EPA puts PolyMet permit in serious doubt based on mine’s projected harms to Fond du Lac Band waters, and more

In this post:

  • EPA comes out against PolyMet mine based on threats to Fond du Lac Reservation waters
  • Indigenous women push Biden,Army Corps to stop Enbridge Line 5
  • Online presentation: Networks among colonial elites who profited as treaty signers
  • Indian Country in particular threatened should Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade

EPA comes out against PolyMet mine based on threats to the Fond du Lac Reservation

View of current (undestroyed) PolyMet mine site looking south. Photo: WaterLegacy.

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a strong blow to the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northern Minnesota. Its decision came in response to objections from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa about how the mine would pollute its waters.

The EPA concluded that wetland destruction permits previously issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to PolyMet under the U.S. Clean Water Act “would not protect the Fond du Lac Band’s water and the resources such as fish and wild rice,” according to the EPA website.

PolyMet could come back with a modified proposal to try to address EPA’s concerns, but the EPA comments said: “Any future modifications should include meaningful involvement of the Fond du Lac Band and the State of Minnesota to ensure compliance with both tribal and state water quality requirements.”

This news emerged during a hearing Tuesday held by the Army Corps on the PolyMet application for a permit to destroy wetlands. The public comment period ends June 6.

PolyMet’s downstream pollution would violate Fond du Lac’s federally-approved water quality standards, according to the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. Among other things, it would increase toxic mercury in fish in the St. Louis River headwaters. That pollution would flow downstream, harming Band members who rely on fish for subsistence and culture.

The St. Louis River has enough pollution problems already.

In 2020, the U.S. EPA committed $4.5 million to remediate the St. Louis River’s contaminated sediment. This year, the EPA announced it would invest $1 billion from the Infrastructure Bill for the Great Lakes “Area of Concern” project, including the St. Louis River.

It begs the question: Why put all this time, energy, and money into river cleanup if we are just going to approve projects like PolyMet that repollute the area?

The EPA seems to have gotten it right.

Indigenous women push Biden, Army Corps to stop Enbridge Line 5

Map showing both the existing Line 3 and the proposed reroute. The reroute would skirt the Bad River Reservation but it would go through its watershed, crossing some 900 waterways.

Indigenous women leaders and more than 200 advocacy organizations sent a letter last week demanding the Army Corps reject permits the project needs. Enbridge’s Line 5 runs 645 miles through northern Wisconsin and Michigan, ending in Canada. It moves millions of gallons of crude oil and natural gas liquids daily, according to an article in TruthOut.

The letter reads in part:

We write to you as concerned Indigenous grandmothers, mothers, aunties, daughters, sisters, and two-spirit relatives who seek to protect all that is sacred for future generations. We are of the Great Lakes, where food grows on water. The wild rice (manoomin) is our sacred food. In our traditions, we view the land and water, the plants and animals, and the birds and fish as our relatives. We hold a responsibility to protect our water, our ecosystems, and our cultural lifeways for the next seven generations. ….

We call on you to reject permits for the expansion of Line 5 in northern Wisconsin. This plan places massive risk squarely upon the Bad River Tribe and the Red Cliff Tribe against their will. Furthermore, we consider the pipeline construction an act of cultural genocide. Damage to the land and water destroys food and cultural lifeways that are core to our identity and survival. The pipeline would cut through more than 900 waterways upstream of the Bad River Reservation. The U.S. EPA determined that the plan “may result in substantial and unacceptable adverse impacts” to the Kakagon and Bad River slough complex. This is unacceptable.

Letter from Indigenous women

Read full letter here.

Online learning: Networks among colonial elites who profited as treaty signers

Join the Dakota County Historical Society and the Sibley Historic Site for a virtual presentation that lays out the connections between colonial elites who profited from negotiating and signing treaties.

The event is 6-7 p.m. on Friday, May 13. It’s free. Register here

Author Martin Case will present an overview of treaties between the U.S. and Indigenous nations. He wrote The Relentless Business of Treaties: How Indigenous Land Became U.S. Property (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2018). “He’ll discuss the family, business, political, and social interests that drove U.S. expansion across the continent,” a promotional piece said.

“Case is on the design team for Why Treaties Matter, an exhibit of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, and the Minnesota Humanities Center, on permanent display at the State Capitol.”

Indian Country threatened if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

The U.S. Supreme Court is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to draft opinion leaked to the media.

If the court reverses Roe v. Wade, it would have a particularly deep impact on Indigenous women who already face many barriers to accessing abortion care, according to an Indian Country Today article.

It quotes Rachael Lorenzo, Mescalero Apache and Laguna Pueblo, who has seen access problems firsthand. He is the executive director for Indigenous Women Rising, one of the only Indigenous abortion funds in the country.

“Wealthy, white women, in particular, will always be able to access abortion even after Roe,” he said. “They can go overseas if they needed to, but our people can’t.”

There’s a tragic irony in the Supreme Court’s expected ruling. In the past, the U.S. government brutally eliminated Native women’s opportunities to get pregnant and give birth.

In the 1970s, the Indian Health Service forcibly sterilized or coerced at least 25 percent of Indigenous women, and the number could be higher. In 1976, the U.S. Government Accountability Office discovered that 3,406 [Indian] women were sterilized without their consent, and that 36 were under the age of 21.

Indian Country Today

Full story here.

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