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Citizen Voices Matter: In the Penokee Hills

About Joe Rose Sr.

Joe Rose Sr. is an elder of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe and serves on the Tribe’s Eco Defense Committee. He was a Director and Associate Professor of Native American Studies at Northland College where he taught for nearly forty years before retiring in 2007.

Why Joe is involved with protecting the Penokee Hills

“I’ve been harvesting wild rice since I was nine years old,” says Joe. “It is a part of our history that generations ago, the Anishinabe people settled in a place where ‘food grows on water.’ The wild rice that grows in the Kakagon Sloughs of Lake Superior has always been essential for our survival.”

The Bad River Tribe negotiated treaties with the United States government in 1837, 1842 and 1854. Since then, the treaties reserved ceded territory rights to Tribal members to hunt, fish and gather the food that helps sustain the Tribe’s health and spiritual lives.

If you visit Joe Rose’s land on the coast of Lake Superior, one of the first things he might do to welcome you is to offer you water from his artisan well. He might explain how gravity pushes water through the Bad River Watershed, is the source of the well’s water pressure, and that the ground water in the area is very clean and cold.

“People pay a lot of money for clean, bottled water in other places,” Joe says. “But we know that the water that comes out of our ground is pristine. The Bad River Watershed has many brook trout streams that have been designated as outstanding resource waters. We live at the bottom of this important ecosystem that includes the Tyler Forks, Marengo and Potato Rivers. They all lead to the Bad River and into Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water in the world. This water is far more valuable than the short-term profits that are coveted by the mining company.”

The ecosystem of the Kakagon Sloughs and the coastline estuaries of Lake Superior wetlands have been protected because of the commitment and treaty rights tribes like Bad River have had for generations. And with a proposed open-pit iron mine at the top of the Penokee Hills and the headwaters of the Bad River Watershed, Tribal members like Joe are working full time to educate people about the threat iron mining would be to their water, their land and their future.

“The truth is that a mine site of this size and nature has never been successfully restored anywhere in the world. Where ever there has been this kind of mining, the environment has been permanently altered. That’s why there will never be a mine in the Penokees. We want a future where our wealth is measured by clean water, fresh air, pristine wilderness and the value of the natural world that sustains us. And every day, we are meeting more people who are standing with us.”