented dozens of eagle deaths at wind farms, findings later confirmed by federal biologists. Each one is a violation of federal law, but the Obama administration to date has prosecuted only one company, Duke Energy Corp., for killing 14 eagles and 149 other birds at two Wyoming wind farms" (http://cnsnews.com/news/article/lawsuit-extending-eagle-death-permits-illegal).  Thus while a private citizen may be hauled into court and prosecuted as a felon for possessing an eagle feather, wind power companies can kill eagles each year and not face criminal prosecution, according to the Obama Administration.  Another AP reports states, "More than 573,000 birds are killed by the country's wind farms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to an estimate published in March in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin" (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ap-impact-wind-farms-get-pass-eagle-deaths).

To return to the Heritage Windfarm, however, the power being generated on the rural Garden is not for use in the area.  Although the company's literature says it can power 7000 homes (equivalent, it says, to half the households in Delta County where the windfarm is located), there are at least 125,000 households in the Upper Peninsula alone requiring a windfarm 17 times larger.  Such a windfarm would be bigger even than the 30-mile, 20,000 square acre windfarm with 125+ wind turbines along Batchawana Bay near Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario (across the Lake from Bay Mills).  If we continue to refuse to reduce our electrical consumption, are we willing to sacrifice our landscape in such a manner?  Do we even have the right to do this?

The power from Heritage, though, is not staying in the local area.  Like most other mega-energy projects, the electricity generated by the Heritage windfarm is being transported out via high-voltage transmission lines - the railroads of the Electronic Age.  The health impacts of stray voltage, high electromagnetic frequencies, and the regular application of herbicides are disregarded as profits mount from an ever-increasing demand for electricity to power our electronics.  These high-voltage powerlines criss-cross rural/wilderness areas in a new form of resource colonization.  As John Mohawk asks in his essay "Technology As Enemy: A Short History,"  how will this technology shape our society? our planet? our survival? the survival of all our relations?  He ties his musings into a conversation with a Hopi guest who saw in the powerline webs of the Niagara Falls generating station a vision of the prophecy from his people when Spider Woman would return to the land near the end of this world and her web would be visible everywhere.

There are many lessons waiting on the Garden and at Fayette.  Lessons in Manifest Destiny and its impacts.  Lessons in what continues to be valued by the settler society today.  Lessons in how the colonization continues.

But more important than those lessons are the lessons not highlighted.  Lessons of how to live in such a manner that a giizhik can live to be over 1400 years old.  Lessons in how to enjoy the beauty of a place such as Snail Shell Harbor and not see, instead, fodder for an industrial furnace.  Lessons from a forest that is older than even the Anishinaabe presence in this area.  What can such a forest teach us if we only take the time to understand the murmurs of the moss, to feel the presence of the ancestors, to listen to the trees?  In understanding that we all of us, no matter our genetic origin, are now connected to this forest, we can perhaps come to understand exactly how we can live so that other forests such as this one can come to be once again.

As we prepared to leave from our discussion along the natural harbor, migizi flew over the giizhik-lined cliffs that rose shining in the sun just across the water.  What else could be left to say?  The Earth shows us the Way.     

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Darwin and Western Science

As the birthday of Charles Darwin approaches, many are discussing his work and role in today's society.  A colleague of mine sent on this website "Darwin on Race and Slavery" which helped spark a discussion on Darwin and Western Science.

In the context of this discussion, people may be interested to know that although Darwin is usually blamed (my word choice) for the cultural concept of "survival of the fittest" and hence for the shamefully misnamed "social darwinism," his theories of evolution didn't really point to "survival of the fittest" as a satisfactory evolutionary theory.

Darwin's theories of evolution pointed to those species surviving who had the most survivable traits at a particular time in a particular ecological niche - it didn't necessarily make them the most fit species of all time.  However, a contemporary of Darwin's, Herbert Spencer (also of England), saw survival and dominance as evidence of superiority.  Given this, according to Spencer (the person who first developed the concept of "survival of the fittest"), those who survived were more superior; those
who perished were inferior.  Thus, as he advocated, if you were an Indigenous population nearly or completely wiped out by aggressive colonizers, it was sad but a necessary phase of human evolution.  The same held true, in his view, for those in poverty:  poverty was a sign of inferiority and the sooner the poor died out, according to Spencer, the better off humanity would be, however sad the fate may be of those of us in poverty.  The proper name for this theory is not "social darwinism" but "spencerianism."  Darwin, however, gets saddled with all of Spencer's racist, classist ideologies, ideologies that still covertly dominate Western cultural thought today.

Spencer's ideas formulated a major basis for Western science today: that of survival of the fittest.  Another major basis is the Linnaen classification system - a classification system so pervasive most of us don't even realize we've compartmentalized the world in which we leave based on one person's ideas of how species should be lumped together.  Keeping that in mind, anthropologist, Luke Eric Lassiter, in his recent text, "Invitation to Anthropology," writes "Linnaeus was among the first
to define race for the scientific community.  In the 1758 edition of "System of Nature," Linnaeus defined four races [of humanity] and their characteristics:

Homo sapiens europaeus (a.k.a., 'white Europeans')
'White, serious, strong.  Hair blond, flowing.  Eyes blue.  Active, very
smart, inventive.  Covered by tight clothing.  Ruled by laws.'

Home sapiens asiaticus (a.k.a., 'yellow Asians')
'Yellow, melancholy, greedy.  Hair black.  Eyes dark.  Severe, haughty,
desirous.  Covered by loose garments.  Ruled by opinion.'

Homo sapiens americanus (a.k.a., 'red Americans')
'Red, ill-tempered, subjugated.  Hair black, straight, thick; Nostrils
wide; Face harsh, beard scanty.  Obstinate, contented, free.  Paints
himself with red lines.  Ruled by custom.'

Home sapiens afer (a.k.a., 'black Africans')
'Black, impassive, lazy.  Hair kinked.  Skin silky.  Nose flat.  Lips
thick.  Women with genital flap; breasts large.  Crafty, slow, foolish.
Anoints himself with grease.  Ruled by caprice.'"

And it is from this type of thinking that we are taught how to
classify/catalog/categorize....come to know.....our entire world - that
is, when we are taught in Western educational institutions.

Finally, it may also interest people to know that Darwin did not write off sentience or intelligence in other animals as his scientific descendants did and continue to do.  He wrote a book that largely discussed this issue called "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals."

In fact, I often think Darwin's views were much closer to the manner in which traditional Indigenous cultures, around the planet, view the world and other animals than were/are his scientific colleagues and descendants.  Western Science, however, is beginning, on its radical fringes, to come around to viewpoints long promulgated by Traditional Ecological Knowledge - knowledge based on the "homo sapiens" experience with the world for 200,000-300,000 years.  PBS recently released a documentary titled "What Plants Talk About" that provides intriguing interviews with various botanists about plants and their amazing systems of communication.  "The Mother Tree" concept being explored by scientists on Canada's West Coast, is one such example....although the scientist who is proposing this theory implies she felt it might be her "discovery" that was the beginning inspiration for the Mother Tree idea in the film "Avatar," I wonder how much she knows about the Indigenous nation of South America who inspired James Cameron to do the film?

From what I know of him, Darwin, in my view, represents some of the best Western science has to offer.  Spencer; Rene DesCartes (another of science's founding fathers); and to various extents, Linnaeus; represent much of what has led to a disconnect with the Earth in Western science.  It is interesting, though, that the more Western scientists are willing to push the scientific boundaries in botany, in the study of other animals, and in the very study of the stuff our universe is made of, the more their theories start to sound more and more like the ideas found in the bodies of Traditional Ecological Knowledge developed by Indigenous societies throughout the world over millenia.  As T.S. Eliot writes:
                          We shall not cease from exploration
                          And the end of all our exploring will be
                          To arrive where we started
                          And know the place for the first time.






Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A History of Wolf

The wolf hunt in Michigan is not an isolated event, as those of you following the issue know. It is the last of the states in which the wolves were recently delisted to institute a hunting season on wolves.

But to understand all this, we need to go further back....

Prior to the coming of the settler society, the US Fish and Wildlife Service states (http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/aboutwolves/biologue.htm)that gray wolves, second only to humans in adapting to climate extremes, ranged from coast to coast in the Americas, from Alaska to Mexico. In other words, they were in nearly all of the lower 48 states, with the exception of the southeast (where red wolves predominated) and the large deserts of the Southwest.

Wolves and First Nations shared the land and had good relations. The Anishinaabe creation stories, for example, describe the wolf as an especially sacred relative (see The Mishomis Book by Eddie Benton Banai) after all the rest of creation had come into being, the Creator brought Anishinaabe ("Original Man") into being - humanity, as the last to be created, would be the species who knew the least and who looked to everyone else as guides and teachers. Anishinaabe saw that everyone else had companions but that he, as the first human, was alone. So he asked the Creator for a companion too. The Creator responded to his request by bringing Ma'iingan (Wolf) to him as his first companion. The Creator charged the two with traveling the Earth and coming to know all of Creation and to name all they met. By the end of this long journey, Original Man and Wolf had become brothers. And through this bond of brotherhood, they realized their deep relationship to all of creation. At the end of their journey, the Creator told them they must go their separate paths, but that, though separate, they would always be close. So close, in fact, that what befell one would befall the other.

With the coming of the settler society, wolves and Native people were hunted and driven from their homelands by settlers who feared, did not understand and wanted to destroy them. As a result of such genocidal, ecocidal, and hatred-driven actions, by 1973 the wolves were put on the Endangered Species list. At this time, there were only a few hundred wolves left in the lower 48: most of these were in northeast Minnesota; a very few lived on Michigan's Isle Royale.

In May of 2011, the Obama Administration signed legislation delisting the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains. Hunts in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming ensued almost immediately (Fall of 2011).

In December of 2011, the Obama Administration delisted the gray wolf in the Great Lakes states. Wolf hunts then began in the Fall of 2012 in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Michigan's first wolf hunting season began this November 2013.

Recent news reports indicate the Obama Administration is preparing to delist gray wolves in other states as well.

In Minnesota and Wisconsin guns, traps, bow and arrow, and baiting are allowed in hunting wolves. In Wisconsin, dogs are also allowed on the hunt for wolves. In Michigan, guns, crossbows, and bow and arrows are allowed - you need only be ten years old to get a permit.

In all three states, the First Nations have forbidden wolf hunting on tribal lands.

In Wisconsin, the state recognized tribal sovereignty by respecting the tribes sovereign right to forbid wolf hunting within the boundaries of the reservations.

Michigan and Minnesota, however, have not respected tribal sovereignty in this manner and have said that while the tribes right to forbid wolf hunting on tribal lands will be recognized by the state, they will not recognize the tribes right to forbid wolf hunting on all lands within reservation boundaries. As you may know, 50% or more (frequently even more than 90%) of the lands within most reservation boundaries are no longer tribal lands but rather owned by non-Natives. Michigan and Minnesota's rejection of full tribal sovereignty is akin to saying any land owned by non-Americans within the United States will not be subject to US law but rather to the laws of the country the landowner is from.

In Wisconsin, and, I believe, Minnesota, the wolf hunts were closed early as they met their "harvest" goals weeks ahead of schedule (e.g. Wisconsin's hunt was scheduled to end on Feb 28, 2013, but it was closed on Dec 23, 2012).

For the 2012 seasons, in Minnesota, 6000 wolf hunt permits were available (at $100 for residents; $500 for non-residents) to kill 400 wolves. In Wisconsin 2,010 wolf hunt permits were available (at the same prices) to kill 117 wolves. Although I don't know Minnesota's number sold, Wisconsin was only able to sell 892 permits. In Michigan's 2013 wolf hunt season, they sold 1500 permits (at the same prices as above) to kill 43 wolves.

Michigan is the only state of the above three to have a people's referendum available to state citizens. Last winter, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (http://keepwolvesprotected.com) initiated a petition drive to put the proposed state wolf hunt on the November 2014 ballot to let the voters of Michigan decide whether or not the state should hold a wolf hunt. While those of us who worked on the drive (I myself was a volunteer) turned in more than the required signatures, Senator Tom Casperson introduced legislation into the Michigan Legislature that undercut the referendum taking the wolf hunt legislation and changing its wording so that the wording of the referendum as stated on the petition would not apply and therefore voters would not be able to vote on the wolf hunt in November 2014, even though over 200,000 signatures were gathered saying people wanted it on the ballot. A new petition drive is currently underway.

As White Earth tribal member, Bob Shimek, said, "This is a typical class of cultures." Non-native wolf supporter, Clint Carroll, a columnist for the St. Paul Star Tribune, asks, "Are wolves relatives or resources?" And, finally, Eddie Benton-Banai (Ojibwe - LCO) writes of these hunts (his caps), "NOONGOM, NOW, WE MUST RETURN [the wolf's] LOYALTY BY FIGHTING, BY DEFYING THE HUNT, THE EXTERMINATION OF OUR BROTHER/SISTER."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ma'iingan: A Poem for Wolf

As we gear up to launch another year of the Seventh Fire Project, it seems particularly fitting to publish this original poem here, marking Michigan's first pending wolf hunt on November 15. This hunt was to be voted on by Michigan citizens, but that referendum was undermined by political maneuvering on the part of our state politician, initiated by our own U.P. senator, an act of disloyalty towards Yoopers that I'm still shocked at.

As we speak, Wisconsin is in the throes of it's second wolf hunt, scheduled to last until February or until all 251 wolves in the hunting quota are killed - that's one-third of the population of wolves in the state of Wisconsin. The DNR has already closed the wolf hunt units in the north, as all the wolves that can legally be killed (plus one) have been killed. And the hunt only started a little over 10 days ago.
  

Image from http://www.turtlehurtled.com/how-wolves-became-dogs/

MA'IINGAN:
A POEM FOR WOLF
A. Cree Dunn

We reach out
   and run our hands
      through your thick
          and heavy fur.
Closing our eyes,
   we press our forehead
      to yours.
We romp with the pups
    and play chase with you
       through the forest.
Our breath in the cold
   mingles with yours.
In the rivers of your song
   we swim to the stars.
And when we look
   into your knowing eyes
       your wild spirit reminds us who we really are.




Wednesday, April 18, 2012

By the River of Slippery Rocks: Escanaba

What a great time it was for me last night presenting in Linda Cree's (my mother's) Cultural Anthropology class down at Bay de Noc Community College! A wonderful discussion throughout that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Escanaba, or zhooshkwaanaabi, comes from the river (or ziibi) of the same name, meaning "river of smooth, slippery, flat rocks" in Anishinaabemowin - the language of which the Ojibwe language is a part. Today it's a town that sits on the border of the treaties of 1836 and 1842. With the river as the dividing line for those treaty areas emptying into michi-gami (Lake Michigan), at the delta, an interesting situation has arisen. As the river delta is in constant flux, the bureaucratic mindset wanting to pin down the territory to enforce game laws on treaty harvests is in an uproar. At one time, those from the 1836 Ojibwe nations can hunt on a particular piece of land, but as the river delta shifts, that same piece of land ends up on the other side of the river and now is no longer 1836 territory but 1842 territory open only for treaty harvests to those who's nation signed the 1842 territory.

Although this provides a headache for the tribes in game enforcement, I think the DNR is the one with the greatest headache. From my view, though, I see it as a lesson the river is giving - how can you divide the land in such arbitrary ways and expect it to stick? Mother Earth sets the rules, no matter how hard people may try to tame her and keep her controlled.

The zhooshkwaanaabi area is also near a great known piece of history - the Grand Island-Bay de Noc Trail. Much more than a hiking trail, this path has connected gich-gami (Lake Superior) with michi-gami (Lake Michigan) for centuries, perhaps millenia. To my knowledge, no one actually knows how long people have been traveling this path between the two lakes, but it was already well established when the fur traders started using it. When I take my classes there, I remind them to really let themselves soak in the place. After all, if many Indigenous cosmologies are right and if quantum physicists are correct about this being a holographic universe, all of time is connected, like a sphere. Thus, as we walk that path, so too are our ancestors walking it, according to these theories.

So, it was a real treat to present to an anthrology class, particularly this one, as the students had a great background in the material to fully understand the implications and meanings of a lot of the concepts discussed in the presentation. What a great group! Miigwech to my mom and everyone for a wonderful evening!

Marquette, the Iron Ore, and a Place of Long Habitation

I'd never been in the Kaufman auditorium before until presenting there for Marquette Alternative High School last week. Quite the impressive place!

And the students were too! The ongoing discussion we had, the great questions...I very much enjoyed it all.

Marquette is an interesting place for me. As a city that sits on the boundary line between the 1836 and 1842 treaties, I'm never quite able to forget what Marquette boomed out of, especially with the old iron ore dock down in the harbor, a dock that, to me, is a symbol of all that is being done to the Earth. Everytime I drive by it I think of this and of the treaties of 1836 and 1842 - that in order for that iron mining to happen (and the subsequent poisoning of the land), entire nations of Anishinaabe people were pushed off their land. And it was Kawbawgam, as I understand it, who showed the iron ore to those seeking it - yet he was never paid any part of the profits that rolled in from such mining. Just another story of exploitation.

Marquette, though, has history much deeper than the iron mining. Just outside to the east on gich-gami (Lake Superior) is the site of one of the oldest known human village sites - near the Carp River where today we have the prison, the sewage plant, and the bike path - it is some 6000 years old. You wouldn't know it, as there is no sign marking the site, yet archaeologists such as NMU's Dr. John Anderton have been talking about the site to those who're interested.

This area is also home to some of the oldest exposed rock on the planet - nearly as old as the planet herself. Amazing. In Ojibwe culture, stone is thought of as "asin," as grandfathers from a long way back. I think we can all feel the presence inherent in stones, rocks, when we're near them. Ancient. They've "seen" much.

Miigwech/thanks to Nora Taylor and the other teachers at MAHS for setting this up at MAHS! It was a pleasure to be there.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Back on Keweenaw Bay

One of the first things I noticed pulling into the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College's parking lot was what a beautiful view there was to be had, overlooking the Bay. And what a beautiful college! It was my first time to KBOCC and I truly enjoyed it.

I was honored to be a part of Jessica Koski's class - she's definitely someone who's been in the trenches herself as well as having done a great deal of study on Indigenous environmental movements and philosophies. In fact, she'd just come in from a meeting in Denver on mining where one part of the program, on acid mine drainage, included Rio Tinto and other mining corporations discussing how much of a problem acid mine drainage is. As part of this, Rio Tinto also described how the "Eagle" Mine is mining sulfide rock that is particularly reactive. Right from the horse's mouth. Why don't they include that in all their U.P. PR? Haha. As if.

The discussion that took place in Jessica's class, though, throughout the 7th Fire presentation last night was not only interesting, not only inspiring, but also...healing. Healing in the sense that most of the time we're all out here flapping in the breeze, doing the best we can against the gale. But every once in a while you run into those who understand and are doing the same thing.

In fact, the trip over from Marquette County had been hard for us and left a hole in the soul as, traveling along M23, pine after pine after pine was very obviously dying or already dead. These were pines that not so long ago, when I made that same trek fairly regularly, were doing fine. Besides, going through Negaunee and Ispheming is always a downer - each time I wonder how people can voluntarily live in places riddled underground by mines, whose waters have been poisoned, and whose very skyline is shaped by the massive tailings mountain of the area mines.

At any rate, the class was wonderful and the discussion a much needed one for me personally as it was a re-grounding.

Plus, the return trip's sky marvels were so dazzlingly gorgeous it blotted out nearly everything else along the roadway: a (almost completely) full moon was rising in the blue turning pink turning lavendar sky while the blazing red sun set in the west. This lasted throughout almost the entire return trip. We even caught a fantastic view of Grandmother Moon rising huge and white in the blue sky over a small lake with the trees reflecting in its stillness and a pair of ducks swimming by. Absolutely stunning.

So, a big chi-miigwech to Jessica, her students, and the very land over that way!!! It gives me strength to be reminded that there are folks like you out there.