Menominee Tribe Fights to Stop Controversial Mine

The Back 40 project threatens many of the sacred and beloved sites along the Michigan and Wisconsin’s Menominee River. The Menominee Tribe is fighting to prevent this project from damaging all of their sacred land.

This guest blog by Chairman Gary Besaw is a part of our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series on the Menominee River in Wisconsin and Michigan.

By now, a majority of the country and many around the world have heard of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the resulting opposition to that project. The collective opposition to the DAPL was truly inspiring. Unfortunately, serious threats to water happen far too often, and many play out without the benefit of national and worldwide attention. One of these fights for clean water is happening right now on the Menominee River which separates Northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. You may not have heard of the controversial proposed Back Forty mine yet, a project being pursued by a Canadian exploratory company named Aquila Resources, Inc., but you will and with your help thousands more will.

The Menominee River was recently named as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® due to the threats associated with the proposed Back Forty mine. The proposed project includes plans for a massive open pit metallic sulfide mine and processing facility located 50 yards from the Menominee River, a major Lake Michigan tributary and the largest watershed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The project poses significant risks to the clean water supply of communities near the mine site as well as down river and Lake Michigan communities. These communities are deeply reliant on the tourism and recreational industries which serve as an economic staple in the region. In addition, the surrounding ecosystem and sites of historic, cultural and religious significance to the Menominee Indian Tribe face the threat of destruction.

The project has received controversial approvals on three of the four permits required for the project, however the fight is far from over. The Menominee Indian Tribe and an adjoining landowner have challenged the mining permit approval. Additionally, review of the fourth permit, the wetlands permit, is just getting underway with a mounting opposition committed to the denial of the wetland permit.

An amazing side effect of the disastrous proposed Back Forty project is that it has awoken the collective spirits of people from all walks of life. As the public becomes more aware of the threats associated with this project, opposition to the project is quickly growing and includes tribal governments, national and regional tribal organizations, local city governments, local county governments, local township governments, national, regional and local environmental organizations, local citizen groups, local businesses, local fishing organizations, archeologists, and elected Wisconsin State officials. The widespread opposition across the social and political spectrum is telling of the dangers associated with the proposed project.

For the Menominee Indian Tribe, this project on the Menominee River, in Menominee County, MI, upriver from the City of Menominee, is deeply personal. The Menominee Indian Tribe is a federally recognized Indian Tribe, indigenous to the area. The Menominee Tribe’s place of origin exists within our 1836 Treaty area, at the mouth of the Menominee River. It was here that our five clans: Ancestral Bear, Eagle, Wolf, Moose, and Crane were transformed into human form and became the first Menominee thousands of years ago.

As a result of our undeniable ties to the Menominee River area, we have numerous sacred sites on the Menominee River, including the area of the proposed mine. These sites include burial mounds, places of worship, former village sites, and ancestral raised agricultural garden beds. Much like our brothers and sisters in the NODAPL movement, we also know that water is essential to life. The Menominee River is, after all, the very origin of life for the Menominee people. It also provides life to Michigan and Wisconsin residents and the natural wildlife within the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Please join us in asking the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to reject the pending wetlands permit and prevent the establishment of the proposed Back Forty mine.


Chairman Gary Besaw

The Menominee Indian Tribe’s rich culture, history, and residency in the area now known as the State of Wisconsin, and parts of the States of Michigan and Illinois, dates back 10,000 years. The Tribe’s members enjoy pristine lakes, rivers, and streams, over 219,000 acres of the richest forests in the Nation, and an abundance of plant and animal life.

12 responses to “Menominee Tribe Fights to Stop Controversial Mine

  1. It’s madding to think about Indian burials will be plowed through for a oil company. Would they plow through a white mans burial grave yards for a oil company ? Why ?

  2. My ancestors are buried along the Menominee river in Menominee Michigan. Their memories and afterlives are very important and precious. I am very concerned to think that their remains could be desicicrated and disrespected for a few dollars of profit by a mining company.

  3. It’s a shame that your ancestral homeland and namesake was polluted in the first place but now that recovery is progressing nicely this proposed sulfite mine is the LAST thing your people need! Most non native Americans should be ashamed of themselves for their ignorance of, and/or indifference to, the plight of the Original People. I am a cynical optimist, though. So keep up the good work and keep us informed and we will be there with you when things heat up as with the NODAPL movement.

  4. My birthplace was Crandon, Wisconsin, where the another proposed metalic sulfide mine was stopped. We will do it again…we MUST do it again. Failure is not an option!

  5. We are fighting alongside you to preserve this beautiful region of our country! The pristine beauty of these waters and surrounding land is absolutely stunning. I had no idea until I moved here with my wife some 9 months ago. Millions of dollars have been invested over the past years to clean up the Menominee River, as well as the Green Bay of Lake Michigan. The bald eagles have returned as have the white pelicans. The fishing is bountiful & world class competitions are thriving here. Tourism dollars will disappear almost overnight if this mine goes through and the environment becomes toxic, which it ultimately will. Remember, this is a sulfide mine which causes acid mine drainage.
    Cyandide will be used on site, which due to it’s highly poisonous nature, has been banned in the state of Wisconsin! Please stop this Back 40 Mine and save our future generations from a toxic wasteland.

  6. This river has flowed its natural course for eons and now with the coming of a new, save America and Americans first the government wants to destroy the life lines of the economy of the country and the food sources for wildlife and crops.

    Isn’t this insane thinking and planning at the most uncontrolled offices of government?

  7. Thank you for all you and your brothers and sisters do. We will prevail!
    SAVE THE RIVER! STOP THE MIVE!
    Sharing and Sharing again!

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