My name is Sandra Skinaway and I am from the Sandy Lake Ojibwe Nation.
I come here today to speak on behalf of Protect Our Manoomin. Protect Our Manoomin is an Anishinaabe grassroots organization that works to educate our people on reservations about the dangers of non-ferrous mining and its effect on our manoomin. Protect Our Manoomin began in March 2011. We currently have 2100 supporters worldwide.
Protect Our Manoomin and its supporters are requesting the Commissioners to deny approval of the Resolution in Support of Non-Ferrous Mining in St. Louis County. We ask that you consider the following in denying approval.
The English word for manoomin is wild rice. The English translation doesn’t convey the deep meaning that manoomin has for Ojibwe people. Manoomin means “Good Berry.” Manoomin is rooted in our origin stories and traditional stories. It is a special gift given to us by the Creator. Manoomin not only provides food and an economic base for us, it also provides a spiritual and ceremonial connection. To us, manoomin is a living being that has been an inherent part of our culture for thousands of years.
The proposed establishment of extractive resource colonies in Northeastern Minnesota presents a clear and present to not only our manoomin but to the environment itself. Manoomin is a barometer of an ecosystem. Manoomin supports a healthy system of microscopic life, fish, waterfowl and wild life. The loss of manoomin directly impacts the ecosystem. In St. Louis County, there are 137 rivers and lakes that produce manoomin, covering 9053 total acreage of manoomin. Those rivers and lakes will be at great risk if this resolution is passed.
Under state law, the Wild Rice/Sulfide Water Quality Standard is 10 parts per million of sulfate. High concentrations of sulfate damage manoomin. Sulfates drift downstream and become embedded in the sediment where it converts into hydrogen sulfide. This enters into the roots of the manoomin plant and results in withered leaves that turn yellow and brown and the plant produces smaller seeds. High concentrations can suffocate and kill the plant. That sulfates can kill manoomin is evidenced by the Wild Rice Dead Zone – a stretch that begins where the Partridge River enters into the St. Louis River and extends 140 miles to the Lake Superior Basin. The Wild Rice Dead Zone is the result of extremely high concentrations of sulfate released by the Keetac and Minntac taconite mines. Polymet and four other copper mining enterprises are proposing mining operations. A copper mining district composed of several mining companies will compound the release of sulfates, thereby affecting the environment.
Lastly, there is the issue of the Ceded Territory of 1854. The 137 manoomin lakes and rivers in St. Louis County are within the boundaries of the Ceded Territory. The rights of Ojibwe people to hunt, fish, and gather on off-reservation land were affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1999. Therefore, the manoomin in the Ceded Territory is protected under treaty rights.
Mii’gwech for allowing Protect Our Manoomin and our supporters the opportunity to provide testimony today. Mii sa go.