Mon February 4, 2013
Tribe Complains About Lack Of Consultation On Mining Bill
Legislative committees this week are scheduled to take up a Republican bill that could help open a large taconite mine in northern Wisconsin, but lawmakers are being taken to task, for not extensively consulting with the Bad River Chippewa tribe.
Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins has sent a letter to state lawmakers, saying they've failed to engage in government-to-government consultation with the tribe about the mining bill, and the taconite mine that would be built close to tribal lands. Milwaukee attorney Dennis Grzezinski is helping represent the Bad River tribe. He says 19th-century federal treaties set up the consultation process to try to guarantee Chippewa rights and resources would be protected. “It's not a telegram, not a phone call: it's folks getting together and discussing and conversing about issues between the nations.”
Republican Senator Tom Tiffany says he wrote Bad River leaders in December about setting up a meeting, but Tribal Chairman Wiggins says it seemed to him that Tiffany wanted to present his plans, not give the tribe a chance to change anything. Grezinski says if the state did violate federal law, and now passes the GOP mining bill, the lack of consultation weakens the measure, “It's very likely the legislation would miss the point and run into legal obstacles.”
Grzezinski says the tribe could also complain to federal officials about the lack of government-to-government interaction. He says all of the potentially affected tribes in northern Wisconsin would respond to a genuine attempt at consultation.