Local View: IRRRB snub of Fond du Lac funding a part of our 'white-supremacy problem'

Wild rice harvesting and the sustainability of wild rice, Minnesota’s state grain, are at stake in the debate over Minnesota's sulfate standard. Photo by Cheryl Katz

The response of the IRRRB to the Fond du Lac Band’s request for help in getting clean water was nothing less than shocking (“IRRRB tables Fond du Lac funding over band's 'anti-mining' stances,” June 11). It clearly reflected the current mining industry’s position of bullying and hostage-taking in the face of disagreement.

The band has a duty to protect the health and welfare of its members. It opposes pollution.

According to the band’s Rita Aspinwall, “Mining, the way it currently operates and is regulated in Minnesota, has destroyed wild rice, worsened the mercury in fish problem, and fundamentally destroyed and degraded thousands of acres of important natural and cultural resources.”

Is the band supposed to ignore the above in order to please the various mining companies as well as the IRRRB?

The arrogance of the members of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, who presumably vote on behalf of us who benefit from taxes on mining, defied belief. Are they happy to deny clean water to Native Americans who, presumably, had sufficient clean water before colonization of and industrialization close to their land?


The effects of mining most familiar to me are from the Greens Creek Mine close to Juneau, Alaska. A 2015 field report by Friends of Admiralty indicated that Hawk Inlet shellfish had high levels of heavy metals compared to elsewhere in Alaska and compared to historic levels in the inlet. The pattern of metals suggested considerable bioaccumulation of arsenic, copper, lead, nickel, and zinc in several deeper-dwelling edible and key food web invertebrates.

Mining has had a direct, destructive influence on the Native community of Angoon, located 40 miles south of Greens Creek, which is dependent in part on eating locally available food. An illuminating documentary is titled, “Irreparable Harm” and can be found at

Ironically, a spokesperson for the Greens Creek Mine alleged that, “At Hecla Greens Creek, virtually everything we do is designed to care for and protect our very special part of Alaska — and the people who live nearby.” You who enjoy dining on wild-caught Pacific salmon may also be consuming arsenic, copper, lead, nickel and zinc, compliments of Greens Creek Mine or one of the many other coastal mines in Alaska.

Greens Creek presents a perfect template for the importance of mining differently. It has failed the Alaskan population, both Native and white, despite involvement by the state Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

I am astounded that some people in Minnesota, primarily on the Iron Range, are willing to be snookered into thinking that things will be different, given that there have been no substantially different methods of mining presented. The Fond du Lac Band is well advised to oppose pollution, given the historical precedent locally as well as nationally.

It is hard to understand how IRRRB Board members Sen. Tom Bakk, Rep. Dale Lueck, and Rep. Dave Lislegard somehow seemed to imagine they weren’t part of the white-supremacy problem that has caused the country to explode recently. It seems as if these board members have put pandering to the mining industry above the band’s proposal, which was in compliance with the IRRRB’s requirements and scored well. Perhaps there should be an examination of the role of board members of the IRRRB and their obligation to represent constituents rather than their personal agendas.

Deb Manion of Duluth lived 22 years in Alaska near an underground silver mine with a history of spills and pollution.


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Deb Manion

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