Mike Wiggins Jr., Chairman of the Bad River tribe, posted this essay on his Facebook page about the Bad River watershed. The region is threatened by the proposed GTac open-pit iron ore mine. His posting is reproduced below, with his permission:
At this point I could sound off about the environmental riches of the Bad River Watershed. Ancestral wild rice beds, migratory flyways, pristine upper and lower watersheds, sturgeon and other Lake Superior fish spawning areas, cold clean water, humans, 40% of the wetlands of Lake Superior, artesian wells, and a watershed map colored up with exceptional and outstanding waters.
I could add in context like climate change, water scarcity at a National level, and wood turtles...but...let’s put that stuff aside for a few minutes.
The Bad River Watershed has a Federally Recognized Tribal Sovereign Nation within it. A Tribe intrinsically connected to the Watershed hydrology and ecosystems for life, identity and Nationhood.
Is Bad River's National Interest, the same interest as the United States? Is the United States interest the same as Bad River's?
The spirit or power that spurs a small dust devil on the side of a backcountry road is the same spirit or power that drives an F5 twister across the backcountry. Scale differs, spirit is one and the same.
That handful of beach sand you looked at when you were nine years old and you realized for the first time that sand was nothing more than tiny rocks, is no different than the black bear sized rocks strewn about the Lake Superior Watershed by glaciers.
Glacial drift rock is no different than the giant mountain rock outcroppings that go on for miles. Returning full circle…mountain rock is no different than the tiniest rocks of all...the frac sands. Scale differs, spirit is one and the same.
Through the conduit and umbrella of trust responsibility guaranteed in Treaties with the United States Government, Bad River in many ways is one and the same with the U.S. Our small Bad River Tribal Nation burns with the same self-determination, Nation building aspirations, and hopes for survivability as a part of, and in relation to, the more massive Nation (US). Scale differs, spirit is one and the same.
The trust responsibility that is in place with the Feds prioritizes life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and hunting, fishing and gathering, as foundational underpinnings for Nationhood.
Our Tribal water resources, and ecosystems become a filter of Nationhood and life at a level equal to public health and welfare of citizens.
Trust responsibility puts forth a covenant between governments that recognizes the importance of homeland as a necessary foundation for existence. Drinking water, clean air and food are the driving forces that our homelands produce for the web of life, including citizens.
The United States interest thereby becomes the Bad River Tribal Nations and vice versa as it pertains to survival and health. Treaties and trust responsibility cement the formality of this mutualism between us.
Our anishinabe ogitchidaa (warriors, veterans) serve as a prime example of where these interests become one. During times of War, Native Americans always had the highest percentage of service per demographic group. In short, when the United States is threatened, Anishinabe Ogitchidaa have always been there in force.
Our veterans who serve believe in their Tribal Nations, believe in the United States and believe in freedom. Our veterans who sacrificed all believed in the possibility of a good long life for those they loved and ultimately a better World within their Nations.
Indian Country and the United States become one. Interests synergize. Scale differs but the Spirit is one and the same.
Is the Bad River Watershed an aquatic resource of National Interest?
With Bad River Watershed groundwaters and surface waters and air toxified, diminished, and rendered incapable of perennial renewal… the Bad River Tribal Nation and U.S. citizens within the Watershed sicken and die quicker.
Trust responsibility, the transfer of Spirit with the bigger U.S. Nation, and our Ogitchidaa…..tell me that the words “national interest” translate to the United States and the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
It is in everyone’s interest for our Nations to protect our homelands and our people's.