Lac Courte Oreilles tribe is trying a unique way to help stop the
proposed iron ore mine in the Penokees: gathering wild onions and
The new LCO Harvest Camp is set in the backwoods of Iron County,
right in the middle of the proposed mine.
Connor Beaulieu of LCO says he's almost 13 years old and proud
to show off this new camp.
Right here, were just building a little wigwam
right there and right here is where one of our campers are staying.
A little farther back is where were building more campsites.
Pretty nice here. Peaceful. I dont know where this leads,
but lets explore!
The five-acre camp is tucked away in an Iron County forest.
There's no cell phone service here, but there are campsites, trails,
wigwams, a community kitchen and lots of young people. Twelve-year-old
Mikey DeMain of LCO likes working at the camp.
?Yeah. I helped em make some wigwams, helped collect
firewood and stack it. Think Im going to hang out there
a lot this summer.
Mikeys grandfather Paul DeMain says this is also an educational
You can learn about mushroom gathering, plant medicines,
wigwam building. Theres ironwood up there. Theres
basket weaving with birch bark. Theres people fishing. There
are people doing all kinds of beautiful things and it is so healing.
Thats ultimately what it was: The idea of, How can
we help mend our communities and come together?
This camp is on top of the largest iron ore body in North America
with the potential to create hundreds of jobs. But Wisconsin tribes
say it would destroy this pristine land.
"Some of us have given our whole lives
to fight for the cause and stop mining."
So this spring, the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior
Ojibwe Governing Council voted to designate this spot as a harvest
camp. They have that right under the Treaty of 1842 to hunt,
fish and gather. The treaty ceded the land to the U.S. Government
in exchange for that right.
LCO Elder Melvin Gasper says Native American harvest camps date
back centuries, when tribes lived off the land.
You start out with a spring camp or maple sugar camp.
You will travel next to your fishing camp. Then you travel next
to your harvest camp, for harvesting wild game and stuff for your
winter. And then you have your winter camp. All of these were
different harvest camps.
And Gasper says theres another reason. It's to stop the
DeMain says the mine would poison the Lake Superior and Bad
River reservation watershed, so it's time other tribes join the
If there are people from some indigenous nation who
has relationships to the land up here who want to go camping up
at Mount Whittlesey at Eagles Peak or on the crest and occupy
the range, thats up to them. What weve tried to do
is establish a legal framework in which we can exist here and
coincide with whats there now and monitor the situation.
says LCO is deliberately getting in the way of Gogebic Taconite,
which is currently drilling exploratory bore holes.
Bad River seems to be taking the brunt of the battle
on this mining legislation and organizing it. Frankly, people
get tired and they feel beaten up, so there are other tribes who
are saying How can they contribute to this way?
So, they've built this harvest camp. Elder Gasper says even
as they pull wild onions from the ground, they are effectively occupying
Most definitely it is. They were asking us basically
How do you protest? This is a brand new way. Its
a peaceful manner in which we are using as a harvest area and
showing what can be taken out of this and saved. Some of us have
given our whole lives to fight for the cause and stop mining.
Gasper says his ancestors sacrificed for him, now hes
doing the same for Mikey and Connor and future generations.