Tribes Appeal To United Nations Over UP Mines

Date of publication: 
2 May 2012

A tribe in the Upper Peninsula is appealing to the United Nations in an effort to restrain sulfide mining. The tribe hopes to strengthen its position through an international agreement signed by the Obama Administration.

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community says mines that produce sulfuric acid can pollute the water and threaten places sacred to tribes in the Great Lakes. The Keweenaw tribe fought the Eagle Mine, a new copper and nickel mine under construction in Marquette County. (The owner, Kennecott Eagle Minerals says it is leading a resurgence of mining in the Upper Peninsula.)

One of the issues raised was the mine’s proximity to Eagle Rock, a rock outcropping that has been used for sacred ceremonies. Eagle Rock is prominently cited in a document sent to the United Nations. It says tribes are overwhelmed by the development of new mines and the State of Michigan does not consider their cultures when issuing permits.

Many American Indian tribes are raising issues like these with the U.N. now because he the U.S. signed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in 2010. A U.N. official is visiting this week to gather information about implementing the declaration.

An attorney for the Keweenaw tribe says the declaration is not law, it’s a political document that sets out principles. But she says it could lead to new laws that would help tribes in the Great Lakes region oppose sulfide mining.

NB – Submission to Special Rapporteur can be downloaded here …


Bad River To Convene With UN Rep

2 May 2012

The Bad River Band, a federally-recognized Indian tribe in the Anishinabe territory of the Western Great Lakes Region of the United States, will meet with Professor James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and leaders from other indigenous nations at a consultation on human rights on May 1 and 2 in Mission, South Dakota.

According to a news release from the tribe, the Bad River Tribal Council intends to raise awareness of the serious and immediate threats to human rights and damages to lands and waters posed by mining activities in Anishinabe territory.

The UN Special Rapporteur is engaged in an official visit to the U.S. that began on April 23 and will continue through May 4. The aim of his visit is to assess the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in the United States, with special consideration given to the recent endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the U.S.

The UN Special Rapporteur intends to compile a report on the human rights condition of indigenous peoples in the United States for the UN Human Rights Council and for recommendations for the U.S. about how to address issues of ongoing concern to indigenous peoples.

The Bad River Band’s meeting follows the submission, with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, of a Statement of Information on Mining Activities Occurring in Anishinaabeg Territory to the UN Special Rapporteur filed [available here:].

The statement asserts that multi-national mining corporations active in Anishinabe territories have generated, and would continue to generate, billions of tons of toxic waste; toxic mining waste inevitably pollutes the air and waterways for generations, leads to the destruction of entire ecosystems and ultimately harms indigenous communities who depend on those ecosystems.

International standards, including the UN Declaration, recognize indigenous’ peoples’ right to self-determination, including the right to determine their own priorities for development within their territories and the exercise of free, prior and informed consent regarding activities affecting their lands, territories and resources, Bad River’s release explains.

“The UN Declaration recognizes our right to protect our water and land, and keep it clean for animals, fish, and future generations — any threats to the ground water, surface water, air quality or way of life are a Tribe’s call to action,” says Bad River Band Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins, Jr.

The Bad River Band sought a meeting with UN Special Rapporteur because mining activities could threaten the Band’s very existence, the tribe says.