Mining Opponent Uses JFK Speech to Tout Value of Bad River Watershed

Aug 23, 2013

Mike Wiggins Jr. is tribal chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

No single group stands out more in opposition to the proposed iron mine in Northern Wisconsin, than the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Its chairman recently took his "stop the mine" message to Governor Walker's office - with a unique approach.

Mike Wiggins says he’s stopped counting the number of times he’s spoken out against the proposed mine in the Penokee Ridge, but smiles when remembering the gathering a couple weeks ago.

“I played this at a recent meeting with Governor Walker and his cabinet,” Wiggins says.

“Lake Superior, The Apostle Islands, the Bad River area are all unique they are worth improving for the benefit of sportsmen and tourists.”

That’s President John F. Kennedy delivering a speech on September 24, 1963 at the Ashland airport. He had just inspected the nearby Apostle Islands.

“In an area of congestion and pollution, man-made noise and dirt, Lake Superior has a beauty that millions can enjoy. The vast marshes of the Bad River are a rich resource, providing a home for a tremendous number and varied number of wild animals. In fact, the entire northern Great Lakes area with its vast inland sea, its 27,000 lakes and thousands of streams is a central and significant part of the freshwater assets of this country and we must act to preserve these assets.”

Mike Wiggins says, when the recording ended, the people gathered in Governor Walker’s meeting room fell silent and then burst into applause.

“ And then I talked about how there’s unbelievable opportunity here and I humbly suggested to the Governor that it’s an opportunity to be an example for the rest of the state and really for the nation.,” Wiggins says.

Wiggins says he’s convinced the water-rich region could generate jobs, if the state focused on tourism and water research technology.

“If we had the right people analyzing what the possibilities are, I think we’d see some really interesting things to invest in,” Wiggins says.

Wiggins says he has not yet heard back from the governor.

As for the Apostle Islands, seven years after President Kennedy visited, the federal government declared the string of islands anchored in Lake Superior, a national park.

Scientists there are keeping an eye on how Wisconsin’ mining decisions could affect it.