Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Tina Van Zile Presents at Western Mining Action Network – 2018 Biennial Conference

Uniting for Healthy Lands, Waters and Future Generations
Hosted by the Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwepemc Nation (SSN)
Kamloops BC, Canada | 27-29 September 2018
Thompson Rivers University

By Tina L. Van Zile

I was honored to be asked to be a speaker as part of a plenary panel. My topic was “The history, challenges, strategies and success in preventing the proposed Crandon Mine.” In order to prepare for the presentation, I had to reread many different documents so that the information was fresh in my memory because it has been 15 years since we stopped it.

First, I gave the general history of the proposed Crandon Mine, such as the size, what types of metals, tailings and how close it would have been to our reservation. Then I went into the challenges, and as I was going along it was as if I was reliving the moments that were so incredibly tough. It was at this point that my memory started to flood with information and I started to calm down because I was so nervous in the beginning. Then I went into some of our strategies, i.e. insisting the Army Corps have a separate EIS, developing our baseline data program, getting our traditional cultural properties recognized, etc.

At the strategy point, I had to expand on the fact that if it weren’t for all the alliances we had with grassroots organizations that we may not have won the fight. We had 31 native and non-native grassroots organizations that stood side by side with us. These alliances are often referred to as “unlikely alliances” because it was an extremely difficult time back then for us Ojibwe people as we were exercising our “spearing” treaty rights, while non-native people showed their hatred toward us.

But we overcame that and when faced with the reality of the proposed Crandon Mine everyone quickly realized we had to STAND TOGETHER if we were going to stop it. Because the proposed Crandon Mine would have not only destroyed the Sokaogon’s water and historic wild rice beds but it would have continued downstream to the Wolf River among other numerous waters. We all set aside our differences and came together, therefore the unlikely alliances.

I finished my presentation with the success story from 2002-2003 that lead to the purchase of the proposed Crandon Mine by Sokaogon Chippewa and Forest County Potawatomi. I got emotional at the end because my final slide in the presentation was of my daughter, Tashena, and my two granddaughters, Rikki and Athena, and I realized in that moment that our home was almost destroyed and these future generations wouldn’t have had what we had and I got teary eyed because I was so thankful the proposed Crandon Mine was PREVENTED!

As I was leaving the podium I looked back up and I had a standing ovation in a room filled with approximately 225 people. I thanked them and I was extremely humbled.