Elder Joe Rose, “ceremony is winning environmental battles”

By IndianCountryTV Staff
 - Odanah, Wisconsin (NFIC) -

Paul DeMain: Boozhoo Joe, tell us who you are and where you’re from.

Joe Rose: Okay. Boozhoo Ikwewug, inninwug gia, Mokangizis, Mashkizibi indonjiba, ninmide innini indow. To translate, my Anishinaabe name is The Rising Sun. I’m Eagle Clan of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe. A member of the Grand Medicine Society called the Midewiwin.

I grew up in Old Odanah. The town has been moved since then. I grew up during the WWII era. It was a time of kerosene lamps, wood heat, outhouses, and we hauled our water from the town pumps.

I remember my brother and I, we slept in an unheated bedroom all winter long. I guess we were probably tough at that time, ‘cause we wore long johns and wool socks and put a stocking cap on, and sometimes the temperatures would get down around 35 or 40 below zero at that time.

I haven’t seen any winters like that recently. It was a pretty healthy lifestyle.

Sometimes we’d joke with each other and we’d say, “Well, we grew up on deer meat and potatoes,” but really it wasn’t any joke, because usually the evening meal was some kind of wild game. Either venison or maybe waterfowl or partridge. We ate a lot of rabbit back at that time because there was a very healthy rabbit population, snowshoe hare that is.

We ate a lot of fish also. We used to fish year round, and during the winter we’d set our nets under the ice so we had fresh fish all the time.

I remember I’d go down past the powwow grounds in Old Odanah, the existing powwow grounds now, and right there the Bad River takes a bend where the White River comes in to meet the Bad.

Historic 1909 post card photo of flooding with old railroad tracks washed out and with village homes off to the right side in what was the village of Odanah at the time. The steeple to St. Mary's Church can be seen in the center and is one of a dozen buildings still left in the area today. The pow wow grounds would be just to the right of the church.

There used to be an old, black, iron railroad bridge there, a big one. Then you’d go by there and you’d see all of these little kerosene lanterns down on the ice. You’d go down and the old guys would be down there maybe sitting on an orange crate with a kerosene lamp under the orange crate.

Looked like a little town down there. The ice was thick enough at that time that it was safe. Right now, I wouldn’t want to venture out on that ice, but that was an old tradition I remember. When I was a kid in grade school, we used to go down and fish.

There was a big Catholic mission just opposite on the other side of the road where we use to fish there. We’d get a lot of “lawyers” and we’d go over to the convent across the street, knock on a door, wake the nuns up, and they were always glad to get fish. We’d take fish over to them. I remember one time we took a deer over there, and we asked them. I said, “Do you know how to take care of that?” We know how to skin ‘em and butcher ‘em and everything. There was an old nun that was standing alongside. She said, “I grew up on a farm. I can take care of that.”

Anyway, we attended St. Mary’s Indian Mission School, and I graduated from the eighth grade at St. Mary’s Indian Mission School right here on the reservation. My mother had attended the same school when she was young, and when she graduated from the eighth grade, there weren’t any school buses that ran to the public schools in Ashland. She tried taking the train up to the high school, and the schedules didn’t exactly work out, so she’d get up at the train in Ashland and run up to the high school... It was probably close to a mile ... With books under both arms and it didn’t work out very well. Then she’d get reprimanded for being late for school and late for classes.

The streets of Old Odanah in 1909 during one of several floods that forced the community to eventually relocate.

She and her cousin, Clara Blackbird, they decided they wanted an education, so they went to the Great Lakes Indian Office and they signed up to go away to a BIA boarding school. They went to Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas. They had a program there, a pretty good program. Two years of business school. They both became medical stenographers.

They had a placement service there, so when my mother finished that program, they sent her over to Muskogee, Oklahoma where she worked at a big veteran’s hospital there. That’s where she met my father, my dad. He’s from Muskogee, Oklahoma. He played on that Oklahoma championship football team, the Muskogee Roughers. In his senior year, he made All-State, and I think that was back at a time when they went both offense and defense, so that was the 11 best players in the state of Oklahoma.

He was offered a scholarship to go on down to LSU. They were a powerhouse at that time and they’re a powerhouse yet to this day. But he met my mother and they got married, and my dad had worked in the oilfields because his dad had owned a wildcat Oil Company, and I guess they were drilling in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and he went down into Old Mexico, and the uncle that I’m named after, my middle name, Martin, I never knew him because he died down in Old Mexico. I think it was yellow fever or something like that when they were drilling down there.

Anyway, my dad bummed around the oilfields when I was real young, and then they moved back here to Bad River Reservation where my mother’s from. My dad spent the rest of his life here.

St. Mary's Church in Old Odanah as it is today

DeMain: Joe, a little bit earlier you said that at this time of the year people were fishing on the Bad River. Tell me why people aren’t out there now. They’re not going back out there around Christmas.

Joe Rose: Well, I don’t think the ice is safe now, for one thing. I wouldn’t want to venture out there right now. It’s just something that’s been very gradual.

DeMain: When you talk about utilizing resources and seasons, has there been a difference in when you can tap maple trees?

Joe Rose: For sure. In our language, Iskigamzige Giizis, that’s Maple Sugar Moon, and that’s pretty much April. We’re tapping trees and we making maple syrup in March now. And probably several weeks earlier than what a normal maple sugar season was years ago.

Now, my mother has a sugar bush down in the Bad River Platte. It’s about seven mile upriver from where the powwow grounds is. We’ve been making maple sugar there for, oh, about the past 50 years. We usually boil all night and take our sleeping bag down there, and we sleep in a lean-to. We made a lean-to there.

I remember when I was still working at Northland College. We were boiling at night and I was working during the day. There was usually about four of us down there, so we’d take turns getting up during the night to stoke the fires up.

During the past, oh, I’d say about the past five years now, maybe ten years, we’ve had two 50-year floods and probably maybe a hundred or even a thousand - year flood in the summer of ‘16. There was a big flood that my grandparents used to talk about in 1909, and then there was one that I experienced in 1946. I would have been 11 years old at that time, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.

Bad River Powwow Grounds during the 1,000 year flood, July 12th 2016

DeMain: Tell us a little bit about what you remember about July 11th, 2016.

Joe Rose: July 11th, 2016 I live out at the Waverley Beach campground. It’s on the shores of Lake Superior. There’s two creek [crossings] that you gotta cross to get out there.

I went to bed that night, and I had no idea that there was gonna be about five inches of rain overnight. It washed out both of those big culverts there. I couldn’t get out of there for oh, maybe about a week.

But we had plenty of wild rice and eggs. My friends had chickens there. We had plenty to eat. We finally found a narrow place in the creek and we got some campers out. They were friends of mine from Bad River Res here that were living in Madison. They had to leave their vehicles there for several weeks before they could come back and get them.

DeMain: Well, and once they got out of your culvert, what did they face here on Highway 2 and 13?

Joe Rose: Well, Highway 2 was washed out by New Odanah. where Denomie Creek is. Then there was another big washout on Highway 13, and then to get to our sugar bush, we had to go all the way around to Highway 13 ... We didn’t quite get to where it was washed out ... And we doubled back on Government Road to get to our sugar bush.

Denomie Creek Bridge on July 12th 2016

We went down there only to find out that the water level was about 7 foot 4 up the wall of our cabin. It almost covered the windows up. We took a tape measure and measured it. We built it high enough that normal high water would never get into the cabin.

Another thing that happened with these big floods is that it changed the riverbanks drastically. Where there used to be a gradual slope ... You could take a canoe and just paddle right up, step out of the canoe, and get up ... Now those banks are washed out. Just a solid bank there. So it changed everything.   

I think climatic change has a lot to do with it. We had several years of drought. We had birch borers and it had quite an effect on the birch trees in the area. In fact, you can’t find any of the great big birch trees anymore. Most of them are dying from the tops down. You’ll find the smaller ones, oh, maybe this big.

If you go out to gather materials to make a birchbark canoe, it will take you maybe three or four weeks just to gather materials before you even get started making the canoe. You’d probably spend about four times as much time gathering materials as you would in the actual construction of a canoe.

Also, those big sheets of birchbark were also used for the coverings for the wigwams. Now we’re using tarps to cover our wigwams. A lot of things have changed.



DeMain: When you think back a little bit to what Bad River represents in historical context and environmental issues, tell me a little bit about the battles that Bad River has had to try to preserve clean water in their environment here.

Joe Rose: We can go back ... I can go back personally about 40 years I’ve been involved in all of these things.

I remember an oil company called Terra Energy Ltd. Came in and wanted to drill for oil in Keystone Township Bayfield County, not too far from Lake Superior. They came in masquerading as a little wildcat oil company that was ready to go broke if they couldn’t get some variances on the zoning laws. They went before the zoning committees of Bayfield County and so on.

The fact that they met with them, it didn’t do any good, but they came back again and they were allowed to drill. But it was the Lac Courte Oreilles tribe and the Sierra Club that finally got an injunction against them. They started drilling a hole over there in Keystone Township. I guess they pulled out the same day that they were supposed to go to court.

We knew they were a subsidiary of somebody bigger, and I guess it was Amoco who had longstanding contracts with Petroleum company that specialized in offshore drilling. We could see the oil derricks in Chequamegon Bay. We were afraid of that.

Another one was there was a corporation out of Northern Minnesota. They called themselves Nutralysis. What they were was a garbage incineration company. They came in and they tried to convince the Ashland City Council to back them on a project that they wanted to build at the Ashland Industrial Park. That would involve a great big smokestack.

One of the excuses they used is that a byproduct of the incineration of garbage would be a lightweight aggregate used for building materials. We found out that that would apply to only ... The profit of that would be ... I forget. It was about 2% I guess, and the rest of the profit would be the incineration of garbage.

What they intended to do was to haul in about a hundred times as much garbage as the local landfill handled and incinerate it in one of the big smokestacks there at Ashland Industrial Park. We fought that one off. The mayor of Ashland at that time was in favor of it, and another councilman by the name of Dave Inman, they were in favor of it, and by the way, Dave Inman’s wife was the dean at Northland College and my boss. So I was tangling with him too and didn’t get too much support out of his wife for my program. But we felt it was pretty important.

Another one now was back in the early ‘70s. The paper mill in Ashland ... It was Marathon Corporation I think. Later it was American Can Company. They were dumping paper sludge directly into Chequamegon Bay. You could drive by there and look out at the breakwater and the lighthouse out there, and that water would be milk-white all the way out to that breakwater. What happened is that there were also mining operations over there in Minnesota, around Taconite Harbor. They were doing the same thing. Reserve Mining was dumping the paper sludge directly into the lake.

Well, anyway, they were taken to court when City of Dulith and other cities along the lake shore began discovering asbestos fibers in their drinking water.

I remember, was it early ‘70s, quite a few years ago, Judge Miles Lord sat on the bench, and his decision was that they were gonna have to quit dumping that into the lake and take it inland and find a landfill somewhere.

We found out that, oh, about a year or two later that our shallow water aquifer was contaminated, and that includes all of those wells and those pumps that the people use for drinking water, wash water, and so on. The prime suspect was the paper sludge that had been dumped in three different sites on the reservation.

DeMain: You also talked a little bit about the White Pine. Tell us about  that...

Joe Rose: Okay. I think that goes back to maybe about 95, 96, I can’t remember the exact date. But over at White Pine, Michigan, the Copper Range Mining Company had mined most of the high grade, or had mined the high grade ore over at White Pine, Michigan. So they proposed what they called, a solution mining project.

They were gonna pump about 10 or 11 million gallons of sulfuric acid in those abandoned mine shafts, in order to recover whatever copper was left there. So anyway, they started transporting sulfuric acid across a rickety old trestle on the south end of our reservation. You could walk out on that trestle, it’s probably maybe quarter, half a mile long. It’s pretty high off the river; the Bad River runs under it.

You could walk out on that trestle, and some of those railroad spikes you could pull them up by hand. Then there were great big trees growing up through the superstructure of that trestle. They were starting to transport sulfuric acid across that trestle over to White Pine, Michigan.

So anyway, Butch Stone was the head of Bad River Ogichidaa and other guys went down, and set up camp and blockaded the tracks for 28 days.

Track blockade, left is Joe Dan Rose, then a Bad River Council Member, Attorney Gene Linehan in white, behind Eagle staff on left is Edward Benton-Banai, front right is Butch Stone and Sandy Lyon on far right.

Our concerns were real because we remembered that Great Northern Railroad had dumped a carload of benzene into the Nemadji River over at Superior, and they had to evacuate that whole area. Wisconsin Central Railroad who was transporting this sulfuric acid across that trestle had an accident just about a year prior to that. I think over at Weyauwega, Wisconsin and they dumped something that was pretty carcinogenic over there.

So these guys blockaded the tracks. My son was on the tribal council, Joe Dan Rose, at that time and John Wilmer was our tribal council chairman. Those guys contacted the United States Justice Department, we got them involved, and we brought Wisconsin Central Railroad to the negotiating table.

So I remember there was BIA there, National Train Safety Board or Transportation Safety Board.

It was agreed that during the negotiation that we sat at a U shaped table. So the Wisconsin Central Railroad, their attorney, their troubleshooters and so on, sat one side and then Bad River Ogichidaa, our tribal council members, Joe Dan and John sat over there with our tribal attorneys.

I remember Ed Benton was the moderator for the meeting. So it was agreed that we’d would pass out an eagle feather and nobody else could speak as long as that person was speaking with the eagle feather. Everyone was allotted a certain time, I forget, five minutes or so to go around, round robin sort of thing.

When it came to my turn, first thing I did was to ask a. question. What kind of emergency procedures do you have should you dump a carload of this concentrated sulfuric acid into the Bad River?

He said, oh, we’re gonna have a tender behind the locomotive that’s loaded with powdered limestone. Then the engineer’s supposed to get out, after the crash, the engineer gets out and starts shoveling the limestone into the river in order to neutralize the acid. Well, I started laughing, I thought they were joking but that was their plan.

The negotiations gave the tribal council time to sit down and pass a resolution requiring a heavier gauge track for safety purposes. They knew what they were doing because the Wisconsin Central Railroad came back and said, well, if we have to lay a heavier gauge track, we’ll go bankrupt. We can’t do that and we’re gonna take you to court. Anyway, they never took the tribe to court so we pretty well put an end to the big smoke stack over at White Pine, Michigan. I think that was the biggest point source of airborne methyl mercury at the time, if I remember right.

DeMain: Gogebic Taconite came along recenlty, and they wanted to build a huge open pit in the Penokies and put a slurry pond. What would have happened if there had been a slurry pond on July 11th, 2016 in the Penokies?

Joe Rose: If there had been a slurry pond on July 11th, 2016, that mining discharge would have wound up in Lake Superior. All you had to do is take a look at some aerial photographs or even satellite photographs, and you could see that, that siltation plume extended beyond the islands, beyond Madeline Island out there. Chequamegon Bay was just blood red during that. That’s the same path that, that discharge would take, the sulfides and everything that goes with it.

Satellite Image of Lake Superior On July 14th 2016

Satellite Image Of Lake Superior On July 18th, 2016 6 Days After The Flood

What that would do is down through the Bad River watershed, most of that is wetland. It would affect everything, every microorganism at the bottom of the food chain all the way to the top. Not just the wild rice and other things, but everything, and we knew that.

I remember the Lac Courte Oreilles tribe, they set up a harvest camp down at the base of the Penokie Ridge in Iron County. They ran that camp for 24-7 for four years. There was somebody there tending the fires and so on for four years.

In Bad River, we went down and set up a ceremonial lodge in Ashland County on the Penokee Ridge. We did ceremonies there on a regular basis. I remember we did a lot of traveling, a lot of speaking engagements. I remember at one of those engagements, we went to Milwaukee and we went to the Church of the Great Spirit down there, a Native American Church, a Catholic church. We met in the basement, they asked for a pipe ceremony so we turned the pipe. Then we handed out tobacco ties and ask everybody to put a prayer into the tobacco ties. Then we collected all the tobacco ties to take home with us, and then had serious discussion about a lot of things.

So when we got home, we did a ceremony near some open water on the Tyler Forks River there, at the base of the Penokees. We probably put about oh, maybe 200, 300 tobacco ties in the water at that time. That’s just an example of one of the ceremonies that we did.

Another ceremony is we put out seven eagle feather staffs. One starting at the source of the Bad River, Lake Caroline and the eagle feather staffs all the way to where Bad River empties into Lake Superior. We had a great big ceremony where we decorated those seven eagle feather staffs with various clan colors, and there were different groups that would take out each one of those seven staffs. So we had a big feast right there at Lake Caroline, the source of the Bad River, before we planted the staffs.

I think that all the ceremonies and prayers that we did is really what defeated G-Tac.

Mining/Watershed Of Bad River

DeMain: You’ve had all these environmental battles and in the last year, the Bad River tribe declared that they no longer wanted to have oil lines carrying tar sands and fracked fossil fuels through the reservation. It’s like Bad River has been at the lead in all these environmental things. The latest one speaks against fossil fuels. Tell us about that battle.

Joe Rose: The Bad River Tribal Council passed a resolution saying that they were not going to renew the lease for line 5 that crosses the reservation. In fact, Line 5 runs within a half a mile of my maple sugar bush upstream.

I have an 80-acre maple sugar bush about seven miles upstream from where the powwow grounds are now, so I’m a bit concerned about that because that line crosses that river, is under the water there, and probably hasn’t been maintained since they installed it.‘52, ‘54, somewhere. Early ‘50s. Or early ‘60s I guess.

I think that the main concern was our water, and we have an awful lot of our wetlands on the reservation. All we have to do is to take a look at the environmental history of these corporations and we know that there’s been some major spills. Minnesota, Michigan and so on.

What we’re really concerned about too is not just locally here, but that line runs [alongside] the Mackinac Bridge. I guess they’ve done some studies on that and found that in studying the currents and so on that that would threaten Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron I guess, if you’d happen to get a break there.

What we’re really concerned about is the prospect of them transporting tar sands sludge through those lines. I guess they use over 500 different chemicals to soften that so they can pump it through the lines. Maybe not all at once, but I guess some of those things or most of those things are very carcinogenic, including benzine and others. That’s what we’re very concerned about right now.

Husky Energy Oil Refinery April 26. 2018. Enbridge pipeline #3 and other lines enter this refinery area from Minnesota, and lines #5, #61, #13, #6A, #14 and perhaps others exit this refinery which caught fire after an explosion, forcing the evacuation of several thousand people in a ten mile radius around Superior, Wisconsin

DeMain: You talk about ceremony. Tell us about the role of ceremony and tell us about the role of prophecy as you understand it and where we are today.

Joe Rose: Well, we were told by a shaman to start using our ceremonies, our sacred bundles and our sacred objects more often. That’s why we set up those two camps there at the base of the Penokee ridge. One in Iron County, one in Ashland County. We did ceremonies there on a regular basis. That is part of the reason that we’re able to prevail when our water and our air is threatened. We look seven generations ahead and ask ourselves “What are we going to be leaving to that seventh generation? Will they have fresh air and clean water? Will there be any wilderness left? What kind of a polluted world would they live in if we don’t do something?” That’s our mission right now.

"What are we going to be leaving to that seventh generation? Will they have fresh air and clean water?"

The same was the mission five generations back when two of my grandfathers sat down and signed that Treaty of La Pointe. The treaty of 1854 that established our reservations for the Lake Superior Ojibwe and Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and saved us from being removed from our ancestral homelands to the dry, arid wasteland west of the Mississippi.

We knew what had happened to some of the other tribes at that time, like the five civilized tribes of the southeast. The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole were all relocated.

I don’t think it’s hopeless. In fact, I’m not going to give up. We won most of these ... We’ve won all of these battles up to now. I think that grassroots activism is what can defeat any of these threats.

In our prophecies, we talk about the Age of the Seventh Fire. Neeswaswi-ishkodaykan. We talk about when Great Spirit came down to the earth out of Sky World and took dust from Mother Earth. Took it up to Sky World and placed that dust of Mother Earth into the sacred shell, the one we call the miigis, and breathes life into it, creating Anishinaabe. Anishinaabe then was lowered down through the clouds out to meet his mother. His mother was Mother Earth.

The first steps that Anishinaabe took on Mother Earth, he tread very lightly out of love. Out of honor and respect for Mother Earth. He had expressed some loneliness to the Great Spirit, so the Great Spirit sent him a companion, the one we call Ma’iingan, or the timber wolf. Anishinaabe and Ma’iingan, man and wolf they walked the earth together as Anishinaabe was naming all of the mountains and streams and all of the topography in the Creator’s garden.

The Creator called them back. They stood before the Creator and the Creator spoke to them. The prophecies Great Spirit told them: “Well, in many ways the two of you are alike. When you take a mate it will be for life. Your social order will be very complex.” Anishinaabe was given the clan system. Ma’iingan was given a wolf pack, a very complex social order.

“Both of you will make your living by the chase. Both of you will be excellent hunters.” Then the Great Spirit prophesied there were those that will come later that will hunt you for your hair.

The Great Spirit, through seven prophets, sent messages to the people. Right now we’re in this Age of the Seventh Fire. In the Age of the Seventh Fire it was prophesied that Anishinaabe people would turn and look back, begin to retrace their footsteps. Their footsteps would take them back to ancient times and ancient knowledge.  

The Anishinaabe were given a very special gift. We call it maashkiki.  What it means is ... loosely interpreted it means medicine. Along with that medicine goes the knowledge and wisdom of how to live in harmony and balance with all things in the natural world, with all four orders of Creation, the physical world, the plant world, the animal world, and the human world.

Along with a gift like that goes a great responsibility. It’s a responsibility of the Anishinaabe to go out and share this knowledge and wisdom of how to live in harmony and balance with the natural world. That’s what’s happening right now.

It was also prophesied that a new people will arise in this age of the Seventh Fire. They’ll take on a new paradigm or value system. Wealth will no longer be measured in terms of money, materialistic gain, political power and all of those egocentric things. True wealth will be measured in terms of clean water, fresh air, pristine wilderness and a restoration of the nature balance. It’s a responsibility of the Anishinaabe to share that.

A simple representation of the medicine wheel

On the medicine wheel we have four sacred colors. Red, yellow, black, and white. That medicine wheel represents many things. This is just one of them. But those four colors in Anishinaabe tradition represent the four races of human beings.

I didn’t get a chance to go to Standing Rock. I had too many other commitments, but I sent a bundle to Chief Arvol Looking Horse. I saw a documentary on what was happening near the Standing Rock Reservation, and what really impressed me is that there were people of all ages there, including young people, and people of all colors as well. All four colors on that medicine wheel. In a way, those prophecies are being realized in this new age of the Seventh Fire.

Women are the keepers of the water. We have ceremonies that are conducted. The women use copper vessels. That’s a red metal. That’s our precious metal. They do the songs and they make the offerings and it’s a form of communion that is used by our people. The same thing is true when we smoke the pipe and pass the tobacco around. It’s a form of communion.

Our sacrificial offering is asemaa. Asemaa is our word for Indian tobacco. They say that at one time there was one that came and stood beside Anishinaabe. This one’s name was Asemaa. Asemaa told Anishinaabe “Whenever you communicate with Great Spirit and the powers of the world, I’ll be there to stand with you and support you.” Then Asemaa passed on into the Spirit World, and from his grave there grew this plant.     

Indian tobacco was declared sacred. We use it whenever we tap a maple tree or harvest wild rice of kill a deer or whatever we do. We use tobacco ties as invitations to ceremonials, and it’s used in many different ways.

I think the tide will turn and enough people will wake up, and I know that grassroots activism is what can defeat any of this. You’ve got all of these multibillion dollar corporations, an international global economy and so on, that is buying politicians, political prostitutes that will put their rubber stamp on just about anything that they put in front of them, like what’s happening right now.

I think we get enough people educated, I think education is a part of the solution. I don’t think that a lot of these people know that they’re voting against their own interests. When they discover they’re voting against their own interests, I think the tide will start to turn. That’s what we have to educate. We have to get out and let people know what’s happening. The truth will prevail ...

Even though we have unjust laws that have been passed that will absolve these extractive industries of any liability for poisoning the environment, we can and we will beat it. It’s not hopeless.

Yeah there are those who say we’re living in the time of the quickening when everything is moving at an accelerated rate, like a runaway freight train. Socially, politically, economically, environmentally, and even spiritually. And in this age of the seventh fire, prophecy tells us that humankind will approach a fork in the road, and we’ll be confronted with a choice.

One fork in the road is a hard surface, our elders see that as the fast lane of unbridled technology that pollutes and destroys and upsets the balance of nature. The other lane is a more natural path. And so if we use some of the modern terminology, we might see Armageddon over here and Utopia over there. And so our elders tell us it’s very important that we return to the natural world. Teach our young people about the natural world.

We have to bring everybody back to a time when they realize that everything in the natural world has a spirit. The water has a spirit. The air, mother Earth, the plants, the animals, and all humans, they have a spirit.

I think that’s one of the reasons that our Great Spirit asked Anishinaabe to go out and name all things, because he knew as Anishnaabe walked the Earth that he would get to know those things. And once a relationship is developed then the next step is respect. Respect for Mother Earth and all things. And then you go one step further and out of respect comes the most powerful force in the universe, and that’s love. L-O-V-E, love.

And then once you learn to love all of these things, and once you make that connection, then you’re willing to stand up and fight against those that would come in and pollute the water, the air, our mother Earth, and so on.


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