American Indians Greeted with “No Signs or Costumes Allowed” Sign at Public Hearing

Posted on Stephenson High School door where American Indians were expected to attend a public hearing in opposition to state application. Photo by Desmond Berry

Updated : Thursday, January 25, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. – EST

Published January 25, 2018

STEPHENSON, MICHIGAN – Apparently, people in Stephenson, Michigan think American Indians wear “costumes” to public hearings.

Hundreds American Indians attending the four-hour public hearing hosted by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, were greeted with a computer generated sign posted on the door of the Stephenson High School that read “No signs or costumes allowed in the building.”

A spokesperson for MDEQ on Thursday morning says: “the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) DID NOT post the sign.”

The hearing was set to take public comments on an submitted application by Aquila Resources, which is proposing the development of a polymetallic zinc, copper and gold mine in Lake Township, Michigan. The proposed mine is called the Back Forty Mine.

Aquila applied for a Wetlands, Lakes and Streams permit in January 2017 and has been working with the DEQ to provide additional details on the proposed project.

The application is opposed by the Menominee Tribe. Earlier this week, the tribe filed a filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Tribe asserts that the agencies have failed to take primary responsibility for a wetland permit that is key to the future of the controversial Back Forty Mine proposal.

At Tuesday’s public hearing, several American Indians, including Gary Besaw, chairman of the Menominee Tribe, expressed their opposition to the Back Forty Mine. Besaw was joined by other tribal leaders of other American Indian tribes.

By Wednesday evening, the sign was posted to social media and drew the ire of American Indians who feel the posted sign was disrespectful and disgraceful.

“We don’t wear costumes, we wear regalia. Regalia has meaning- spiritual, remembrance, respect, whatever the meaning may be- there is meaning,” commented Desmond Berry, director of Natural Resources, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, based in Peshawsbetown, Michigan.

RELATED: Menominee Files Petition to Stop Back Forty Mine; Cites Sacred Sites


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