Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Help us save the Big Bog in northern Minnesota

Save the “Big Bog”

By: Alan L. Maki

A Canadian multinational conglomerate sees big profits in peat strip-mined from the Big Bog.

(For location: Consult Minnesota DNR PRIM map “Upper Red Lake Area”... peat mining area is located in the approximate vicinity of the "Old Pine Island Ranger Station" in the Pine Island State Forest).

Forget about the “battle in Seattle,” capitalist globalization has become an issue in northern Minnesota and a confrontation between a Canadian multi-national conglomerate and Minnesotans is brewing. In the name of creating jobs, politicians --- local, state, and federal--- have been working behind closed doors, and are quite literally, clearing the way for Berger, Limited to come in and truck away the profits from a one square mile site at the “Old Pine Island Ranger Station,” located in the Pine Island State Forest between Washkish and Big Falls (“The Secret Is In The Soil,” Beager).

The Big Bog, as it is known to Minnesotans, is the primary fresh water aquifer for northern Minnesota and the headwaters for numerous streams, rivers, and lakes, including the Tamarack River, Upper and Lower Red Lakes, the Sturgeon River (which flows into the Big Fork River), and the Black River, which empties into the Rainy River, which in turn exits into Lake of the Woods (Friends of the Big Bog). The Rainy River and Lake of the Woods are boundary waters with Canada. Northern Minnesotans have relied on this aquifer for their source of fresh water and for their livelihoods in forestry related industries for over one hundred years; Red Lake First Nation’s peoples rely upon on this bog’s highly complex and delicate ecosystem for their economic, social, cultural, and spiritual needs--- and have for centuries.

Anglers from all over Minnesota, the United States, and from all parts of the world, fish these waters year round (“Red Lake Walleye,” MNDNR). This watershed provides some of the best duck and goose hunting in North America. Trappers understand the importance of this bog as a source of life where fisher, marten, mink, beaver, and otter live. Moose, timber wolves, deer, black bears, and bald eagles live in this pristine wilderness.

Articulating the need to protect and defend the Big Bog peat lands, Roger Jourdain opposed any commercial development of this bog. Jourdain was the popularly re-elected Chairman of the Red Lake Nation for almost thirty years. Jourdain declared, time and time again from 1967 until his death in 2002, “The most important use of the peat lands is as natural filter for the waters which maintain our lakes. Peat provides habitat for our wildlife. Much of our forests grow on peat. The wildlife, timber and fish are our greatest resource… (the) primary source of employment and income for the tribe” (“The Patterned Peatlands of Minnesota,” Meyer 260). Jourdain believed destroying this bog would destroy his people and his nation.

Some people ridicule those calling for protection of the Big Bog by saying there is more swamp in northern Minnesota then there are jobs for people. The fact is unemployment is a major problem. Another problem is that many workers are mired in poverty because they have poverty-wage paying jobs. However, solutions to these problems can be found without destroying a living ecosystem that should be protected because it is worth more--- for a variety of reasons--- in its present pristine state than mined for peat. As we view the world we live in fresh water is a precious resource and in many areas of the world a commodity as expensive as gasoline; often more scarce. We don’t have to look far to see how fresh water supplies have become depleted and polluted. A joint state-tribal cooperative water bottling plant would create many times the jobs--- real living wage jobs. More people working under the protection of union contracts in forestry related, casino, and tourism jobs would also solve many poverty related problems in northern Minnesota.

The politicians supporting this mining project have put forth two arguments supporting this project (“The Secret Is in the Soil,” Beager). They claim it will create thirty to forty jobs. Most of these jobs will be part-time jobs (with four to five full-time employees) paid poverty wages up to $8.00 an hour. These same politicians also say that the state will benefit financially. What they are not telling people is that the state of Minnesota will receive the paltry sum of $7,000.00 per year as payment on the lease for this state land (DNR Permit).

The peat will be used for horticultural purposes, making this project even more illogical, since there are even better alternatives to peat for the same horticultural purposes which would create even more jobs at real living wages for people in northern Minnesota. One alternative would be to establish a state owned cooperative (perhaps a joint state-tribal venture) that would make compost from sawdust and fish viscera. Right now there are piles and piles of sawdust all over northern Minnesota that nobody has figured out what to do with it, and fish viscera is carted off to landfills or dumped along roadsides, or into the waters of rivers and lakes. Old newspapers could also be used in the process of making high quality compost. This cooperative venture could reinvest the profits into other cooperative ventures, use the funds in the communities for parks and recreation programs for young people, or pay higher wages along with more benefits to those employed. Except for the one foreign corporation--- Berger, Limited--- and maybe forty employees, no one else will benefit from the destruction of the Big Bog. The Wal-mart store across the border in Fort Frances, Ontario will probably get the better portion of the paychecks.

The process of mining peat involves building roads to the site. Deep ditches are dug for drainage since the peat needs to be dry before it can be picked up and processed. After drying, the peat is chopped and shredded in order to be harvested by behemoth vacuums belching mercury contaminated dust into the air. These huge vacuums are pulled by big energy consuming tractors. Huge buildings will also be erected in the bog to process the peat.

These huge vacuums that suck the peat from the bog are much like the vacuum used to sweep a living-room carpet, except a much larger two-story version--- which operates without any filters. What happens when the filter is removed from the home vacuum cleaner as the carpet is cleaned? The home fills with dust particles. In the process of mining the peat from the Big Bog the air will be filled with mercury and other contaminants like dioxins as dust is belched into the air fifteen to thirty feet and carried off by the winds to the surrounding area.

This strip-mining process shakes loose all the contaminants, such as mercury and dioxins, which have fallen from the skies over many millennia. In effect, the process of strip-mining peat is like taking a jumbo sized salt shaker filled with these contaminants and shaking them into the air, onto the land, and into the water--- polluting the air, the land, along with the streams, rivers, and lakes. People will breathe the air, ingest it from the berries picked and medicinal plants gathered, and drink these deadly contaminants in water. The mercury will be taken in by microscopic organisms. In turn, minnows will feed on these organisms. Larger fish will feed on the minnows. Birds of prey, like bald eagles, will feed on larger fish as birds like kingfishers and ducks will eat the minnows. Animals like beaver, moose, and deer will eat the trees and plants. Timber wolves drink from these waters and eat the smaller animals.

Ducks will eat minnows laden with mercury and fly off where hunters will shoot them hundreds and even thousands of miles away, unaware of the mercury they and their families will be consuming. Already the waters of Minnesota lakes and rivers have high levels of mercury and doctors are warning women of childbearing age, pregnant women, and small children not to consume too much fish because of the high levels of mercury in the fish (Minnesota Fishing Regulations 2005; “Consumer Advisory,” USDA; “Mercury,” EPA).

Over the thirty to fifty year life of this project mercury levels will continually rise to even higher levels. Mercury accumulates, unlike some pollutants that dissipate over time. Our government should have the common sense to be doing things in a way to reduce the entry of mercury into our environment and the food chain; this peat mining operation will have the opposite affect.

This pristine, wilderness bog is a shared resource. This resource is shared by the people of the state of Minnesota and the people of the Red Lake Nation; this can be seen by looking at a map. The people of the Red Lake Nation have not been consulted on this mining project even though the drainage ditching for this project has been run right through their lands without their permission (PRIM map).

Since 1967 the Red Lake Tribal Council has passed resolution after resolution condemning the commercial use--- and peat mining specifically--- in relation to the Big Bog (Red Lake Resolution No. 226-83). The Red Lake Tribal Council resolution passed in the year 2000 states this opposition very emphatically (Red Lake Resolution No. 171-2000). For some reason--- yet to be determined--- a former Red Lake Nation Chairman, Gerald “Butch” Brun, signed and sent a letter to the Koochiching County Board of Commissioners, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (both the Corps and EPA scientists opposed this project) stating that the Red Lake Nation had dropped its opposition to mining peat in the bog (Brun). The present Chairman and Council passed another resolution on March 8, 2005 denouncing the Brun letter and setting forth their continued opposition to any commercial development of the peat lands, including this mining project (Red Lake Resolution No. 44-05). Quite appropriately, but probably by coincidence, this most recent resolution was passed on International Women’s Day. Women and children suffer the worst affects from mercury contamination (“Consumer Advisory,” EPA).

With this penetration of capitalist globalization into the north woods of Minnesota has come the most disgusting and vile racism polluting the political landscape. The politicians and Berger have known of the historic opposition on the part of the Red Lake Nation towards peat mining in the Big Bog, yet they sought a deceitful means to circumvent this opposition. The claim is that after receiving the Chairman Brun letter the Red Lake Nation just changed its position with the change of leadership. This is an argument that just doesn’t hold water because Red Lake’s opposition towards commercial development of the peat lands has been very united, relentless, and overwhelming since 1967 when the council opposed the establishment of a State Park (Red Lake Resolution No. 182-68). In addition these politicians are well aware that the overwhelming majority of the Red Lake Nation population is opposed to this peat mining even if one elected official supported it. Then, these same politicians never had the common decency to go before the Red Lake Nation Tribal Council to ask for their input or to seek permission to drain this mercury laden water through Red Lake Nation lands. So much concern for 40 unemployed people getting jobs, but so little concern for the partner--- a sovereign Indian Nation of more than 10,000 people--- with whom this bog is shared has created a political environment contaminated with racism.

The democratic rights of all Minnesotans have been disregarded in this process as these politicians working with this multi-national corporation schemed behind closed doors in trying to sneak this project by the people. What were the politicians thinking? That because this is taking place out in the middle of the bog--- out of sight and out of mind--- no one would know what was going on? This is not democracy.

Why did Bill Brice--- the head of Land and Minerals Division of the Minnesota DNR--- run the Public Notice of the hearing for the final Environmental Impact Statement in the International Falls Daily Journal, but not in the Red Lake Nation News (“DNR Notice of Hearing,” MNDNR)? This was done to circumvent massive public opposition to strip-mining the peat in the Big Bog.

The Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources signed the permit authorizing Berger to strip-mine the peat in the Big Bog without consulting with the people of the Red Lake Nation who share this bog with all Minnesotans. The Commissioner did not advise the more than 80 member organizations of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, the largest environmental organization in Minnesota, of his intent to authorize the permit to allow this strip mining of the peat in the Big Bog to proceed; this coalition includes: Trout Unlimited, Izzak Walton League, Clean Water Minnesota, and the Audubon Society. The Commissioner, upon taking office, made a pledge that he would seek such input from all parties involved when projects like this would come under consideration before giving his approval.

There is a composting alternative to peat that can be spun into an industry that will create more jobs and pay working people real living wages while serving a socially useful purpose by cleaning up our environment and providing a high quality composting material for horticultural purposes at the same time. This alternative provides better results without any environmental destruction. This is a socially progressive, environmentally friendly “green solution” to bring people from all communities together. The present project will only serve to create greater divisions among people.

Congressman James Oberstar touts these forty jobs without considering the rights of the people of the Red Lake Nation whose livelihoods and culture are dependent upon this bog. Koochiching County Commissioner Mike Hanson has also pushed this project relentlessly while touting jobs, jobs, jobs for the residents of Big Falls--- while selfishly ignoring the negative economic, social, and cultural impact peat mining will have on the people of the Red Lake Nation.

Both Congressman Oberstar and Commissioner Hanson talk about the revenue the State of Minnesota will receive in lease monies as if it is some kind of windfall. This is ridiculous considering the fact that the county, state, and federal governments, together with the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation agency, have had to foot the bill for the EIS, miles upon miles of road building, ditch digging, and clearing the land (“The Secret Is In The Soil,” Beager). It should be noted that the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation agency, in spite of claims to the contrary, in the “Secret Is In the Soil” article, is adamant in stating they neither support nor oppose this strip-mining project and the funds referred to are “pass through funds” from the taconite tax. There is no way the State or Federal governments will ever recover the money that has already been spent, let alone the money that will have to be spent just for the upkeep of these roads through the bog after heavy double bottom semi-trucks get done hauling the peat from the bog in the summer. Taxpayers would be further ahead if this boondoggle was scrapped and the names of all the unemployed people in Koochiching County and from the Red Lake Nation were to be put into a hat with forty names drawn from the hat every year and each person given a check for $25,000.00. Berger is not paying for anything. Taxpayers have to pay for new roads to be built into the site and taxpayers are footing the bill to drain and clear the land; taxpayers will have to pay to maintain these roads over a thirty to fifty year period.

Taxpayers will ultimately have to foot the bill to clean up this mess thirty to fifty years from now. Any company that won’t pay to get the profits out of the bog certainly is not going to stick around to pay for “reclamation” costs which will be in excess of all wages combined, considering inflationary costs (“Peat Mineland Reclamation Rules,” Minnesota). Commissioner Hanson has left open the possibility that Koochiching County residents, through a special and specific tax, may end up footing the bill (“Secret is in the Soil,” Beager).

The “Minnesota Volunteer,” a publication of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, stated in a recent editorial, “The purpose of protection is straight forward: to ensure survival of something of value. Devising a plan to accommodate that purpose is not always simple because people see different possibilities.” And Kathleen Weflen’s editorial continued, “As citizens, we often disagree on what to protect, as well as when, where, and how to provide protection. We may also disagree on who best represents our interests…” (“Something of Value”). The point is, in this case a handful of politicians scheming behind the backs of the people made the decision in place of a process that is supposed to be open for the very reason that people have a right to protect their resources for whatever their value--- economic, social, cultural, spiritual (“Earth’s Ecosystem Crucial for Economic, Social, & Spiritual Stability,” UNEP). In this case openness becomes even more important because the resource is a shared resource; a resource stolen from one of the partners many years ago and then the partner was pushed onto a reservation after having all their resources stolen from them to be used by the other partner now intent on using this stolen resource to create great wealth to the exclusion of the partner it was originally stolen from. Under the circumstances, having a full and open hearing on this issue is not too much to expect from a government that boasts to the world that it is the greatest democracy on the face of the earth.

Is the bog worth more in its natural, undisturbed, pristine state, both as a valuable freshwater resource for all Minnesotans, and as an economic, social, cultural, and spiritual resource to the people of the Red Lake Nation than if it is being strip mined for peat? Given the statement of Roger Jourdain, previously cited and not challenged by one single government agency or politician, we have to say the Big Bog is worth more in its pristine, undeveloped state. Will many more jobs be lost than created as the result of this bog being destroyed? Again, we have to answer “yes,” because as has been pointed out by the Department of Natural Resources in all their scientific literature, this bog is a very delicate ecosystem; tamper with any part of it and you completely alter the entire ecosystem (Lost River Peatland SNA; South Black River Peatland SNA; Red Lake Peatland SNA, MNDNR ). Who has the right to decide the future of this resource? The people of the state of Minnesota and the people of the Red Lake Nation, in accordance with the goals and objectives set forth by the United Nations, are the ones who should make the decision on whether or not this peat strip-mining should take place.

The International Falls Daily Journal ran a front page story on this project headlined, “The Secret Is in the Soil” on March 1, 2005 touting the forty jobs as the justification for this project while not saying one single word about why so many people are opposed to this project because of what the negative effects of this boondoggle will be. Minnesotans and Red Lakers are now asking if this bog isn’t being destroyed because the profit is in the soil (“Save Our Bog” leaflet).

People see this as one more example of politicians and government officials putting the profits of a corporation before the needs of the majority of the people without giving any consideration to the long-term consequences to the environment. Berger sees only profits in the soil of the bog, whereas Minnesotans see a clean supply of fresh water and the people of the Red Lake Nation see their way of life at risk. The United Nations Millennium Statement on the Environment issued on March 30, 2005 calls upon the peoples of the world to take decisive action to defend the earth’s ecosystems because these ecosystems are crucial for economic and social stability (UNEP). Why are Minnesota politicians going against this trend that aims to protect just such resources? Forty poverty wage jobs is not justification to destroy this valuable natural resource; no other reason has been provided.

While a few jobs will be created, many more jobs in forestry related industries will be lost when water levels drop in the bog as it is drained for the peat to dry. Trees that depend on this water and the nutrients it contains will begin to die off or stop growing at their normal rate as they are deprived of this water. As higher levels of mercury in fish and wildlife get reported, tourism will suffer and many more people will lose their jobs than gain employment in mining the Big Bog (Minnesota Fishing Regulations 2005, DNR). The eco-tourism business related to the bog has just now begun to take off as the “Big Bog” is pitched as the last true pristine wilderness bog in the lower forty-eight states where moose and timber wolves roam and bald eagles soar (“Friends of the Big Bog,” leaflet; “Red Lake Walleye,” MNDNR).

In fact, this strip-mining will take place right smack, dab in the middle of what the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources refers to as three of the most significant Scientific and Natural Areas (SNA’s) in our state--- Lost River Peat Lands SNA, South Black River Peatlands SNA, and Red Lake Peatlands SNA--- that are important components of this highly complex eco-system and used for scientific study and eco-tourism (“Lost River SNA;” “South Black River SNA;” “Red Lake SNA;” DNR). To even think that placing a one square mile hole six to twelve feet deep, along with a paved all season road from Washkish through the Big Bog to Big Falls, will not destroy the bog is the epitome of irrationality.

As suggested in the “Minnesota Volunteer,” people have a right to have their views and opinions heard (“Something,” Weflen). On this issue people have not had that right to be heard. The stakes are very high for all Minnesotans, especially the people of the Red Lake Nation who have had their land and resources stolen from them in the past. Minnesotans all have a right to determine how they want difficult social and economic questions solved. Does a solution lie in continuing down the road of capitalist globalization or will solutions be sought as advocated by former, popular Governor Floyd B. Olson in cooperative socialist alternatives?

Mike Hanson, the Koochiching County Commissioner who has been the biggest advocate of mining the peat in the Big Bog has arrogantly stated that this project will proceed while knowing that many Minnesotans--- after becoming aware of the destruction of the Big Bog now in progress--- are voicing concerns and disapproval (“Tribe Opposes Plan,” Beager). This conduct goes beyond arrogance to rise to one of the worst forms of racism. Commissioner Hanson expresses a complete disdain for democracy.

Ironically, at about the same time the permits were being authorized to allow this strip-mining operation to proceed, which will add to the existing mercury levels in Upper and Lower Red Lakes, fisheries biologists from the Minnesota DNR and the Red Lake Nation DNR were announcing the success of the program aimed at walleye population recovery in these two lakes (“Red Lake Walleye,” MNDNR). On top of all of this the Minnesota DNR has announced that walleye and northern pike fishing will once again be open to anglers on a portion of Upper Red Lake. What will anglers be consuming in the fish they catch? Anglers and their families will consume mercury contaminated fish. Anglers should have been invited to participate in the decision making process, also.

Mike Hanson, Koochiching County Commissioner, and U.S. Congressman Oberstar, along with DNR Commissioner Merriam who authorized this strip-mining of the Big Bog, should have to come before Minnesotans and justify this peat mining project continuing in light of the fact that Minnesotans and the people of the Red Lake Nation have so much more to lose than what the 40 people who will get poverty wage paying jobs will gain from this deal. There is something terribly wrong with American democracy if a boondoggle like this that will adversely affect so many people in so many different ways and destroy an entire ecosystem can not be halted before any further harm is done, simply because this project--- that never should have begun--- is underway.

The Tribal Council of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians unanimously approved Resolution # 44-05 on March 8, 2005 for the express purpose of opposing the strip-mining of peat in the Big Bog. This resolution states, “The Red Lake Tribal Council believes that our water, our fish and game, our forests, our wild rice, our medicinal plants, and our very way of life depend on the maintenance of wetlands on and near the Reservation in their natural undisturbed state…” This has been the position of the Red Lake Nation for over thirty years. Congressman Oberstar is aware of this position. Commissioner Hanson is aware of this position. And Commissioner Merriam has known for many years that this has been the historic position of the Red Lake Nation. These three individuals had an obligation to consult primary historical documents before advocating, promoting, and authorizing this destruction of the Big Bog to proceed. As public officials they had fiduciary responsibilities to consult with all parties before undertaking this project and allocating public funds to be spent on this hideous boondoggle. Who would believe that three public officials with massive staffs at their disposal would not bother to consult with the people of the Red Lake Nation? This is intolerable conduct on the part of public officials.

The organization Save Our Bog has called upon DNR Commissioner Gene Merriam to use his authority and to revoke the permit that he has issued to Berger (“Save Our Bog,” leaflet). Under the circumstances this is the only just solution to this problem. After revoking the permit, Commissioner Merriam should then suggest, after consultation and in cooperation with the Red Lake Nation, that the Minnesota Legislature provides permanent protection to this important bog.

Yet to be fully explored is why Red Lake Tribal Council Chairman Gerald Brun signed the letter authorizing this peat mining project to proceed. The facts, which will be explored in detail in a future research article, will document how this dirty deal that traded off the pristine, patterned peatlands of northern Minnesota in exchange for consideration of a casino venture is part and parcel to the way global capitalism works in stealing wealth, exploiting labor, instigating racism, and subverting democracy.

Another forthcoming article will explore what we can do to stop capitalist globalization from destroying our communities and our living environment. Time is of the essence as the destructive work has begun in the Big Bog. However, intervention on the part of Minnesotans educated about the importance of these peatlands can halt the destruction and reclaim the damaged area.

Works Cited

Beager, Laurel. “Secret is in the Soil.” International Falls Daily Journal 01 March 2005

Beager, Laurel. “Tribe Opposes plan.” International Falls Daily Journal. 21 April 2005

Brun, Gerald. Letter to commissioners. 25 Mar. 2005

Center for Food and Safety and Applied Nutrition. Consumer Advisory. 03/19/04

DNR. “Lost River SNA.”
DNR. Minnesota Fishing Regulations. 2005. Page 95
DNR. Permit to Mine Peat. 04/02/03
DNR. Peat Mineland Reclamation. 09/29/03
DNR. PRIM Map Upper Red Lake Area. 2003
DNR. Public Notice. 11/27/02
DNR. “Red Lake SNA.”
DNR. “Red Lake Walleye, its history, collapse, recovery.” 1/04
DNR. “South Black river SNA.”

Environmental Protection Agency. Mercury.

Friends of the Big Bog. “Friends of the Big Bog.”

Meyer, Melissa. Patterned Peatlands of Minnesota. Ed. H.E.Wright Jr.,
Barbara A. Coffin, and Norman E. Aaseng.University of Minnesota Press.
1992. 260

Red Lake Tribal Council. Resolution No. 186-68. 03/15/67
Red Lake Tribal Council. Resolution No. 44-05. 03/08/05
Red Lake Tribal Council. Resolution No. 171-2000. 08/09/2000
Red Lake Tribal Council. Resolution No. 226-83. 10/05/83

Save Our Bog.Save Our Bog. Leaflet.2005

United Nations Environment Program. Earth’s Ecosystems Crucial for Economic, Social, &
Spiritual Stability. Press Release. 03/30/05

Weflen, Kathleen. “Something of Value.”Editorial.Minnesota Conservation
Volunteer.DNR.March-April 2005: 2, 3

Please note:

· The actual peat mining site can be located by looking at a Minnesota DNR PRIM map. Mining is taking place at the “Old Pine Island Ranger Station” in the Pine Island State Forest. You will locate this site about half-way between Washkish and Big Falls slightly north on the map.

· Red Lake Nation Tribal Council Resolutions can be obtained by calling Jody Beaulieu the Red Lake Nation Archivist at: 218-679-3341; P.O. Box 550, Red Lake, MN 56671

· Gene Merriam, the Minnesota Commissioner of Natural Resources can be contacted at:

· Alan L. Maki
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell phone: 651-587-5541

· To find the latest newspaper articles go to the web site for the International Falls Daily Journal: and do a search.

· Save Our Bog

Please feel free to copy and distribute.

Two other articles are available on this blog: one on racism and the Big Bog issue; another from an anthropological viewpoint in keeping with the United Nations’ “Millennium Statement on the Environment”

A speech on the Big Bog by Alan L. Maki to the Thief River Falls Political Affairs Discussion Group is also available.

If you come across any articles, websites, or any other information relating to the Big Bog please pass it on to me at:

Red Lake Nation resolution opposing peat mining:

A racist backroom deal brokered by United States Congressman James Oberstar (DFL, Minnesota)

A racist backroom deal brokered by United States Congressman James Oberstar
(DFL, Minnesota)

August 5, 2005

“Peat Mining in the Big Bog:
A Racist, Corrupt Backroom Deal Spun By Capitalist Globalization”

By: Alan L. Maki

“Millennia of living along seacoasts, lakes, and rivers, besides ponds and springs and water holes have had their influence. Man’s History is woven into waterways, for not only did he live beside them, but he used them as highways for hunting, exploration, and trade. Water assured his welfare, its absence meant migration or death, its constancy nourished his spirit (1).” Sigurd F. Olson

Former Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party Governor Elmer Benson said something to me at Measba Cooperative Park many years ago that I will never forget. Benson said, “If you take away all this racism, if you take away all of these closed meetings between politicians and the corporations with their big money wheeling and dealing… and if you take away all the rest of the goddamn corruption in our country, this damn capitalist system would collapse. We wouldn’t need a revolution (2).” I never fully understood this statement until looking into what is now taking place in the Big Bog, using the scientific methodology of modern cultural anthropology.

The intent of this research paper, using the Pine Island State Forest peat mining operation in the Big Bog, is to make people aware that the Minnesota Legislature has failed to provide adequate guidelines for the Department of Natural Resources when it comes to Environmental Impact Statements (3). The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is not adequately guided in putting together a team of scientists under the direction of a competent project manager with the present guidelines. In order to provide the public with an Environmental Impact Statement that can not only withstand close public scrutiny, but encourages the public to question and challenge the EIS, an adequate study--- known as the Draft Environmental Impact Statement must first be completed, taking into consideration all known factors. One of the primary purposes of completing an Environmental Impact Statement is to insure the project under consideration can stand up to all challenges; this is a foundation of the way science works. Challenges from the public at large and the scientific community to an Environmental Impact Statement is needed in order to make sure all relevant questions and challenges get answered. Scientists always welcome challenges to their work; an Environmental Impact Statement should not drift from this process of welcomed inquiry.

Further, an Environmental Impact Statement should not shun inquiry from those scientists, engineers, and the general public behind “no response required,” especially in a situation like this where there has been a very long history of opposition that centers on issues where wide sections of the population have questions that have not been addressed by the EIS. Nor should public meetings and hearings be planned in such a way as to discourage participation from those who have doubts, questions, and concerns about a project, especially when people believe the project will be detrimental to them, and in this case the charge has been leveled from very informed quarters that the peat mining project in the Big Bog will lay the basis for destroying an entire sovereign Indian Nation, and its people--- economically, socially, culturally, and spiritually by destroying an entire complex ecosystem (4).

With these things in mind, a most important question that needs to be asked, is: Why didn’t the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources together with the Koochiching County Board of Commissioners and United States Congressman James Oberstar hold a public meeting on the “Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Pine Island Bog, Horticultural Peat Development” somewhere on the Red Lake Nation Indian reservation (5)? Did these public officials not consider that many members of the Red Lake Nation would have something to say about their futures concerning this issue? After considering the facts below it will be apparent to the reader that these public officials lacked the moral and political courage to engage the people of the Red Lake Nation in dialogue and debate on this issue resulting in compromising and bastardizing science. These public officials, including United States Congressman James Oberstar, Koochiching County Commissioner Mike Hanson, and Gene Merriam the Minnesota Commissioner of Natural Resources, must be held accountable for their actions. The EIS project manager should have to explain her actions in a grand jury investigation into this matter. Gene Merriam, the Minnesota Commissioner of Natural Resources should have to explain to the Governor, Minnesota Legislators, the people of the state of Minnesota, and most importantly, to the people of the Red Lake Nation why he has chosen not to revoke the permit for peat mining that he signed, knowing now that the EIS is so seriously flawed that it does not rise to the level of meeting any kind of scientific standards. In a democracy one can not simply say that the permit has been signed, there is no stopping this now, while knowing something is terribly wrong.

For over forty years the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources--- working with big business interests including: Minnegasco, Ithasca Power, Berger Ltd., the Blandin Foundation, Bemidji State University, Natural Resources Research Institute, and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation agency --- has promoted the mentality of those that stole the land from the First Nations Peoples and conquered them; that nature, left in its pristine state never has any value (6). It is important to take note that the “damn capitalist system” as it was called by former Governor Benson, was imposed upon a people in the most savage and brutal manner that words cannot adequately describe. First Nations People had lived in cooperation with each other and in harmony with nature for many thousands of years. The Big Bog was and continues to be an important ecosystem to First Nations peoples.

Much of modern science is based upon the learning and teachings of First Nations peoples in their struggle for survival over the millennia... including the intrinsic value and importance of ecosystems and the need for environmentalism. Environmentalism is often mocked and stereotyped by the corporate media and big-business interests. This can be seen in advertisements as well as bumper stickers and the large signs posted in the middle of clear-cuts by the DNR, which proclaim the areas as “wildlife habitat.” The thoroughly detesting description of environmentalists as “bunny lovers and tree huggers” has been intentionally fostered by corporate interests over the years. And, we have been led to believe that leaving the management of our forests and ecosystems in the hands of big-business interests is the only way to create jobs, as if it is not possible for humans to live in harmony with nature in our modern world in any other way. For many decades the Minnesota DNR has had a schizophrenic policy towards the natural world. On one hand actively promoting the idea that, unless exploited, nature is meaningless waste; while on the other hand offering up slick posters and publications to tourists and school children promoting the wonders of Mother Nature, while never talking about the two at the same time. This can be seen while reading the “Minnesota Volunteer” the slick, glossy publication of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, along with the Minnesota DNR website; one only has to look at the way bogs are covered in each and then look at the approach the Minnesota DNR has taken towards peat mining in the Big Bog to understand that the Minnesota DNR is a government agency which has not had real leadership on these issues for many years… big-business interests always come first in practice, while Mother Nature is relegated to charming stories detached from the real world (See No. 6 “Volunteers”).

This is why it is so necessary to now consider a completely different approach that had been offered by Roger Jourdain when it comes to how we view the Big Bog, and this capitalist venture of peat mining in the Big Bog, together with how this has come to be--- in spite of widespread public opposition. To do this we need to understand some history and economics, along with understanding that ecosystems, often, have to be protected for scientific, economic, cultural, and spiritual reasons… sometimes for one of the reasons, sometimes in combination, or as in the case of the Big Bog for all of these reasons.

The DNR and big-business, together with the capitalist sooth-sayers working in their ivory towers and city offices, have put forth the idea that the peatlands of northern Minnesota are a “vast wasteland” that needs to be developed in quest of corporate profits. Cheap labor is being employed to turn peat into a commodity to be sold by a foreign, multi-national conglomerate. All the while politicians are grasping for support from the public by touting job creation as their goal. To this end, over the longstanding objections of the people of the Red Lake Nation and many Minnesotans, Gene Merriam, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, authorized a permit for Berger, Limited of Quebec, Canada to mine peat in the Big Bog (7).

This peat mining for horticultural purposes will be a prelude to very extensive peat mining of the Big Bog if the power generating industry and their business friendly and compliant DNR have their way. According to the Minnesota “Volunteer,” in a lead article entitled “Big Bog: Energy Garden or Wilderness Sanctuary” (See No. 6 March-April 1982, p2…10), peat mined from the Big Bog will eventually be used as a fuel for biomass. This article was obviously a rebuttal to a scathing attack against peat mining in the Big Bog in “Audubon” (See Note 6, September 1981), which pointed out that peat mining over 200,000 acres, would destroy the Big Bog. In another issue of the “Volunteer,” Sept.-Oct. 1975, the article “For Peat’s Sake” touted peat mined from the Big Bog as filtering material for huge municipal sewage systems.
After many years, over the objections from many people (most notably the long-term and consistent opposition from the Red Lake Nation and its undisputed leader and senior statesman, Roger Jourdain), peat mining is now underway in the Big Bog. The Big Bog is a jointly owned and shared resource between the State of Minnesota and the Red Lake Nation; not one of the many articles that have been published in the Minnesota “Volunteer” about mining the Big Bog for peat have ever noted this fact, instead, skirting this issue by talking about the Pine Island State Forest and the Big Bog as if you can pencil in the boundaries of ownership instead of recognizing that the Big Bog’s ecosystem cannot be defined by drawing lines on a map (8). As early as 1969, the Red Lake Nation made the Minnesota Department of Natural resources aware through many in person meetings--- both formal and informal--- memos, a deluge of letters, articles published in the Red Lake Nation News, and through numerous resolutions sent to the DNR, governors, congress people, United States senators, state legislators, county commissioners, and a host of government agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Army Corps of Engineers that the Red Lake Nation was adamantly opposed to mining peat or any other commercialization of the Big Bog (9). The latest resolution opposing this mining came from the Red Lake Nation Tribal Council, which unanimously voted approval after being brought forward by council members Pemberton--- who also heads up the Red Lake DNR and council member May (Red Lake Resolution; March 8, 2005).

It is important to note Red Lake’s longstanding opposition to peat mining because the Commissioner of Natural Resources, Gene Merriam is claiming he signed the permit because he believed--- after receiving a letter from former Red Lake Nation Chairman, Gerald “Butch” Brun purporting to be dropping Red Lake’s opposition to peat mining the Big Bog--- that the Red Lake Nation was now on side with the Natural Resources Research Institute, MNDNR, Bemidji State University, Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Agency, Blandin Foundation, Koochiching County Commissioners, Berger Ltd. and the power generating industry. Chairman Brun did in fact sign such a letter in return for Koochiching Economic Development Authority (KEDA) agreeing to allow Red Lake Gaming Enterprises to pursue the construction of a mega casino/convention center project in International Falls, Minnesota. The problem with this letter is, as reflected in the March 8, 2005 Red Lake Nation Tribal Council Resolution, that Chairman Brun was never authorized by the Council to send this letter that had been solicited by Congressman Oberstar as he brokered this deal, which he announced at a press conference from his Duluth office in December 2004 (RLN Resolution). Chairman Brun is the one and only Red Lake Nation elected official who has ever supported the peat mining project (10). Something to consider is this: If the Governor of the State of Minnesota were to approve of this project and the Minnesota legislature was unanimously opposed, would the Commissioner of Natural Resources have signed this permit? The obvious answer is “no.” Yet, Gene Merriam, the Commissioner of Natural Resources signed this permit to mine peat knowing that this letter had been obtained through the same kind of capitalist trickery and chicanery which surrounds every treaty ever concluded forcing First Nations peoples to cede their lands and rights here in the State of Minnesota; the Commissioner had to have known this was the case or he is incredibly ignorant of the way politics operates in this state, and after having served as a state legislator for many years he has to know that something is rotten when after thirty years of opposition, one lone tribal politician provides a letter that is not even signed by the Secretary of the Red Lake Nation to indicate that the letter is part of the normal tribal procedures or alludes to Council concurrence. The Commissioner, while serving many years as a state legislator was repeatedly visited by Red Lakers on the yearly Red Lake Days held at the state capitol offices where he personally met with Red Lakers, all of whom over the years expressed to him their opposition to peat mining or commercialization of the Big Bog. Congressman Oberstar was also personally, and repeatedly, made aware of Red Lake’s opposition to peat mining in the Big Bog because Roger Jourdain often met with him, and this issue came out in their discussions very routinely over many years. One member of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Jeffrey A. Koschak who did most of the work on site for the Army Corps said in a telephone interview with this writer he expressed concerns to his superior about the Brun letter and suggested that contact be made with the Red Lake Tribal Council to find out “what was up” because he sensed something may not be right with the letter; Koschak was right. Robert Whiting, the head of the Army Corps regional office in St. Paul told this writer in a telephone conversation that he never followed through on Koschak’s suggestion to investigate the Brun letter.

United States Congressman Jim Oberstar brokered this peat for casino deal. According to Robert Whiting, the head of the regional office of the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ regional office in St. Paul, Minnesota, he hesitatingly, signed the permit only after being informed there was “congressional approval” for the project. When pressed, Mr. Whiting admitted that “congressional approval” amounted to Congressman James Oberstar supporting the project. As far as Mr. Whiting knows, congress never voted its approval nor have any other members of congress ever shown support for the project. There is nothing in the “Congressional Record” indicating the United States Congress has given its approval to peat mining in the Big Bog. A thorough computer search was conducted of Congressional Records 1969 to 2005 (computer search by ALM).

The people of the Red Lake Nation also hold to a view of “landownership” that is at loggerheads with Minnesota Legislators, the DNR, and big-business. Right-wing politicians in Minnesota often refer to the Red Lake Nation derogatorily as a “welfare-state” and “an island of socialism” because the Red Lake Nation has made the collective decision that all land remains the property of the Nation, which can not be parceled off for sale, but can be used by the people to build houses on, conduct business from, and work in a variety of ways to make their livings, etc. Tribal owned enterprises have also been features of the Red Lake Nation, again, bringing forth the reactionary opposition to lament the “socialist state.” Republican legislators have often suggested that Red Lakers have “chosen their own poverty” because they could be selling off all kinds of lakefront property and making a lot of money.

A response to the above view was articulated by Chief May during the 1889 Treaty Negotiations when he declared, “I will never consent to the allotment plan. I wish to lay out a reservation here, where we can remain with all our bands forever (11).” No doubt the real-estate and land speculators continue to cry over those words. One has only to take a drive out to the small commercialized section of non-tribal owned land on Upper Red Lake to see how real-estate agents and investors have squeezed every inch they can from this “private property” while plying their trade in the world of “free enterprise;” where land is a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. Chief May had the foresight to see where the capitalist system of private ownership of the land was headed.

Roger Jourdain, the long-time serving Chairman of the Red Lake Nation (1959-1990) stated, “Don’t let anybody tell you that you’ve got too much land, that you should sell some of it. Once you sell it, it’s gone (12).” Again, very prophetic and observant words based upon what he saw going on all around him. Certainly no one can say that Roger Jourdain was not a man of tremendous wisdom who gave very considered thought to what was happening, not only on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, but throughout the rest of the world. Roger Jourdain, from the time he was elected Chairman of the Red Lake Nation until the day he died, was one of the most astute and respected politicians in Minnesota. The question that has to come to the mind of any thinking person is why the team that was assembled to draft the Environmental Impact Statement never once considered Roger Jourdain’s longstanding position--- in opposition to peat mining and commercialization when it comes to the Big Bog? After all, Jourdain had a widespread reputation for being a shrewd politician who was always open to compromise because he understood he was living in a very racist society and just because justice required a solution to problems, he understood that Minnesota legislators were not going to be forthcoming in one fell swoop in meeting the requirements of Red Lakers to live like human beings in full dignity. Jourdain built up pressure and got what he could at the time, realizing there was always another day to come back and try to get the rest of what was required for Red Lakers to live with dignity and respect; not unlike a union negotiator bargaining with the company. There isn’t one single politician in Minnesota that didn’t recognize that Jourdain was always open for compromise, and they all knew he was always ready and eager for discussion on any and all issues. So, why did Congressman Oberstar and the Commissioner of Natural Resources refuse to consider Jourdain’s position on peat mining in the Big Bog? Because they did not want to acknowledge that the people of the Red Lake Nation have any say over the future of the Big Bog. This is sheer racism.

Very important to this discussion are the words of Dan Needham, the first elected Treasurer of the Red Lake Nation, who summed up what has transpired, thus, “It was mostly intimidation that cost us that land (Red River Valley) the treaty meeting of 1863 was held out at the Old Crossing by Red River Falls. The government had soldiers there with guns pointing at the Indian encampment, cannons. It scared most of the Indians even the chief… they signed that treaty giving away the Red River Valley lands for about five cents an acre (13).” The land referred to includes the entire Big Bog. These views represent what the courts recognize as mitigating historical circumstances. It is within this framework, together with the resolutions passed in opposition to peat mining and the commercialization of the Big Bog that should have been taken into consideration by an anthropologist employed during the process of creating the Environmental Impact Statement. It is important to note that the peatlands in question were in fact taken in the manner described above and now this “new owner” and a foreign, multi-national conglomerate intends to profit from this land stolen from the people of the Red Lake Nation for five cents per acre. This has been the pattern of history of the last more than one hundred years that has driven Native American communities into poverty; steal their land, use it to accumulate capital, and then use that capital to expand further, while everyone wonders why there is such poverty on Indian Reservations.

If we were to take the coal mines, the taconite mines, the oil wells, the banks, the power generating plants, the steel mills, and the forest lands away from the Rockefeller family and see what happens to them, where would this wealthy family be? Better yet, give it all back to the people who it was stolen from and see what happens with their lives. Then give the Rockefeller family a little plot of land out in the bog and tell them to survive the best they can. This would make an interesting study for anthropologists. Maybe some computer modeling could be done? And these are the kinds of very relevant questions that needed to be posed during the process of preparing the draft EIS, but were not.

Roger Jourdain, during his long tenure as Red Lake Nation Chairman, spent a great deal of his time defending the Big Bog from peat mining and opposing commercialization of the Big Bog. Chairman Jourdain stated, “The most important use of the peatlands is as a natural filter for the waters which maintain our lakes. Peat provides habitat for our wildlife. Much of our forests grow on peat. The wildlife, timber and fish are our greatest resource…(the) primary source of employment and income for our tribe” (The Patterned Peatlands). At meeting after meeting Chairman Jourdain and later, Roger Jourdain senior statesman and private citizen declared, “Destroy this bog and you destroy my People and you destroy my Nation.” None of this was taken into consideration by the project manager, or those Rebecca Wooden assembled to put together this Environmental Impact Statement. Perhaps Jourdain was wrong; but science never put what he said to the test in challenging these words--- before Commissioner Merriam signed the permit to allow peat mining in the Big Bog.

The State of Minnesota has a “review” process that a project of this nature is required to go through before it can come to fruition and receive the necessary permits for operation. The centerpiece of the process is the creation of an “Environmental Impact Statement.” The purpose of creating the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is multifold, but the DNR and business interests primarily use the Environmental Impact Statement to “prove” to the public that there is little if any chance of environmental impacts that will negatively affect people or their living environments, and that there will be no long term detrimental consequences to the environment or ecosystems. How can any of the Environmental Impact Statements ever prepared by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources now be trusted, knowing what we do about the nature of this particular Environmental Impact Statement, which the Commissioner has defended through his public relations man, Mark LaBarbera, as being just as thorough as every single other Environmental Impact Statement ever prepared by the MNDNR? If this is the case, Minnesota legislators had better convene some kind of hearing to reassess all these Environmental Impact Statements and we had all better be more vigilant in the future.

Congressman Oberstar has used “jobs, jobs, jobs” as a kind of witch hunt tactic against anyone and everyone who dares to question any Environmental Impact Statement that is drafted around a project that he supports; if you oppose it you are opposed to workers getting jobs. Congressman Oberstar accuses those with questions of trying to deny people employment, and then he points his finger to all the job losses in his congressional district. Congressman Oberstar has never attempted to mobilize the electorate behind a significant raise in the minimum wage in spite of the fact that in comparison, the poor in Appalachia appear to be doing rather well compared to the people on the Iron Range; nor has the Congressman authored any legislation that would prevent capital from moving equipment, plants, and modern technologies overseas to low wage areas. Oberstar will get up in a DFL convention and rant and rave: “We need jobs, jobs, jobs that pay good wages (14).” Yet none of the new projects that he brings in ever pay wages anywhere near the wages workers received on the jobs they are losing in mining or the paper, pulp, and lumber industry. The peat mining jobs will pay $6.85 to $8.00 an hour to about 35 seasonal workers and Congressman Oberstar says that these jobs will help workers formerly employed at the Boise Cascade operation. At Boise, working under union contract, these workers received $18.00 to $26.00 an hour with very good benefits (15). At no time has Congressman Oberstar ever suggested that a stipulation placed on Berger Limited’s peat mining jobs that they should be done under union contract; kind of strange for a Congressman who relies on unions for his votes. Also, it is interesting that Congressman Oberstar has never suggested that Red Lakers should be entitled to at least half of the jobs in the peat mining operation; using an affirmative action hiring policy.

Is the EIS process really about science, people, and the environment? Or, is the process a cover that is used to excuse the continued plunder of our natural resources for corporate profits, which destroys entire ecosystems? In this particular situation there are many very important ramifications for a sovereign Indian Nation--- the Red Lake Nation. This important information should be considered from a scientific perspective using modern anthropological techniques employing scientific methodology. The EIS project manager should have brought an anthropologist on board to be part of the “team” that developed this EIS. This was not even considered, let alone done.

Scientific methodology and objectivity are the primary tools used by modern day cultural anthropologists. Why do the rules and guidelines not require the EIS project manager to put together a team that includes an anthropologist? An anthropologist would have objectively explored the validity of the statements made by Roger Jourdain and the resolutions, etc. from the Red Lake Nation. As a sovereign Indian Nation, the Red Lake Nation has a right to participate in the decision making process as an equal with the state of Minnesota. Should the social, economic, cultural, and spiritual rights and needs of the people of the Red Lake Nation be taken into consideration? The project manager, Rebecca Wooden, to this day doesn’t believe these to be legitimate concerns even though the United Nations does.

The impact of this project on other inhabitants of the area (Koochiching County) is not being considered here because this is not an attempt to recreate an EIS, but to examine if the EIS is scientifically valid. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, together with the Minnesota Historical Society, Bemidji State University professors and engineering firms (HDR and Freeberg & Grund) did take into consideration, albeit very superficially, factors concerning the people of Koochiching County, Minnesota, who are predominantly white; they are also predominantly working-class, as are the people of the Red Lake Nation (16). Neither race nor class were scientifically analyzed as factors in any of the studies completed for the EIS. Jobs are an important issue for working people of all races; whether residents of Koochiching County or the Red Lake Nation. But, the EIS gives consideration for employment only to residents of Koochiching County, not to Red Lake citizens. This racist aspect of the EIS alone should have caused the Commissioner of Natural Resources to reject the request for the permit (17).
Rebecca Wooden, the project manager for the EIS takes issue with the characterization that the EIS is unscientific, by stating, “We did consider that the Red Lake Nation has a longstanding opposition to commercial developments in the peatlands and we (emphasis ALM) determined that their concerns were unwarranted.” In fact, the Final EIS states that “no comment is required,” as far as considering the objections raised by the people of the Red Lake Nation to peat mining in the Big Bog. Quite an observation from a project manager who has a degree in outdoor recreation and who, upon being queried if the services of an anthropologist was utilized in any stage of the preparation or research for the EIS, responded, “yes.” When asked to name that anthropologist she cited the archeologist. When questioned on her response, Ms. Wooden asked, “Isn’t an anthropologist the same thing as an archeologist?(telephone interview: ALM with Rebecca Wooden 6/13/05)” In fact, the archeologist did study some old buildings at the mining site, known as “The Old Pine Island Ranger Station” erected during the 1930’s by the CCC and WPA. There is nothing in the report saying if the CCC and WPA camps were established with input or collaboration from the Red Lake Nation. As noted by the archeologist, an airstrip was later built. Again, no mention if there was any input from the Red Lake Nation.
This may seem to be nit picking. However, the purpose here is not to test whether or not Rebecca Wooden was competent to be the project manager; not knowing the difference between an archeologist and an anthropologist is self explanatory and answers the question. If Rebecca Wooden did in fact carry out her responsibilities as project manager, then how do we explain all of what was not taken into consideration vis a vis the people of the Red Lake Nation? The issue then becomes have Minnesota Legislators created the proper guidelines required to complete a scientifically sound environmental impact statement under the circumstances presented in this particular project, which is not all that unusual in the state of Minnesota that has so much land under tribal ownership? The answer is “no.”

One would expect that a project manager who thought to include an archeologist would consider placing an anthropologist on the team given the high level of controversy that swirled around commercialization and peat mining in the Big Bog for over thirty years; with much of the controversy arising from the Red Lake Nation’s opposition. The DNR project manager should know that the scientific contributions of anthropologists is required to complete an EIS of this character, just as one would expect the project manager to be able to determine that a hydrologist is needed in order to complete the EIS. An EIS project manager must be given guidelines that enable him/her to make the determination that an anthropologist is needed.
Certainly after seeing the resolution from the Red Lake Nation, the project manager should have been able to come to the conclusion that the services of an anthropologist were required in order to create a scientifically sound EIS that could withstand challenges. That is why an EIS is created in the first place, like any other scientific theory, in order to be challenged. After all, by creating an EIS to be presented to the public, the DNR is saying, “Come on people, challenge this document; if our conclusions are wrong, prove it.”

In withholding facts concerning the positions of the people of the Red Lake Nation by refusing to subject what was contained in their numerous resolutions and statements to scientific questioning and scrutiny this is complete and total scientific dishonesty; tantamount to fabricating an EIS without any scientific merit. On the one hand the Minnesota DNR can not hold up an EIS and say, “We are attesting to the fact that this is the best scientific report that we can compile; while on the other hand knowing that the report does not contain facts obtained from the etic approach of modern anthropology. After all, if there are mitigating historical questions that are relevant to consideration [and mitigating historical facts that are relevant to the survival of a people], these must be stated, and presumably, these would be stated by a qualified project manager before work on the EIS has begun, so qualified personnel could be employed as part of the team for the project. In this case an anthropologist was required, in addition to, an archeologist; but only the archeologist was hired because the guidelines provide the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to respond to any questions that an anthropologist would investigate with: “No Response Required” and “This is beyond the scope of this EIS (See No. 17).” What a convenient, albeit racist, manner for a government agency to dodge the impact of a project’s impact on people and their living environment; not to mention the heavy handedness in dealing with a sovereign Indian Nation.

The DNR repeatedly relied on Koochiching County Commissioner Mike Hanson, not only to provide data, but to collect the data, and then interpret that data for the EIS team without submitting any of it to scientific questioning or challenge. Why wasn’t the Red Lake Department of Natural Resources or any member of the Red Lake Nation Tribal Council consulted with in a similar manner? Do Red Lakers not know their community as well as Commissioner Hanson knows his community? Does the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources begin with the chauvinist and racist notion that the position of a County Commissioner is in some way a more legitimate position than a Tribal Council member? Again, this is sheer racism on its face, especially given the fact that the Koochiching County Commissioner Mike Hanson has no background in any field of science.

The media also had a role to play in all of this. The role the media played only gives further credibility to the allegation that our society is mired in racism. Numerous articles have been published by the International Falls Daily Journal concerning the peat mining in the Big Bog (18). The editor and reporter had access to the very same material used to compile this research paper. They chose not to use materials from the Red Lake Nation archives. Why? What purpose did this serve? Only one purpose was to be had: to foment and inflame racism in the community in order to drum up political support for this peat mining project. Congressman Oberstar needed to have a show of public support for his “job creation program” lest he be accused of assisting another corporation of destroying our environment in quest of maximum profits. Racism always has survived in an atmosphere of ignorance; this peat mining project has proven to be no exception. Congressman Oberstar and Commissioner Merriam have played to this racism continually in promoting this project that will only serve corporate interests and further divide Minnesotans along racial lines.

The central issue is this: Are there historical mitigating circumstances with this particular project? If so, what are they? If there are none, then Rebecca Wooden did in fact fulfill her responsibility in this area because no historical mitigating issues were brought forth in either the draft EIS or the final EIS. But, were mitigating historical circumstances intentionally ignored while completing the EIS? Of course they were as noted previously, these historical mitigating circumstances were staring the project manager right in the face. One would have to be completely blind and deaf, or have no respect for what the people of the Red Lake Nation were, and are saying, in order to accept this EIS prepared under the direction and guidance of Rebecca Wooden. What is even more preposterous and hideous is that the Commissioner of Natural Resources would sign a permit, after reading the Final EIS--- we have to assume he did read this document--- allowing mining in the Big Bog. We also have to assume that Commissioner Merriam understands that he is responsible and accountable for his actions and that he has certain fiduciary responsibilities to the people of the state of Minnesota regarding authorizing this permit.

The issue at hand, the central issue, the mitigating historical problem that has not been considered is this: The land in question in which peat mining is now underway over the objections of the Red Lake Nation was stolen from the people of the Red Lake Nation in a most savage and brutal manner as accurately described by Treasurer Dan Needham as part of the “conquest” of this nation and the creation of the State of Minnesota. It could be argued that all of this happened so long ago that it is no longer of any consequence in creating an Environmental Impact Statement. But then, how is it justified that the socio-economic factors of the people of Koochiching County who suffer an official unemployment rate of about 6%, while the people of the Red Lake Nation have an official unemployment rate hovering over 30% (for what reason this discrepancy, might it be there is a historical problem?), should be given consideration while the economic factors concerning the people of the Red Lake Nation were not even given one single word of mention in the draft EIS or the final EIS, yet, Congressman Oberstar and the Commissioner of Natural Resources, Gene Merriam, both have declared the primary purpose of this project is to create jobs for the people of Big Falls, who live the same distance from the project as the people of the Red Lake Nation.

Compounding the problem, and another mitigating historical circumstance, this land might be part of a future land claims settlement in which the Red Lake Nation would ask the courts to return this land to them--- the rightful owners--- in its pristine state, none of which was considered in preparing to begin work on the EIS; during the process of drafting the EIS; nor does this mitigating historical factor come out in the final EIS; yet this could end up costing the taxpayers considerably if a court challenge is launched.

The Commissioner of Natural Resources is now asking, “Why are you people bringing these points up now, when there was adequate comment period to air your concerns before?” The fact is, these concerns were addressed by Dan Wilm, a Minnesota resident with first hand experience in the Big Bog, and the Pine Island State Forest specifically, between 1996 and 1999(19). How can the Commissioner claim objections to the project are now too late, when the same DNR refused to consider these questions from Mr. Wilm at the time? Then, as now, the DNR is choosing to ignore and circumvent citizen input.

One thing is very clear in all of this, and that is that this entire deal has been a racist, backroom deal from the very beginning to the present peat mining project now underway. Why, in a democracy, would this project be allowed to proceed with racism hanging over the project at every stage? Racism is completely incompatible with democracy. Not one of the politicians involved nor one of the highly educated people could recognize this racism? Or did they, like the Army Corps of Engineers acquiesce to congressional arm-twisting? The permit must be revoked pending answers to these questions.

There is only one conclusion to come to: Racism remains as great a factor today in the political, social, cultural, and economic life of the State of Minnesota as it was more than one hundred years ago when thirty eight Dakotas were hung by their necks in the largest mass execution in United States history in Mankato, Minnesota. These Dakotas were hung for the act of defending their families and homes. The rights of Native Americans to be participants in the decision making process in a land that was stolen from them is still intangible in a political process and environment dominated by the forces of racism, embedded, as former Governor Benson said, “ in this damn capitalist system.”

The EIS does not consider the value of this bog being left in its pristine state as the primary aquifer and natural filter and supply of fresh water for northern Minnesota as articulated by Roger Jourdain. No place in the EIS or any of the research done in preparing the EIS is this subject ever broached. What would be the cost of manufacturing such a filter today, or fifty years from now after the peat mining is done? Billions of dollars for sure. Yet, while computer models were used to “explain” all other facets of this project, computer modeling was not used to make projections regarding the economic benefits of the Big Bog as the natural water filter that it is, just as Roger Jourdain maintained for many years as he successfully fought off peat mining and the commercial development of the Big Bog.

Not only has racism been employed to create this EIS to justify corporate exploitation of this bog as was done to justify stealing the lands from the First Nations to begin with; but the guidelines established by the Minnesota Legislature have either intentionally--- or to be charitable, inadvertently--- allowed the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to get out from having to address the scientific conclusions put forth by Roger Jourdain who repeatedly stated, “If you destroy this bog you destroy my Nation and you destroy my People.” This most important statement, that brings forward the question of genocide, was not addressed by those hired by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to create the Environmental Impact Statement for this bog mining project, and more importantly, without the inclusion of this observation the discussion of the Environmental Impact Statement got sidetracked into many less significant areas.

This raises a very fundamental and overlooked issue: Roger Jourdain arrived at his scientific conclusions after a lifetime of first hand experience living in this bog; having been forced to live in it as part of the racist reservation system created by the conquerors who now claim to know best how to manage land. And now, a project manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources who doesn’t know an archeologist from an anthropologist, says that she is satisfied that the EIS was conducted in a way that satisfies the rights, needs, and concerns of the people of the Red Lake Nation have been given adequate consideration in this EIS by being written off with “No response required.”

Racism has polluted our political landscape while bringing destruction upon a vital ecosystem. Congressman Oberstar and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Merriam may want to ponder the fact that their bodies, like the rest of us is comprised of over 60 percent water, which needs to be constantly replenished from a supply of freshwater in order to survive.

The requirement for anthropological study and input of all future Environmental Impact statements must become part of the guidelines the Minnesota DNR uses to create and draft these Environmental Impact Statements. It is up to the Minnesota Legislature to correct this racist and class injustice and to use its legislative powers to withdraw the permit that has been issued to Berger, Limited to truck away the profits from the Big Bog, while destroying this very important, useful, and valuable resource in its present pristine and undisturbed state.

William Brice, head of Land and Minerals division of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources personally saw to it that the “public notice” asking for final input into the EIS was placed in the International Falls Daily Journal and he also, intentionally, saw to it that this “public notice” was not placed in the Red Lake Nation News. Rebecca Wooden, the MNDNR’s project manager for the EIS did not object to this act of racism (20). Tom Balcom, who, at present, now holds Rebecca Wooden’s previous job in DNR planning, was also silent. Mr. Balcom was a part of coordinating this peat mining fiasco in the Big Bog and was part of the “team” that helped to make sure that Mr. Wilm’s concerns were not addressed in a scientific manner in the draft EIS and Final EIS.

The Red Lake Nation was never asked by Koochiching County Board of Commissioners, Congressman Jim Oberstar, nor the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources if their nation wanted to become a partner in this peat mining operation; nor was any consideration given to employing people from the Red Lake Nation to work on the “team” in creating the EIS, or to be employed in the mining operation or any of the preparatory work on roads, pallet building, etc.
Notable, also, is the fact that neither the Leech Lake Band nor the Nett Lake Band was ever consulted or informed that this EIS was being prepared even though this watershed extends to, and impacts on, their lands. These bands have historic claims to ownership of parts of the Big Bog, also. Both have lands that are dependent upon the future existence of the Big Bog in its present pristine state; economically, socially, culturally, and spiritually--- as does the Red Lake Nation--- in accordance with the United Nations’ “Millennium Statement on the Environment,” which specifically states that the protection of ecosystems is very important within this context.

In conclusion, the burning questions that any really scientific--- as Minnesota legislators and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources purport the “Pine Island Bog, Horticultural Peat Development, Koochiching County, Minnesota; Final Environmental Impact Statement of December 2001” to be--- in order to maintain any semblance of scientific integrity, three questions would have to be asked and answered in conjunction with preparing this EIS: 1.) Is the Big Bog worth more in its present pristine state economically, socially, culturally, and/or spiritually than if mined for peat? 2.) What is the Red Lake Nation’s historic opposition to the commercialization of the peatlands of northern Minnesota’s Big Bog based upon and are these concerns relevant? 3.) Who owns the Big Bog? Any scientific study would conclude that the Big Bog is an intricate, complex, and interconnected ecosystem system whose ownership can not be parceled off. This wonder of Mother Nature is jointly shared and owned by the people of the Red Lake Nation and the people of the state of Minnesota. Like any other resource shared and owned by two distinct nations, mutual agreement should be reached over the future of the Big Bog with full consultation and input from the citizenry of each. Adding to the complexity of this situation, the sovereignty of the Red Lake Nation becomes a fundamental issue.

For Gene Merriam, the Minnesota Commissioner of Natural Resources, to have issued a permit without the EIS having input from the people of the Red Lake Nation and from cultural anthropologists employing the modern scientific methodology of etics is a vile act of racism and one of the worst cases of institutional racism in modern times in the state of Minnesota. The plunder and destruction of the Big Bog ecosystem requires that we begin to consider the cooperative socialist alternative to “this damn capitalist system,” which thrives on racist, corrupt backroom deals. The time has come to place science in the service of the people and in defense of our environment rather than being used as a cover for continued capitalist pillage and plunder.

Works Cited

1. Sigurd F. Olson’s Wilderness Days. Olson, Sigurd. Alfred A. Knopf. 1972. Page 44.

2. Alan L. Maki. Personal Notes from Mesaba Co-Op Park, Midsummer Festival, Tribute to John Bernard.

3. Minnesota State Statutes:

4. Roger Jourdain. Page 260. Patterned Peatlands of Minnesota. University of Minnesota, Commissioner of Natural Resources. 1992

5. Draft EIS

6. “Volunteer” Volumes38, 40, 45, 48: numbers 222, 239, 261, 278; “Audubon” Sept. 1981

7. MN DNR Permit to mine
8. MN DNR Prim Map, Upper Red Lake Area

9. Red Lake Nation Resolutions #186-68; 44-05; 171-2000; 226-83

10. Letter from Gerald Brun to public officials

11. Chief May quoted on 2005 Red Lake Nation Calendar

12. Chairman Roger Jourdain quoted on 2005 Red Lake Nation Calendar

13. Treasurer Dan Needham quoted on 2005 Red Lake Nation Calendar

14. Oberstar. Speech to the State DFL Convention in Duluth 2005

15. International Association of Machinists 2005 Contract with Boise Cascade. International Falls, MN

16. Freeberg and Grund files obtained by ALM from MNDNR

17. Final EIS, MN DNR

18. “Secret Is In the Soil.” Beager, Laurel. International Falls Daily Journal. Page 1. 01 March 2005

19. Collection of Letters from Dan Wilm to Minnesota DNR and public officials; along with leaflet circulated to the public obtained by ALM from Wilm.

20. Copy of “Notice” and list of publication(s) obtained from Brice

Works Consulted

MN DNR Prim Map, “Upper Red Lake Area”

Pine Island Forest Bog “Draft EIS” and “Final EIS” prepared by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources with assistance from Bemidji State University, HDR Engineering, Freeberg and Grund (Bemidji).

The Patterned Peatlands of Minnesota. Edited Wright, et al. University of Minnesota Commissioner of Natural Resources. 1992

United States Army Corps of Engineers Document, Native American History in the Mississippi
Headwaters Region. Brochure is printed and distributed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, in cooperation with The Leech Lake Reservation Heritage sites Archaeological Program.
file:///C/Documents%20and%20Settings/hmz/Desktop/historypdfs/native_america.htm (5 of 6)
[9/30/2003 3:01:10 PM]

United Nations Environment Program. “Earth’s Ecosystems Crucial for Economic, Social, & Spiritual Stability.

Personal notes from numerous in person interviews, telephone conversations, MN DNR records, and written correspondence.

E-mails with public officials and state legislators and MN DNR personnel.

“Piles” of files in the Little Fork, Minnesota Forestry Office of the DNR as presented by Pegg Julson, the head of the office.

Numerous newspaper articles, including: International Falls Daily Journal, Duluth News, Red Lake Nation News.

Alan L. Maki
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432


Earth Day 2005 speech by Alan L. Maki: Save Our Bog

Earth Day 2005

Speech by

Alan L. Maki: Save Our Bog

Organize for Earth Day 2005---

[Speech by Alan L. Maki; delivered to the Thief River Falls Political Affairs Discussion Group on Sunday, April 3, 2005. Alan L. Maki is Director of Organizing for the Red Lake Casino, Hotel, and Restaurant Employees’ Union Organizing Committee; a 2004 elected Minnesota DFL State Convention Delegate, from Roseau County; and a founding member, Minnesotans for Peace and Social Justice. He is also one of the founders of the organization Save Our Bog.]

I was invited to address the AFL-CIO St. Paul Labor Speakers Club in April as part of the Earth Day 2005 activities; the invitation was withdrawn because of pressure brought as a result of my criticism of DFL Congressman Jim Oberstar who brokered this racist deal to destroy the Big Bog in a dirty backroom deal that traded this pristine bog for a Red Lake Gaming Enterprise operated casino to be built in International Falls, Minnesota.

Ironically, the invitation was initially extended to me because of my involvement to save the Big Bog. This is the speech that I was to have delivered at the St. Paul Labor Speakers Club… Whether you agree, or disagree with what I have to say--- I hope you will take what I have to say in the spirit of democracy and free speech. Please feel free to jot down any concerns you have with my presentation or any questions you would like answered. Feel free to challenge anything I say here today.

Thank you for inviting me back to Thief River Falls today. I enjoy these gatherings where we can share ideas and exchange opinions.

Today I would like to talk about some problems as we approach Earth Day 2005… We need your help to stop the Big Bog destruction now under way in northern Minnesota!

{Note: to help follow, Minnesota DNR maps may be helpful: DNR Pine Island State Forest Map; DNR PRIM map (Upper Red Lake area)}

Let me just show you on the map here the area I will be referring to. This is a DNR PRIM map; it is referred to as: Upper Red Lake if you are interested in obtaining this map; you can purchase them at many sporting goods shops like Gander Mountain or Cabela’s. Over here is a map also available from the DNR, it is called, Little Fork-Vermillion Fire Protection Routes.” And here we have a map, the DNR Pine Island State Forest Map. Also, this picture you are looking at is a photo taken on March 6, 2005. I will also be referring to this letter posted here on the wall from Red Lake Nation Chairman Butch Brun. In addition… I will be referring to this so-called public notice placed by the Minnesota DNR Land & Minerals Division whose long time head is Bill Brice. As you probably are aware, Gene Merriam is the Minnesota DNR Commissioner. On the wall over here you have his e-mail address: --- Add to this mix a guy named “Shaky” who is the Koochiching County Commissioner pushing this destruction of the bog and I think we pretty much have our cast of characters.

One other thing:

Before I begin… over here is a resolution passed by the Red Lake Nation Tribal Council on March 8, 2005. This resolution passed unanimously and was introduced by council member Pemberton who also heads up the Red Lake Nation DNR... not to be confused in any way with the Minnesota DNR. I also have a stack of resolutions here from the Red Lake Nation Tribal Council spanning almost 35 years on this issue. I obtained these from Jody Beaulieu the Red Lake Nation archivist and a niece of longtime Red Lake Chairman Roger Jourdain.

Just a brief geography lesson, I will point things out on the map as I move along:
As you can see here on the map the Big Bog is jointly owned by the people of the State of Minnesota and the people of the Red Lake Nation--- the bog is being stripped-mined for peat in the Pine Island State Forest, this is a picture of me standing in the middle of the devastation, about one-half mile south of the Old Pine Island Ranger Station--- the bog is the victim of a racist, corrupt backroom deal orchestrated by United States Congressman Jim Oberstar. This dirty, racist deal traded this pristine bog for more casinos and more non-union, poverty wage jobs. Minnesotans don’t need either one. Our state already resembles a carnival midway and we have more poverty wage jobs than you can shake a stick at.

Minnesota and federal taxpayers have been unknowingly footing the bill to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars for building roads and digging ditches into this bog, and clearing the land; even paying for the “lease of this land,” over a period of many years, before a single permit was granted for this project to proceed; all clearly in violation of many laws. Work was going on even while public hearings were being held to determine if permits should be granted! All science and all public opinion was an overwhelming, “No” and continue to be an overwhelming “NO.”

This #30 out of Big Falls west from the Sturgeon River was just recently paved for this project. Take a Sunday drive and you will see, it is a road that anyone would have to ask, “Why the hell would anyone spend this kind of money paving this road when we have an entire bunch of legislators quibbling over where they will come up with money to take care of the roads we already have that are crumbling and full of potholes?” Then, this Pine Island Forest road has been “upgraded.” In fact it has been raised on average 3 to 6 feet right up to this mining site which is referred to as the “Old Pine Island Ranger Station.” All of this is out of sight and out of mind. A nice set up for anyone out to skin the taxpayers.

I must point out that everyone thought this project to strip-mine this last pristine bog in the lower forty-eight was a “dead deal.” Even Pegg Julson the head of the Little Fork, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Office in whose district this strip-mining for peat is taking place was not aware that this project was going ahead until she read about it in the Duluth newspaper in December 2004… this past December!

In the winter of 2002 Red Lake Nation Chairman Butch Brun started looking to use the last remaining Casino license of the Red Lake Gaming Enterprises--- Red Lake has four such licenses. Congressman Oberstar hooked up Chairman Brun with “Shaky,” a Koochiching County Commissioner who wanted to get permits to go ahead with a peat-mining project which the Red Lake Nation has had a longtime historic opposition to--- these resolutions here prove that... Commissioner Merriam has these resolutions… or he should. Chairman Brun could now proceed with plans for a casino as long as he signed a letter dropping Red Lake’s opposition to the peat mining in the Pine Island State Forest.

And from here on out this is what happened…

Mr. Bill Brice, the head of the Lands and Minerals division of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources together with DNR Commissioner Gene Merriam approved the permit to mine the peat. How much Commissioner Merriam actually knows about this deal I am guessing is very little if anything. We won’t know until he speaks. So far he has remained mum. Mr. Brice assured me that he visited the mining site in the Pine Island State Forest before approving the permit. When I asked him what he did at the site he replied, “I drove by it.”

Now this is where things get very interesting. As I said, everyone concerned thought this deal was dead… Everyone. Why? Because the scientists--- from the EPA, the Army Corps, Red Lake DNR… everyone who studied the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) all exposed this as some kind of slick attempt to pass off corporate public relations for science. The Red Lake Nation at the time passed a very unambiguous resolution at the time.

So, what changed all of a sudden that got these permits approved? Did science change? No. Did the people of the Red Lake Nation change their position on this peat mining? No. What changed is that you now have Mr. Brun looking to build a casino in International Falls and you have this “Shaky” who is doing all this preparation to get this peat mining going. Both projects need help getting all kinds of federal red tape and permits. Enter Congressman Oberstar. The science hasn’t changed… but the politics have! And so an influential U.S. Congressman started flexing his political muscle.

All of a sudden you have the United States Army Corps of Engineers approving another required permit. Now, with the original scientist, Tom Gladzel--- retired, the United States Environmental Protection Agency stood by in silence as they accepted everything they were told by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concerning this project that will destroy this bog. The strange thing is the United States Army Corps of Engineers relied for all of its information on a sleazy, incompetent Koochiching County official the local folks refer to as, “Shaky.” I know this all sounds incredible but you can pick up the phone and talk the Corps project manager for this peat mining operation, Mr. Smith in St. Paul.

The Red Lake Nation has had “historic opposition” to this project going back many years. Former, longtime serving Red Lake Nation Chairman Roger Jourdain explained that this bog, which is an ecosystem, is the “life-blood of my people and my nation.” Look, Mother Nature does not draw lines for her boundaries. Politicians may do this, but not Mother Nature. This statement from Roger Jourdain is a very powerful and strong statement. It is not an exaggeration. It is a true statement. It is a statement backed by scientific facts gathered by Tom Glatzel, now retired from the EPA, and Jeff Koshak, of the United States Army Corps of Engineers... the only two from their respective agencies who ever did the job out in the field at the site that we as taxpayers paid them to do.

Enter a letter from then Red Lake Nation Chairman, Gerald Brun to the Koochiching County Board of Commissioners, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (unbeknownst to Red Lake Council members or the people of the Red Lake Nation… and only now, under my pressure for public disclosure of the letter, made public by me; a letter the DNR, Army Corps, and EPA have tried to conceal from public scrutiny for two years). This letter signed off on the Red Lake Nation’s historic opposition to strip-mining the Big Bog; and wrote-off the tireless efforts of former Chairman Roger Jourdain to save and protect the Big Bog for the important resource and ecosystem that it is in its present pristine state that is worth more--- even in dollars--- as it is than being mined. And you know what, and this is even something the most stupid of all capitalists should be able to understand--- this pristine bog will become worth even more in terms of dollar value if for nothing else than the precious fresh water resource that it is! Not to mention the importance of this bog to the people of the Red Lake Nation as the primary aquifer and source of clean, fresh water; and, the social, cultural, spiritual, and economic benefit it is to the thousands of people who live and work on the Red Lake Nation whose incomes and culture depend on forestry, fishing, wild ricing, farming.

Congressman Oberstar has justified this project solely on the basis that it will provide forty jobs for the unemployed people living in and around the small community of Big Falls, Minnesota without giving one iota of consideration to how this strip-mining for peat project will impact the people of the Red Lake Nation… Congressman Oberstar did not even have the common decency or common courtesy to attempt to discuss this issue with the people of the Red Lake Nation before he used his congressional influence to twist arms to get the permits approved in this dirty, racist, backroom deal.

Let me just post this word up on the wall here because I am going to be using it frequently: RACISM.

Here we have resolution after resolution from the Red Lake Nation tribal council opposing strip mining the bog. Including this resolution of March 8, 2005. And how do the Army Corps of Engineers, Mr. Brice, and the EPA respond to reading this resolution? Their racist response is, “Oh well, the permits have been issued.”

You mean to tell me that I am living in the most democratic country on the face of planet earth, and public officials have no way of revoking permits issued in--- I was going to say issued in error--- but these permits were not issued in error, they have been issued by arrogant, racist acts of deceit with the intent to circumvent the democratic process.

Make no mistake… these Environmental Impact Statements are part of a hard fought for right that is now a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy. I urge you to appeal to Commissioner Merriam to revoke this permit and to urge him to implore legislators to bring the Big Bog under legislative protection with the understanding that this is a vital resource without equal; a resource that can not be valued in dollars; an ecosystem that is shared by the people of the Red Lake Nation and the people of the state of Minnesota!

Let our struggle for protection of the Big Bog serve as a warning to arrogant and racist public officials like Congressman Oberstar and Bill Brice that the people of Minnesota, together with the people of the Red Lake Nation will fight and struggle against the worst pollution of all: racism. Just as this peat mining threatens to pollute our waters; the racism involved in this dirty deal has polluted our political landscape.

But wait! It gets even better. If racism can “get better?” I thought in this day and age government agencies have the common sense to understand that their role is one of eliminating racism, not perpetuating racism! And let me be perfectly clear and not leave any ambiguities here--- approving and allowing this foreign company--- Berger, Limited out of Quebec, Canada--- to proceed with this strip-mining operation in the Big Bog located in the Pine Island State Forest is, in and of itself, an overt act of racism committed against Native Americans; but more than that… no--- worse than that--- this is what the United Nations refers to as an act of racist genocide against a nation of people… because it is a racist act perpetrated against a sovereign nation of First Nations Peoples with the express aim of destroying the people--- their economy, their culture, and their spirituality--- this is a nation!

First the United States government sends the United States Army out to steal the land from the First Nations People; then they hang those who fight to protect their homeland; then the Army chases the survivors onto a reservation; and now, along comes the United States Army Corps of Engineers to carry out the “final solution.” Only in America! And only in the state that executed 38 Dakotas in the largest mass execution in U.S. history for the crime of defending their homeland. Again, we have the Minnesota government engaged in a most vile, racist act against Indian People. I would challenge you to find a more vile, racist act in Minnesota history since that disgraceful mass execution in Mankato than what is taking place right here, right now, out in this pristine bog.

Look at this picture. Look at it good. These are your tax dollars at “work.” You are paying for this destruction. You are paying for this gross act of racism. All the time I hear from people, “We aren’t to blame for what happened a hundred or more years ago.” Well, this is happening here, and it is happening now. What are we going to do about this?

The Minnesota Division of Land and Minerals posted a notice asking for public comments in one single newspaper for four consecutive weeks announcing the closing date for public input as December 27, 2002. Isn’t this nice that Mr. Bill Brice gave Minnesotans notice that public input was being cut-off on December 27, 2002?

Here is the problem: The Red Lake Nation is almost 200 miles away from where this advertisement was run in the International Falls Daily Journal! How many readers do you suppose the International Falls Daily Journal has on the Red Lake Nation? I have asked Mr. Brice to supply me with the pertinent subscription information for paid and unpaid readers of the Daily Journal… I would assume the Daily Journal has such information available as I am sure they have the ability to sort by zip code. So far I have received no response from Mr. Brice.

Here is an interesting question: Why didn’t Mr. Brice run this notice in the Red Lake Nation News where he knew there was massive opposition to this project, not only from the elected leaders of the Red Lake Nation, but from among the thousands of Red Lakers themselves? Wouldn’t common sense and logic dictate that if you really want to hear from people you make sure you post the notice where those most likely to be affected will respond?

Based on the historic opposition that Mr. Brice acknowledges he was well aware of, I think it is quite legitimate to ask why the announcement seeking public input was not posted in the Red Lake Nation News? We need an answer to this question from Mr. Brice and DNR Commissioner Gene Merriam.

Further, had such notice been placed in the Red Lake Nation News, Chairman Brun’s letter would have been exposed at the time. It is the epitome of hypocrisy for Mr. Brice, the Army Corps, and the EPA to say, “Well we received this letter from Chairman Brun, so therefore Red Lake dropped its opposition,” when in fact they intentionally did not post public notice for public input in the Red Lake Nation News because they knew they would get heavy opposition! This is the worst kind of racism imaginable. It smacks of the same kind of “benign Anti-Semitism” of the Russian Tsar who pretended not to know that the pogroms were taking place while his underlings were ordering them.

Not only do we have an issue of state mandated and sponsored institutional racism that needs to be dealt with by having the permit to mine in the Pine Island State Forest of the Big Bog immediately revoked, but we now have the problem of institutionalized state sponsored racism combined with the problem of Mr. Brice and United States Congressman Oberstar subverting the democratic process; a process which we boast to the world that in this area we are second to none!

Think about it… here you have Mr. Brice, the head of the Land and Minerals Division of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources using tax-dollars to pay for an advertisement under the auspices of soliciting “public input” which is supposedly the foundation of our democracy and--- and the only safeguard we have to assure that an Environmental Impact Statement receives the challenges that it deserves is from this “public input”.
Think about this: There is only one reason for developing an Environmental Impact Statement… and that reason is to make sure that the project goals and objectives can stand up to any and all challenges. We must be perfectly clear, these challenges are not only in the area of science, but also in the areas of cultural, social, and spiritual impact… unless of course we are going to say the “United Nations’ Millennium Statement on the Environment is all wrong?”

Kofi Annan, the head of the United Nations has just proclaimed that defending the environment and defending our ecosystems that provide fresh water is part of the campaign to defend human rights, eliminate poverty, and protect the cultural connections people have with their ecosystems. When we judge the actions of U.S. Congressman James Oberstar and Mr. Brice in accordance with where the entire world stands on this question, what is the verdict? I would implore Commissioner Merriam to view this strip-mining permit he signed in this light, and now use his authority--- the authority which he has--- to revoke this permit.

And now Koochiching County Commissioners want to blow the small community of Margie completely off the map and destroy the rock formation it sits on for the purpose of getting more road building materials and rip-rap to complete the roads into the Big Bog strip-mining site so this huge foreign multi-national corporation can truck away the profits. Eventually, according to everything that has taken place, there will be a two-lane paved state highway to this site in the Pine Island State Forest at the “Old Ranger Station” so it is more convenient for Berger, Limited to haul away their profits--- as our resource, the Big Bog is destroyed. Why else would they have paved this stretch of road if they are still going to be hauling the peat down this stretch of gravel road? Come on, think about this. If you haul on gravel from here to here… does it really make any difference if you have to go this short distance to the Sturgeon River on gravel? These people are playing us all for fools here. They intend to build a two lane paved highway from Washkish to Big Falls… this is their intent.

I believe we are dealing with a strip-mining operation that will eventually consume approximately twelve to fifteen square miles. The handwriting is on the wall. No one undertakes this kind of road building and infrastructure expenditures to mine peat on 240 acres a year for fifty years!

Come on, these people are playing us all for fools. Congressman Oberstar should forget about strip-mining the peat from this bog and worry about how he is going to protect the futures of working people on the Range and up there in the Falls where Boise runs a company town and treats workers in the mill like disposable commodities… kind of like toilet paper… use it, abuse it, flush it. The Big Bog is not a disposable commodity like toilet paper.

The injustices are clear.

The issues are well defined.

Racism; Genocide; Environmental Destruction; poverty wages; union busting; circumventing the democratic process. This is raw capitalist globalization at its worst.

One has to wonder how human minds could possibly concoct such a hair-brained scheme to destroy this pristine bog and an entire Indian Nation in one fell swoop!

I guess leave it to a guy named, “Shaky.”

Why? For what?

Here is a clue; this is the International Falls Daily Journal dated Tuesday, March 1, 2005--- this newspaper is the mouthpiece for “wise use of natural resources” according to the Boise Corporation. This is the headline: “The secret is in the soil.” This headline might have been more aptly titled: “The profit is in the soil.” Then it would have been more truthful and we would have an easier time understanding why this strip-mining destruction of the Big Bog is taking place.

Longtime Congressman Jim Oberstar has held up forty jobs--- non-union, poverty wage jobs… part-time jobs at that because you can’t strip-mine peat in the winter when the ground is frozen--- as the bait to suck us into supporting this scheme. But what about the people of the Red Lake Nation, whose lives, income, and jobs have been built around this bog for hundreds of years, and who continue to rely upon this bog?

Let me just include here that the people of the Red Lake Nation have a much different approach to land ownership than many people do. Red Lakers for years have believed that the land belongs to the Nation and not to individual private owners. In my opinion, this has been the key to Red Lakers defending their sovereign nation status. Without this “common ownership” of the land this Nation might have been sold off piece-meal by now. In my opinion this is what strengthens our struggle to protect the Big Bog which is located in the Pine Island State Forest… to have allies and neighbors who understand “common ownership” of the land. As Minnesotans we should consider ourselves very fortunate to be sharing this bog with Red Lakers rather than with Boise, Potlatch or Koochiching County Commissioners like Mike “Shaky” Hanson.

Again, to quote former Red Lake Nation Chairman Roger Jourdain, “… This bog is the life-blood of my people; destroy this bog and you destroy my people, and our sovereign Red Lake Nation…What about Red Lakers, do they have a right to have a say in all of this?” As you look at this map, keep in your mind the fact that the Red Lake Nation shares ownership of the Big Bog with the people of the State of Minnesota; No one can say otherwise. This point is of paramount importance. Focus on this point. Mother Nature does not create well defined lines that a map-maker can pencil in when it comes to ecosystems. This is a shared bog and we are fortunate to be sharing this bog with people who understand its importance in the larger scheme of things because it is quite apparent the circus performers down in the cities do not understand.

Those who view this strip-mining of the Big Bog as a job-creating project are very, very shortsighted, because ultimately, the destruction of the Big Bog will destroy the very ecosystem that thousands of Minnesotans up in the North Country rely on for jobs in the forestry and related industries… again, just look the map--- this bog is the primary aquifer, just as Roger Jourdain asserted for many years. Destroy this aquifer and you destroy not only the Red Lake Nation… you destroy yourselves. There is a heavy price to pay for racism.

Like strip mining the bog for peat, racism just doesn’t pay for working people. Corporations profit from racism in many ways and working people always lose.

We don’t a need a foreign company offering more poverty-wage paying jobs up here in the North Country. We don’t need the jobs of a foreign company destroying this ecosystem. What we need is for the existing jobs to pay real living wages. We need forty-hour workweeks at real living wages; instead of 50 and 60-hour work weeks at poverty wages. Are there any lights going on upstairs in any heads? I wonder. Maybe the filaments in all the bulbs are burned out. Something to think about.

Unions need to organize the unorganized workers, not support the destruction of the Big Bog and more casino ventures when 14,000 to 20,000 Minnesotans now work in casinos without any rights, for poverty wages… many up here in the North Country. We need to win the right to collective bargaining and a union contract with Red Lake Gaming Enterprises, a business owned by the Red Lake Nation. I think when this casino issue comes to a vote that the people of the Red Lake Nation are going to show they have had it with the casino business. More and more people are recognizing that long term debt equals long term poverty. More and more people are coming to the realization that we don’t just need more jobs. We need real jobs that pay real living wages.

You see, these issues are intricately connected, just like the fragile ecosystems of the Big Bog… poverty wage paying employers stick together… it doesn’t matter who they are… defense of their profits at the expense of the workers they employ at cheap, poverty wages is the name of the game. The game is called capitalism. Capitalists will always sacrifice the welfare of the workers and the environment in quest of the almighty dollar.

Last year Bush went to Maine for Earth Day, and said he is doing better than saving wetlands… he is creating wetlands! All the while he knew the Big Bog was being destroyed because federal funds were being used to build the roads and dig the ditches.

This is the Alaska Wilderness being played out in our own backyard. Can we turn things around here in Minnesota? We have a chance to give real life to a new kind of politics that puts the needs of working people and our living environments before corporate profits as we struggle to save our bog.

There are only two known sources of wealth: Mother Nature and human labor. We cannot allow the continued rape of Mother Nature alongside the continued exploitation of human labor without challenging this in the same way we need to challenge this Environmental Impact Statement. To allow this situation to continue is foolish. We are in deep shit because of this and if we accept the present way of doing things we are only getting ourselves stuck deeper in a rut.

Talking about ruts. I don’t quite understand the logic of some people who call themselves environmentalists who will speak out in opposition to ATV’s making ruts in old logging roads but they are now quiet as a one square mile hole six to ten feet deep is being gouged out in the bog?
After subjecting the Big Bog to the destruction of strip-mining for the next thirty to fifty years, beginning with more than one square mile--- which likely will expand to include an area of many more square miles [again look at the location they are starting in and where the test holes have been dug] --- how will this last pristine bog in the lower forty-eight ever be replaced? Only a complete fool would talk of reclamation of such an enormous environmental destruction for corporate profits.

Look at the location… smack dad in the middle of three Scientific Natural Areas! Areas where you can’t pick a cranberry or kick over a pebble without getting fined.

And if reclamation were to be attempted… who will pay? If Berger, Limited, out of Quebec, Canada--- a huge multinational that operates world-wide will not even pay for the roads into the site or any of the preparatory work like land clearing; does anyone really believe this multi-national corporate pig is going to hang around to pay the costs for trying to reclaim the Big Bog to its natural state as those pushing this boondoggle, mired in racism and corruption, claim?

Wetlands and bogs are delicate ecosystems; once we destroy these ecosystems, we don’t replace, or reclaim them!

Wetlands and bogs are Mother Nature’s preventive medicines that help to heal ecological problems. We are killing the healer and throwing away the medicine. I guess in a country that doesn’t have socialized healthcare for the people we shouldn’t find it strange the corporate world views our living environment in any other way than in terms of trucking away the profits.
Wetlands and bogs are home to many species which include some of the most delicate plants, many trees, a myriad of insects, and many animals depend on these wetlands and bogs for survival. In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that these wetlands and bogs play an important role in our own survival on planet earth.

I have taken pictures of moose in the Big Bog… Here is the picture of three moose, taken only a few miles from the mining site… here is where this picture was taken just this past fall… here is the mining site… here are pictures of moose tracks I photographed on the day I took this picture, just yards from where the dozer blade touched down. I have seen a pack of timber wolves out seeking their prey. I have watched fisher and marten seeking their next meal in the bog. As I photographed this destruction of the Big Bog I took photographs of fresh moose tracks not fifty feet from the devastation. Here is a picture of a dead fisher killed on number 30 going into Big Falls. I am sure these big double bottoms that will be hauling peat out of this bog twenty four hours a day seven days a week will be leaving behind lots of roadkill… something this EIS never considered. Beavers once called this home. Look, this is the beaver dam they broke and drained the impoundment… right on the entrance to the site. Mr. Smith the Army Corps project manager says he never saw a beaver damn. I don’t think Mr. Smith ever visited this site. The beavers have been poisoned out of their homes in order to dry out the peat so huge two-story vacuums pulled by huge tractors can suck up the peat as mercury is spewed into the atmosphere. Is this a good trade-off?

The mercury laden water will be drained through ditches into an intricate series of fens, creeks, and small streams until it finds its way into the Sturgeon, Tamarac, and Black Rivers--- carrying mercury contamination into the two Red Lakes (Upper and Lower) and into the Rainy River which flows into Lake of the Woods, where I live, fish, trap, and hunt--- on the edge of another bog.

Let me also point out another great boondoggle, because many of you have heard about the miraculous walleye recovery now underway in the Red Lakes due to a long drawn out restoration of this once tremendous fishery that provided many Red Lakers with income and included a co-operative fish processing plant owned and operated by Red Lakers where many people had good jobs.

But, what destroyed the fishery that existed up to not too many years ago? Many, like myself believe that it was the United States Government’s Army Corps of Engineers (the same outfit that Congressman Oberstar twisted arms to let permits for strip-mining the Big Bog) which placed “flood control structures, the one in this photo, including a dam at the outlet of Lower Red Lake, preventing normal spawning from taking place… and then blaming Red Lakers for over harvest, which I am sure was a factor, but not the primary factor that led to destroying this fishery. Now you will be able to catch huge 26” to 30” walleye and many good eaters, again… the problem is… what will you be eating? Mercury contaminated fish with mercury levels continually rising due to strip-mining the Big Bog. Are we supposed to say, “Yummy, yummy, yummy?”

Already family doctors are warning pregnant women not to eat fish from local waters because of high levels of mercury. Does it make any sense that we would intentionally cause these levels of mercury to raise just as the fishery is making a comeback?

I’m not a gambler, but if I was… and if I was really interested in creating jobs, I would put the money now being wasted on this peat strip-mining boondoggle, and give it to the Red Lake DNR for projects to overcome all the problems created by what the United States government and the state of Minnesota have done over the years to harm and hamper the efforts of the Red Lake Nation to resolve the problems forced on their Nation over many years--- problems created by our state and federal governments--- the best governments that corporate money can buy! What we would all learn would be money well spent.

As we approach Earth Day 2005, I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to the long legacy left to us by Roger Jourdain who so eloquently showed us the way to defend our ecosystems. This legacy makes a mockery of the “wise use” policies that have been forced upon us by the Pillsburys, the Washburns, the Weyhausers, The Boise Corporations and the Potlatch’s over many, many years. The legacy left to us by Roger Jourdain who pioneered the real “environmental movement” in teaching us to understand that civilization can advance in harmony with Mother Nature. That is a very important concept; quite different from the perverted “wise use” concept promoted by the corporations and their flunkies who they have placed in control of our natural resources... and our schools.

Wetlands and bogs protect our fragile ecosystem in many ways.
How we treat wetlands and bogs are indicators of how humankind interacts, and respects Mother Nature.

Big business views bogs and wetlands as wasted lands. They see only potential corporate profits in wetlands and bogs… only when they are drained and mined or have shopping malls built atop them are they of value.

Wetlands and bogs are drained into straight running ditches to enable corporate agribusiness to farm from fencerow to fencerow, and to strip-mine peat--- this contributes to flooding, and higher levels of mercury contamination.

Wetlands are drained to make way for mines, shopping malls and factories, thus destroying wildlife habitat and nesting areas for ducks and geese.

Wetlands and bogs are separated from the streams, rivers, and lakes they replenish. Roadways become dikes, destroying spawning areas for fish.

If you think United States Congressman Jim Oberstar understands anything about ecosystems I would urge you to go visit the Hibbing Taconite operation and see where they drain all the wastes. This guy is a real Democrat in the true meaning of the word going back to the days when the Democratic Party in Minnesota supported slavery and the complete rape of the land. There is nothing Farmer-Labor about this guy. He doesn’t even know that “L” is for “Labor.” Look at the Range under his leadership… it looks just like Appalachia and working people face the same kind of poverty they do in Appalachia… Oberstar’s ideas about the environment and labor are no different from that great philanthropic Democrat in West Virginia… Mr. Rockefeller… pits, poverty, pollution! I have been to Appalachia many times; my grandmother and grandfather are buried in that little cemetery in Gilbert, Minnesota overlooking the destruction wrought by Mr. Rockefeller and his gang of capitalist plunderers. I tell you… the environment and the social conditions of the Range and Appalachia are identical… only the dialects of peoples voices are different and coal is black and taconite is grey… the poverty, the pits, the pollution… its all the same; whether I stand on my grand parents grave or on top of “Old Smoky,” as a worker it looks the same. And this is no coincidence. The Rockefeller boot print is what has shaped the politics of Minnesota… from logging to mining and the railroads to the statehouse… so it is no coincidence that we are left with pits, poverty, and pollution here in Minnesota just like they have in the coal fields of West Virginia. Congressman Oberstar has been a get along, go along kiss ass to the Rockefellers from the day he was elected. He talks a good talk but it ends there. He should now resign or face a stiff challenge from a real Farmer-Laborite.

Massive bogs are turned into “horticultural development areas” and stripped of the peat for profit--- altering ecosystems that it took Mother Nature millions of years to create. These large bogs are like “sponges” that absorb melting snow and heavy rains. When we lose these “sponges” the result is flooding. When we lose the water that these bogs hold--- lakes and rivers and forests lose the water they need to recover during periods of lesser snowfalls, rains, and periods of drought.

These bogs are natural “Brita” filters for water we drink. Do any of you have one of those expensive plastic jugs called a “Brita Filter” at home? Here is a “Brita water filter” that I paid six dollars for… here in this picture is our bog… it filters the water for free. State Representative Brita Sailer might keep this in mind as she refuses to move forward to create legislation to protect the Big Bog by saying the strip-mining is taking place in Representative Irv Anderson’s district, and he refuses to address this issue; he won’t even return calls. Why is it so difficult for Brita Sailer and other legislators to understand, that we are talking about the health of an entire bog, a complete ecosystem that other ecosystems depend upon? Why is it so hard for Minnesota legislators to look at a map to understand that the Big Bog is jointly shared and owned by the Red Lake Nation and the State of Minnesota? Look at a map; see for yourself. The Big Bog is jointly shared and owned, just like I say. When a resource is jointly shared and owned one partner does not have the right to determine how that resource should be used or protected--- in this case destroyed. Partners make joint decisions. And I don’t think you want a foreign multi-national corporate pig making your decision for you? I know I don’t!

We have a circus supreme in St. Paul right now… and I am not talking about the Shrine Circus or Dr. Seuss’, “Circus MaGircus.” I would suggest that as we fight to stop any further destruction of the Big Bog we think about creating a new kind of political movement that places the needs of people and the environment before corporate profits. Look at the circus down there, you be the judge. You want to see this continue?

In my opinion we need to closely study the political legacies of Roger Jourdain, Floyd B. Olson, Elmer Benson, and John Bernard. In my opinion, we need to be thinking about building an alternative to the two parties of big-business that only have environmental destruction and poverty wages to offer while corporate pigs wallow in the profits and control the wealth that Mother Nature and human labor create together.

What can I say… look at this circus in the Cities… instead of raising the minimum wage to a living wage they want more casinos paying poverty wages; instead of creating a publicly owned wind energy manufacturing and power generating industry they want to use valuable farmland to grow corn to fuel gas guzzling automobiles instead of using farmland to grow crops to feed people… and these are the great-great-grandchildren of those who conquered this continent and told the First Nation Peoples they didn’t know how to use the resources wisely and needed to be “civilized” and “educated,” notice I put civilized and educated in quotes. We have the stupid teaching more stupidity. If you will mouth the corporate line without challenging it you qualify to teach in any college or university… if you don’t believe me go sit in the classrooms right here at Northland Community and Technical College… you will be taught racism and the virtues of this rotten capitalist system; and you will be instructed not to challenge the rest of the flunkies the capitalist have hired to run their rotten system.

I don’t want to run down all teachers because there are many that are bucking the system… but as a general rule they aren’t. I don’t want to get away from environmental issues… but you know, education is a major factor in environmental issues… how many school buses do you see carrying kids from their classrooms out to the Big Bog destruction where the kids can really see for themselves and get a real lesson in ecosystems and environmentalism together with political science and economics all at the same time?

I was driving up Highway 46 north of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, actually five miles north of Squaw Lake--- the other day, right here on the map, and I saw a huge sign that read: “Timber harvest in progress to improve wildlife habitat.” While logging is needed by modern society, we should not justify what we are doing--- and trick ourselves into thinking that what we are doing is for the benefit of Mother Nature, or to improve wildlife habitat--- when it is really being done to improve the human condition, and more often then not with one, and only one, objective in mind… to bolster corporate profits in the shortest time, at minimal costs, and with virtually no long term planning or the protection of ecosystems in mind.

The only program the Bush/Pawlenty Administrations have when it comes to our living environment, is to say, “The hell with the environment and protection of delicate ecosystems; full speed ahead to grab maximum profits from Mother Nature using workers paid poverty wages.”

Did you know Pawlenty has contracted out reforestation projects in Minnesota, including tree planting, to “independent contractors” who hire cheap labor from South America? These “independent contractors” pay these tree planters by the job--- which amounts to less than $2.50 per hour! At least that is more than those cutting balsam boughs and those making Christmas wreaths--- by the piece--- with the balsam boughs earn! What is Minnesota coming to? The poverty wage capital of North America where you can’t even get a drink of fresh water?

Bush and Big Business exploit both our labor and Mother Nature… ruining the lives of working people and destroying Mother Nature and our living environment in the process. Worse yet, in the case of the Big Bog an entire nation, the Red Lake Nation faces destruction right along with the Big Bog… as I have said, the United Nations has a name for this: racist genocide.

Think about this: there are only two sources of wealth--- one is Mother Nature, the other is Human Labor… under this capitalist system both are abused and exploited for corporate profit. In fact, greatest corporate profits are derived when cheap human labor is used to rape the land! What does that say about a social/economic system? Not much, in my opinion, other than we need to get rid of the system.

The one and only objective of Big Business is maximum corporate profits… this is the nature of the economic system that Floyd B. Olson and Elmer Benson, Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor Party Governors, told us needed replacing over 70 years ago. They were right then; and this is proving even more correct in our times as capitalist globalization is laying claim to, and destroying our living environment… and us in the process.

On this Earth Day 2005, come take a walk out in our Big Bog… you be the judge; what is in store for our children and our grandchildren and the many generations to come if we allow this destruction of the Big Bog to continue?

Will President Bush, Governor Pawlenty, and Congressman Oberstar come to pose in bi-partisan unity with the destruction of the Big Bog as their backdrop on Earth Day 2005? Have you ever seen the pictures of all the students from a school taken by a photographer from up on the school roof?… Well, right at the edge of the strip-mining operation there is a stand that I understand has been used by a nature photographer over the years as she photographed moose, beaver, black bear, and timber wolves. Let’s ask all Minnesota legislators to come and have their pictures taken where moose used to stand… where a large cat, not a cougar, but a huge Caterpillar has begun to make way for the strip-mining to proceed. Let’s see how such a picture will play out in the next election? What politician will campaign for re-election using their photo in the midst of the Big Bog destruction?

I asked the manager of the Big Bog State Park to hold the picture of the Big Bog destruction I took while I photographed him holding the picture… naturally, he begged off.

Why is Brita Sailer pushing for a Big Bog Interpretive Center to the tune of millions of dollars when the destruction of the Big Bog is underway without her objections or offering legislation to stop it? Do her plans call for building a boardwalk out to the strip-mining so tourists can gawk at the huge machines as they tear up the Big Bog and vacuum up the profits? Leroy Stumpf?… another lost cause.

Will Congressman Oberstar invite the people of the Red Lake Nation to come out to the Big Bog on Earth Day 2005 for a picnic lunch and pass out hotdogs like the bank did at the IGA in Red Lake and then pick up and leave? Will environmental organizations come out into the destruction of the Big Bog to set up their tables with literature and displays?

Did you know that there was no meaningful Conservation Department or Department of Natural Resources in the State of Minnesota until popular, socialist Floyd B. Olson, the Farmer-Labor Party Governor of Minnesota, established it in the 1930’s? These were the days when the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party really stood for something. In those days people understood that capitalism was in its twilight and was going the way of the setting sun; and people were aware that cooperative socialism would replace this rotten capitalist system as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow. The Red Finns understood all of this.

Today, amid--- and due to--- all the confusion sown by those who administer our schools and those who control the media, things are not as clear anymore. There is muddle-headed thinking not only among university professors, but also in the ranks of our own labor movement. Quite frankly, I find the racist remarks directed towards the people of the Red Lake Nation from some of my sisters and brothers in the labor movement disgusting as we discuss this strip-mining in the Big Bog. There seems to be little understanding of class; and even less understanding that racism is tearing our labor movement apart. Our goal should be to build bridges to a cooperative socialist society, and a better world… we need to build a bridge that all working people can cross--- together. Racism and the lack of understanding of the class struggle makes it damn near impossible for us, as working people, to advance a progressive agenda that includes peace; single-payer, universal healthcare; the protection of our living environment with real jobs, that pay real living wages… we haven’t even touched wind generation of power… and, like I said, Minnesota legislators are so damn dumb that they don’t even understand that farmland is to grow food for people, not to produce fuel for gas guzzling automobiles… talk about stupidity!

Not understanding how all these puzzle pieces fit together makes it much more difficult for people to fight back and struggle for what is decent, right, and just.

Think about this: What could possibly be a more moral issue--- a family issue--- than saving the Big Bog from destruction at the hands of a greedy multi-national corporation? Yet, the same congressman, Jim Oberstar, who is against a woman’s right to choose… has orchestrated this dirty, racist backroom deal that will destroy an entire nation of people and carry with it mercury contamination that will deform the very fetuses he claims he wants to protect. Again, sheer stupidity. Have Minnesota politicians no shame in what they are doing? Something is screwed up. This is a United States Congressman now representing the Iron Range where John Bernard, the real Farmer-Labor Congressman during the 1930’s joined those in the mines, the forests, and the mills in organizing labor unions and fought to have the rights of Native Americans respected.

This is but one example of the way we have paid dearly for the sixty years of unfinished business… McCarthyism. I am a Red Finn and proud of it.
We must question what is going on in our state, and our country. We must begin to ask why all of this is going on.

Minnesota Farmer-Labor Governor Floyd B. Olson used to tour Minnesota stating, “Give me just one generation of boys and girls who are naturally predisposed to be inquisitive and eager to learn and let them be educated in the spirit of science and inquisitiveness; and we will have eliminated racism and exploitation for the future generations to come.” Now--- more than ever, we again need such a vision and voice to come forward from the ranks of our labor movement.

I bet you won’t find a voice like mine on the panel put together for the Earth Day event at the St. Paul Labor Speakers Forum. Why not? It is voices like mine and like yours that built the labor movement.

On this Earth Day 2005, make plans to bring your children out to the Big Bog up here in northern Minnesota. Let them see for themselves the destruction of the Big Bog now underway. Take the time to explain to your children why this destruction and the associated injustices are taking place; and we will have that generation of young people who will grow to adulthood putting an end to this rotten system that does these kinds of things against the environment and the human race.

Earth Day 2005…

Find a way to make Earth Day 2005 a day to protest the destruction of the Big Bog.

Join us on the Walleye Opener in Washkish, Minnesota on the shores of Upper Red Lake, the gateway to the Big Bog to say “NO” to this destruction.

We cannot do anything to heal the wounds of the Big Bog that have been ripped open by the huge machines driven by corporate greed; united, the people can halt further destruction and make these greedy corporate pigs pay for the destruction they have already caused.

Please take a few moments to call or e-mail:
Minnesota State Senator John Marty, the Chair of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources: 1-800-920-5867
Phone: 651-296-5645

Carlos Mariani, the DFL Lead on the House Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources:
Phone: 651-296-9714

Or e-mail DNR Commissioner Gene Merriam:

Commissioner Merriam has full authority to revoke this peat mining permit. He should use that authority now.

As you begin to plant your gardens, do not purchase any Scott products or Miracle Grow Products because Berger, Limited is Scott’s and Miracle Grow's supplier of peat products.

… Let them know you want action in the form of legislation to stop the destruction of the Big Bog and to give this pristine bog the protection it requires--- forever.

After Earth Day comes May Day. For May Day take your children to the Iron Range. Visit historic Mesaba Co-op Park, built by the cooperative organizations of the Red Finns. Take your children to the cemeteries on the Range where many of the gravestones they step upon will be the gravestones of those who gave birth to the real Farmer-Labor Party. The old Red Finns like my grandpa and grandma and the thousands like them, ordinary working people who had the courage to think for themselves rather than letting the boss do their thinking for them… they won’t mind you stepping on their graves… they will smile, knowing a new generation is rising up, a generation that will have no choice but to fight for socialism if they want to survive.

Capitalism is the system of the bankers, the mine owners, the Bergers, and the casino operators; socialism is the workers’ system of protecting our living environment and of living wages, of quality public education, and universal healthcare.

As we look around this room we might be inclined to say, “What can this small group of twenty or so people do confronting these looming problems that seem so huge?” This is how movements begin. One, by one, by one. We talk and from here you go out and talk to your friends. How many people will each of you talk to in the next week… count them all… your children, your friends and neighbors, your co-workers… you might talk to twenty people or more in the coming week. Get a few photocopies of some of these things I have here made, pass them around. From this small group of 20 we will reach out to 400 people! This is the way movements grow. Movements have to be nurtured and given tender loving care, just like the tomato seeds you plant and the garden you will tend. We can make a difference. We can change things… If we work at it… together.

I appreciate the opportunity you have given to me to speak here today in Thief River Falls, home to the historic Floyd B. Olson Memorial Park.

I hope you will join us in trying to halt any further destruction of the Big Bog.

Again, thank you for giving me a forum and the opportunity to express my views; the opportunity denied me by the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

Let us work together to make Earth Day 2005 a day to remember.
Since I spoke here in Thief River Falls last I have learned that in the early 1900’s Thief River Falls had a socialist city government. Someday soon the red flag will fly over city hall here again. But for now pick up one of the new blue Legislative Manuals spread out over tables. They are free. We need to build a powerful movement to stop this destruction of the bog and there is a lot of useful information to help us do that in these manuals.

I hope you will all stick around. We are going to play a short movie about Minnesota Farmer-Labor Congressman John Bernard. The short video is called, “A Common Man’s Courage.”

I will be happy to take any questions or engage in a discussion about anything.

Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Red Lake Casino, Hotel, and Restaurant Employees’ Union Organizing Committee

“A union contract is better than a government anti-poverty program, and it costs the taxpayers a lot less…Four rolls of quarters, per employee, per hour; this is all it will take for casino workers to have real living wages, real benefits, and a voice at work… this is what we are fighting for.”
Alan L. Maki, addressing a group of Minnesota Legislators