Testimony before Conference Committee on H.F. 1010, Friday, May 6, 2011
I am here today on behalf of the group Protect Our Manoomin. Manoomin is the Ojibwe-Anishinaabe word for “Wild Rice”. The Anishinaabe relationship with their Manoomin is intimate, integral and sacred. Manoomin is to the Anishinaabe what the buffalo is to the Lakota. The Ojibwe people have lived in what is now Minnesota for millennia and have harvested the wild rice for hundreds of years.
Birds, insects, ducks, and people as well as fish, reptiles, and small unseen life all live on and depend on wild rice for food and shelter. Wild rice is a barometer of a healthy vibrant ecosystem.
However, in areas across Wisconsin and Michigan where sulfide run-off from mining is present, wild rice is dying off.
Euro-Americans have inhabited Minnesota for one-hundred and fifty-three years. In that time they have taken most of the Ojibwe land by treaty. All the virgin forests have been cut down. The water has been polluted, and the environment has changed in the name of “progress” and “profit.”
But now with so little forest and wetland left, you must stop and ask yourselves “Why do I live here? Do I live in Minnesota so I can complain about the cold? Or do I live here for the beauty of it, the lakes and rivers, the seasons.” Do any of you fish, hunt, hike, ski in the northwoods? Do you love our North Shore? Our Boundary Waters? If you do, then why would you vote to turn it over to a foreign company that would ultimately destroy what is left of our environment for their profit?
I understand people need jobs, but these jobs are short lived and come with a heavy price tag. The money made in royalties and taxes will never pay for the amount of destruction brought by these companies. And they will leave a mess for us here to live with, to pay for, and to get sick on.
Wild rice beds will not survive an increase in sulfate levels in the water they live in. This is been proven, by science and by the oral history of the Anishinaabe. For the Ojibwe, losing this vital food source through sulfide mining amounts to ecocide. Destroying the Manoomin is destruction of their culture and spirituality.
Even if my values seem different than yours, I have voted for you to be here to represent my interests and Minnesota’s interests. I ask you to stop putting multinational industry profits before our environment. There are better ways to solve the problems we face. If you allow these companies to destroy our land and rivers and, in turn, our Manoomin, it will be permanent.
I ask would any of you trade your home, your food and your families’ health for a short term job that paid so very much less than what your life was worth?
Last, I want to say, Native people live in every district in this state, and you do represent them. We are, after all, first and last, people and Minnesotans. Please do not allow the further destruction of our environment.
~ Montana Picard