Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ojibwe Times: Wiggins delivers State of the Tribes address in Madison

By Eric Hjerstedt Sharp

MADISON ¬¬– Calling for cooperative environmental stewardship regarding the proposed open pit iron mining adjacent to the Bad River Reservation, Chairman Michael Wiggins, Jr. received praise for his annual State of the Tribes address in at the State Capitol in Madison by both tribal and state legislative leaders Tuesday following the event.

Wiggins speech packed the State Assembly with tribal leaders, government officials and 96 state senate and assembly members following an outdoor ceremony Tuesday morning. Although the Capitol building was still locked down, requiring participants to show their I.D.’s to gain entry, the massive protest crowds that have marked the lawn in recent weeks over Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining policy were not present. Neither was Walker; although Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen and other state officials were inside for the speech.

“Most people will never see where the water they drink comes out of the ground,” Wiggins said. “ … Our lands and water define who we are as Ojibwe people.” Wiggins cited naturalist Sigurd Olson’s book Runes of the North in recognizing the “paradigm shift” in discovering the “wonderment and awe” of the north. Wiggins also proposed a partnership between native and non-native people to help preserve Wisconsin’s unique environment. He said he was “looking forward to more work … more cooperation.”

Stating “they knew we were coming here today,” Wiggins referred to a Madison newspaper’s above-the-fold headline: “Mine seen as economic boon,” as a concern of his with regards to an example of environmental activity of concern of “all people of Wisconsin – tribal and non-tribal.”

Gogebic Taconite is proposing development of an open pit mine just east of the Bad River Reservation in Ashland and Iron counties. Mine owners say the mine would generate as many as 700 jobs, with hundreds more indirectly employed throughout northern Wisconsin.

However, there is criticism by some area residents, such as Nick Vander Puy of La Pointe, who writes about environmental issues from his Superior Broadcast Network. “About the only thing better than Mike Wiggin’s speech would have been to erect a lodge with ironwood poles inside the capital and occupy the site until the mining companies pack up and leave our territory.

“It felt really good hearing Bad River leader Mike Wiggins invite non-Indian support fighting (the mine),” Vander Puy added.

Lac du Flambeau Tribal Chairman Tom Maulson said Tuesday that he also has concerns about the mining in Ashland and Iron counties.

“Why do we have to dig in the ground for minerals that are already out of the ground,” Maulson said. “I’m dead set against mining.”

Wiggins also covered a variety of topics including joint management of tribal and state governance, tourism, land and water stewardship, job training and economic development and law enforcement.

Mic Isham, Lac Courte Oreilles, also praised Wiggins address. Chairman of the Voigt Inter-Tribal Task Force, Isham said after the speech that wildlife and other environmental amenities are what establish “family memories” that make northern Wisconsin attractive.

Wisconsin state Sen. Robert Jauch called Wiggin’s address “a remarkable speech.” He respectively … reminded us that we should honor the earth.”

Ho Chunk President Wilfrid “Willy” Cleveland credited the state’s tribal conference for coming up with the ideas that were incorporated into the annual State of the Tribes Address.

LCO tribal member David Coons said it was “a powerful speech” pointing particularly to the mining and sovereignty issues Wiggins addressed.

Oneida Nation Chairman Rick Hill said the speech covered the important topics of protecting the environment, health care, economic development, education and elder issues.

Eric Hjerstedt Sharp begins career at Ojibwe Times

Eric Hjerstedt Sharp of Iron River is the new managing editor at the Ojibwe Times. Sharp will share a variety of duties with publisher and editor Joe Morey. He will also be contributing to the Lac du Flambeau Review.

Most recently a staff writer at the Reader Weekly in Duluth, he was also with the Ironwood (Mich.) Daily Globe, and The County Journal in Washburn. Sharp has been a reporter and editor at newspapers in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Colorado. He was also recently an online editor at BusinessNorth in Duluth, Minn.

A freelance writer for such publications as the Reader Weekly, the Rocky Mountain News, Bloomsbury Review, Perfect Duluth Day and others, he also blogs extensively and has written news releases for several area businesses. He has also edited and published five books for various authors, including his own book: Rune Tailings (Sharp Tongue Press, 1995). Besides his editorial duties at the Ojibwe Times, Sharp will be selling and designing advertising copy for both the print and online edition. He will also be involved with the publication’s new social network site: RezLoops.

A multi-generational native of Wisconsin on both sides of his family, his great-grandfather was a logging teamster and farmer in the Cable area. On his mother’s side, an ancestor moved to La Pointe in the 1830s, before Wisconsin was a state. His father is a retired Osteopathic physician and surgeon in Waterloo; while his mother raised, trained and showed Alaskan Malamutes and was for a while was an active real estate broker. She died in 2009 in Iron River.

While at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley where he was graduated from, Sharp played rugby, ski raced and worked for the college newspaper. Following a career as a ski instructor in Colorado, Montana as well as the Midwest, he began writing for newspapers and magazines. He graduated from A.D. Johnston High School in Bessemer, Mich. and got his first job as a ski instructor at nearby Big Powderhorn Mountain.

“It’s great to be working with Joe at the Ojibwe Times, and I am thrilled to be working in this beautiful area where I was brought up,” Sharp said. “I remember coming to Telemark when it was still a downhill ski area, before Indianhead opened, after which time my family skied there. I also remember coming to Turtle-Flambeau Flowage as a Boy Scout, and some of my best memories are of exploring the lake country there and nearby at the family cabin on Pine Lake in Oma.”

In 2008, Sharp enrolled in a graduate-level online class at Harvard University Extension School after receiving a scholarship from Eli Lilly and Company. He hopes to someday continue in the graduate school while researching the side of his family that settled in Massachusetts in the 1600s and later moved to Wisconsin. Most of all, he said, he likes writing about the people and places of the North.

“Everyone has a story to tell. I have never lived in such a diverse and interesting place,” he said.

Monday, April 11, 2011