Category Archives: Human Rights

Stop War: Story of Ukraine and Russia

 Madison community members  came together for an event… Stop War over Ukraine

learn more  

[Note: Gather information and question and challenge what you know.  Challenge what we say and claim to know.  Don’t believe us and don’t believe the US corporate media, lapdogs of the war profiteers.  Dig.  Seek.  See what you believe.  There are multiple factors that brought us here: Russian crimes, US corporate rulers, US war machine, CIA arming military forces, consolidated power of oligarchs.  The media only tells certain parts of the story.] 

 

Rally at the Wisconsin State Capitol and picket outside Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Office to
protest her support of aggressive war policies.  We recognize the fact that our other Senator Ron Johnson has always voted for the war profiteers and against justice. 

Dave Schwab created this clip of the WORT piece [WORT 89.9 FM Community Radio] on our No War with Russia rally.  

 

What you can do:

 

 

US bases and weapons are everywhere.

The US sells more weapons than anyone.

The people of Ukraine deserve their human rights and the nation its sovereignty. But the US is not the policeman to the world. It’s the weapons dealer and sometimes narcotics distributor and leader for corporate rule.

We allow the bullies to rule. We need democratic institutions that represent all nations, not just the interests of the few that pull the strings.

How the U.S. provoked Russia in Ukraine: A Compendium

No War with Russia Pictures – Veterans for Peace National

Pictures from February from Code Pink

 

 

 

Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine Salon
with Ray McGovern, John Mearsheimer

 


Dem Now, Phyllis Bennis: The Best Way to Help Ukraine Is Diplomacy, Not War & Increased Militarization

 

“The CIA is overseeing a secret intensive training program in the U.S. for elite Ukrainian special operations forces and other intelligence personnel, according to five former intelligence and national security officials familiar with the initiative. The program, which started in 2015, is based at an undisclosed facility in the Southern U.S., according to some of those officials.”

CIA-trained Ukrainian paramilitaries may take central role if Russia invades

Follow the money.  Look where the weapons are.  What does the history say?

Antiwar: Report: 8-Year Secret CIA Training Program in Eastern Ukraine Helped Prepare for Russian Invasion

 

The Intercept: UKRAINIAN LOBBYISTS MOUNTED UNPRECEDENTED CAMPAIGN ON U.S. LAWMAKERS IN 2021 

We need to learn again some of the lessons of the Age of Reason. What is up. What is down. What rights humans have, like the right to not be bombed. We have the right to govern ourselves, and not be controlled by politicians who are owned by big money like that of the war profiteers: Raytheon, Boeing, Northrup, Lockheed and contractors connected to the military, fossil fuels and the owners of the biggest banks.

Somehow Americans should teach the use of critical thought that allows us to understand the propaganda that is all around us. The big money manipulates us and divides us.


Veterans for Peace Members and Chapters across the country have been taking action to protest the U.S. role in escalating the extremely dangerous tensions with Russia over Ukraine.

 

 

 

In a contest between Ukrainian & Russian ultranationalists, we do not need to pick sides. We can defend peace, democratic rights and all minorities, without contributing to the polarization and strengthening the rise of fascism. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
– Zoltan Grossman paraphrase 

Zoltan Grossman: Borderland Ukraine

Great information and maps in this presentation.

Ray McGovern: What Role Has the U.S. Played in the Ukraine Crisis?

“As Russia’s attack on Ukraine wages on, and Ukrainian civilians die daily, the fog of war has seemingly been clouding more nuanced analysis in the United States, argues “Scheer Intelligence” host Robert Scheer. To get more perspective on the historical context of the current conflict, Scheer invites former CIA analyst Ray McGovern to discuss the role the U.S. and NATO have played in Ukraine. McGovern has long been an outspoken critic of what he’s coined as the American Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank (MICIMATT) for leading the world ever closer to a nuclear war.

McGovern spent 27 years as a CIA analyst, during which time he led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and prepared The President’s Daily Brief for three U.S. presidents. Months before the Iraq War, the former intelligence analyst joined a group of his peers to ward against the “insanity” of war, creating the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). Now, as news of the war in Ukraine fills American media, McGovern has attempted to call for sanity once more.

The CIA veteran sees the conflict, which he argues is as a direct result of what he calls a Western-orchestrated coup against Vladimir Putin’s ally, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, as global brinkmanship at its most dangerous given the nuclear arsenal that both Russia and the U.S. possess. Scheer pushes back on McGovern’s use of the term “coup” as well as his assessment of Russian attacks on Ukraine, which the “Scheer Intelligence” host—who covered the Soviet Union and later Russia, as well as Ukraine, as a foreign correspondent—has condemned as a war crime.

The two ultimately consider how NATO’s expansion past eastern Germany may have baited Putin into his current position, indefensible as it may be. The former CIA analyst, who played a critical role in drafting The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) signed by George W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, also warns listeners about the dangers of the U.S. allowing nuclear treaties to expire that, for 30 years, have kept us from annihilation. Listen to the full discussion between McGovern and Scheer as they offer differing but critical perspectives on the Ukraine conflict absent in most Western media.”


 


The situation in Ukraine has much to do with who controls fossil fuels profits and pipelines.

We need to get bribery under control, conflicts of interest must be regulated more effectively, and there must be transparency. We cannot have representative government by the people with SECRET government manipulation. We cannot be represented properly when we do not know what is going on, or when we are lied to.

It is public knowledge that the CIA has been supporting troops near the Russian border in Ukraine since at least as far back as 2014 when the last Ukrainian coup took place, likely much longer. Around the time of the last coup in 2014, the US Vice President’s son ended up being appointed to a top position in the largest gas company in Ukraine. Funny how that works. I’d say that is a pretty obvious sign of corruption and conflicts of interest, Hunter Biden making all that big money with almost no experience.

“A month before Hunter Biden joined Burisma’s board, his father traveled to Ukraine as vice president and announced an aid package designed to enable Ukraine to boost its energy production….”
September 28, 2019 – Washington Post

Gangsters and oligarchs, purchased politicians making deals that benefit them and not us.  Conflicts of interest matter, they should be exposed, no matter what party is involved.  Sadly, Americans are distracted and entertained and taught to work for party and nationalism over truth and accountability.  This lack of integrity is a recipe for corruption which eats at the heart of democracy, much like fascism tries to.

 

 

Donald Trump pulled out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty on Feb 2, 2019 and new weapons began to magically appear almost instantly. They were preparing for that for years, but the US mainstream media Inc blamed Russia of course. Look deeper. 

 


“America’s primary interest is to help ensure that no single power comes to control this geopolitical space [Central Asia]… Eurasia accounts for 60% of the world’s GNP and three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources.”
– Zbigniew Brzezinski, Council on Foreign Relations study 1997

Allen Ruff: Missed by the Mainstream: Observations on the Ukraine Crisis

Image


I’ve learned much about the Ukrainian situation from [background] Ray McGovern a former CIA analyst who did the morning briefings for Reagan and daddy Bush, then there’s historian Alfred McCoy and Allen Ruff.

2022: Ray McGovern on the US/Russia/Ukraine Conflict

THE ILLEGALITY OF NATO – Popular Resistance

“…Esty Dinur discusses the latest developments in NATO–Russia relations and the historical context with David Gibbs, professor of history at the University of Arizona Department of History, and Will Griffin from the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

They talk about the history and future of NATO, Biden’s failed promise of a new era of American diplomacy, Russia’s nuclear capability, and much more.

 

Esty Dinur, A Public Affair: How NATO Provokes Russia

As Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette said…

“The supreme issue, involving all others, is the encroachment of the powerful few on the rights of the many…

Shall we, with statesmanship and constructive legislation, meet these problems,

 or shall we pass them on with all the possibilities of conflict and chaos, to future generations?”


 

 

“Victoria Nuland has promoted a foreign policy of intervention through coups, proxy wars, aggression, and ongoing occupations. The policy has been implemented with bloody and disastrous results in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine…”


President Joe Biden had nominated Victoria Nuland for State Department, Under Secretary for Political Affairs.
Why Victoria Nuland is Dangerous and Should Not be Confirmed

During a press briefing, Lee asked Price, former CIA, to furnish proof of the accusation, that Russia is plotting a false flag attack involving a “propaganda video… depicting corpses, crisis actors as mourners, and images of destroyed locations or military equipment.

The press calling out the lies of the administration

Code Pink staging antiwar protests but says Dems mum on Biden’s hawkish moves at Russia

Lies, bullying, humiliation, the destruction of Ukraine, no act is too low for those who want to control Russia. on Stop the Wars At Home and Abroad

“…In this sense, Ukraine is simply a tool to reach this goal. This can be done in different ways: by drawing us into some armed conflict, or compelling its allies in Europe to impose tough sanctions on us like the US is talking about today.”

Can you handle the truth? Plenty of information out there to consider.

“…Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denied that a Russian invasion was imminent and asked NATO to dial down its war rhetoric.

…The US National Security Council (NSC) initially denied this account. “Anonymous sources are leaking falsehoods,” said NSC spokeswoman Emily Horne. “President Biden said that there is a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February. He has said this publicly and we have been warning about this for months. Reports of anything more or different than that are completely false.” 

Zelensky then gave a press conference, however, publicly reiterating statements Horne had denied he had made to Biden. Zelensky was urging NATO heads of state to stop inciting panic with talk of an imminent NATO war with Russia over Ukraine, he said. “I started talking to the leaders of the countries and to explain to them that we need to stabilize the economy,” Zelensky told the press. “They are saying ‘tomorrow is the war.’ This means panic.”


“In Western military circles, it’s common to refer to the “balance of forces”—the lineup of tanks, planes, ships, missiles, and battle formations on the opposing sides of any conflict. If one has twice as many combat assets as its opponent and the leadership abilities on each side are approximately equal, it should win. Based on this reasoning, most Western analysts assumed that the Russian army—with a seemingly overwhelming advantage in numbers and equipment—would quickly overpower Ukrainian forces. Of course, things haven’t exactly turned out that way. The Ukrainian military has, in fact, fought the Russians to a near-standstill. The reasons for that will undoubtedly be debated among military theorists for years to come. When they do so, they might begin with Moscow’s surprising failure to pay attention to a different military equation—the “correlation of forces”—originally developed in the former Soviet Union.

That notion differs from the “balance of forces” by placing greater weight on intangible factors. It stipulates that the weaker of two belligerents, measured in conventional terms, can still prevail over the stronger if its military possesses higher morale, stronger support at home, and the backing of important allies. Such a calculation, if conducted in early February, would have concluded that Ukraine’s prospects were nowhere near as bad as either Russian or Western analysts generally assumed, while Russia’s were far worse. And that should remind us of just how crucial an understanding of the correlation of forces is in such situations, if gross miscalculations and tragedies are to be avoided.

THE CONCEPT IN PRACTICE BEFORE UKRAINE

The notion of the correlation of forces has a long history in military and strategic thinking. Something like it, for example, can be found in the epilogue to Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel, War and Peace. Writing about Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, Tolstoy observed that wars are won not by the superior generalship of charismatic leaders but through the fighting spirit of common soldiers taking up arms against a loathsome enemy…”

Official Presidential Statement – To confirm the absence of intentions to attack Ukraine, Russia must take concrete steps – Volodymyr Zelenskyy

“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appealed to his American counterpart to dial back his appraisals of the threat Russia poses to the former Soviet state, also criticizing President Joe Biden for his dramatic decision to remove the families of U.S. diplomats from Kyiv this month.”
– US News By Paul D. Shinkman Jan. 28, 2022

US News: Zelenskiy Criticizes Biden: Talk of War With Russia a ‘Mistake’


“Terrible things could be averted if people were more active.” – Howard Zinn

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FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: NOTES AND IMAGES FROM THE VIET NAM WAR (2022)

See video here…  https://vimeo.com/685624513

Veterans for Peace associate member Jill Godmilow, Professor Emerita, Department of Film,  Television & Theatre, University of Notre Dame, just released a 45-minute film she made to explain the 20-year Viet Nam war to high school students—a job teachers have reported is extremely difficult, according to Howard Machtinger, past coordinator of VFP’s Viet Nam Full Disclosure project.

 

Howie’s comment is what inspired Jill to make this classroom-length film, which effectively tells the story through carefully sequenced, striking imagery. Accompanied by a soundtrack featuring Bach Suite for Solo Cello #1 in G along with Jill’s matter-of-factual, concise narrative, the film achieves in 45 minutes what Burns & Novick failed to do in 18 hours. Designed as a teaching aid for high school history teachers, who will be invited to download it for free, this film will also be a great tool for talking about war with adults of all ages and educational levels.

Featured image “Peace Helmet” credit to Amanda Zehren
A to Z Art Studio of Artfulecologics@gmail.com
website – https://www.artfulecologics.com/

 

——————–

Jill Godmilow:

Here’s a film for high school students and their teachers about the history of the Viet Nam War,  composed of just photographs from that war, narration and, to help us through a damned disheartening story, lots of the Bach Suite for Solo Cello #1 in G.

The film is 45 minutes long––perfect for classroom use and repeated screenings by stu-dents on their own. It’s my response to the flawed Ken Burn/Lynn Novick 18-hour PBS series, The Vietnam War… too long for the classroom and failing in many ways as a useful account of the tragic Viet Nam war.

It’s free to stream or download the film from this website, so teachers, help yourselves. I’ve also provided a curriculum, produced by the Zinn Education Project’s Rethinking Schools for teaching this film, and some additional useful writings for understanding the Viet Nam War.
I recommend that teachers warn their students that the film is highly critical of the Viet Nam War. Teachers should also warn students in advance that this material can be upsetting. But I believe young adults can, and must, grapple with this grim history and the presence of this war, in order to avoid repeating it.”

See video here…  https://vimeo.com/685624513

Vietnam Veterans Against the War

 

VVAW OSS

VetSpeak Blog

Some History from VVAW

The Way to Achieve Peace is to Take the Profit Out of War – Tricky Dick

This is not the way we put the end to war.


“…the only way to achieve a practical, livable peace in a world of competing nations is to take the profit out of war.” – Richard Nixon
Real Peace (1983)

War Profiteering Statistics and Data


“That the U.S./NATO-instigated war in Ukraine could result in a third world war is of major concern for all of humanity, especially workers and oppressed people who ultimately bear the brunt of any war. Yet for some global billionaires — today’s ‘masters of war’ — this conflict is seen as an opportunity to further boost profits.

Among those already reaping gains are companies involved in the production and sale of weapons, planes and other military hardware. This includes 14 of the world’s 20 largest “defense” companies headquartered in the U.S. Topping this list are Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon Technologies, which had combined arms sales in 2019 nearing $100 billion.

On Feb. 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, the stock value of these arms manufacturers soared. Raytheon and Lockheed officials openly told investors the Ukraine conflict was “good for business.” In a company “earnings call,” issued Jan. 25, Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes described how they could benefit from the conflict. Similarly, Lockheed CEO James Taiclet told investors the “great power competition [between the U.S. and Russia] over Ukraine bodes more business for the company…”

Lockheed And Raytheon – Today’s ‘Masters Of War’ – PopularResistance.Org

 


Abolish the CIA (rootsaction.org) Petition to abolish the secret government and gangsters in the CIA.

 

“As the United States weighs more involvement in the growing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, some of the largest weapons companies in the world — Raytheon and Lockheed Martin — are openly telling their investors that tensions between the countries are good for business. And General Dynamics, meanwhile, is boasting about the past returns the company has seen as a result of such disputes.

The statements come as the U.S. government escalates arms shipments to Ukraine, among them the Javelin missiles that are a joint venture between Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. House Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to quickly push through a bill that would significantly increase U.S. military assistance to Ukraine, and impose new sanctions on Russia.

Anti-war campaigners warn that U.S. escalation, amid renewed tensions between Ukraine and Russia, could bring dire consequences, and spill into a much larger and more protracted war. ​As we are shipping advanced weaponry to the Ukrainian military, the Biden administration has signaled that U.S. military advisors will continue to stay in the country,” Cavan Kharrazian, progressive foreign policy campaigner for the advocacy organization Demand Progress, tells In These Times. ​Who will most likely set up and teach the Ukrainian army how to use these weapons systems? The U.S. military…”

Top Weapons Companies Boast Ukraine-Russia Tensions Are a Boon for Business – In These Times


“International transfers of major arms saw a slight drop between 2012–16 and 2017–21 (–4.6 per cent). Nevertheless, exports by the United States and France increased substantially, as did imports to states in Europe (+19 per cent), East Asia (+20 per cent) and Oceania (+59 per cent). Transfers to the Middle East remained high, while those to Africa and the Americas decreased, according to new data on global arms transfers published today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

‘The small decrease in global arms transfers masks large variations between regional trends,’ said Pieter D. Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. ‘Whereas there were some positive developments, including South American arms imports reaching their lowest level in 50 years, increasing or continuing high rates of weapons imports to places like Europe, East Asia, Oceania and the Middle East contributed to worrying arms build-ups.’

Europe sees biggest growth in arms imports

The biggest growth in arms imports among world regions occurred in Europe. In 2017–21 imports of major arms by European states were 19 per cent higher than in 2012–16 and accounted for 13 per cent of global arms transfers. The largest arms importers in Europe were the United Kingdom, Norway and the Netherlands. Other European states are also expected to increase their arms imports significantly over the coming decade, having recently placed large orders for major arms, in particular combat aircraft from the USADespite armed conflict in eastern Ukraine throughout 2017–21, the country’s imports of major arms in the period were very limited.

‘The severe deterioration in relations between most European states and Russia was an important driver of growth in European arms imports, especially for states that cannot meet all their requirements through their national arms industries,’ said Pieter D. Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. ‘Arms transfers also play an important role in transatlantic security relationships”

Global arms trade falls slightly, but imports to Europe, East Asia and Oceania rise | SIPRI

 


“Since 9/11, U.S. media, politicians, and security experts have produced a deluge of pro-war content, establishing and further normalizing a paradigm that treats war-making as the natural response to terror attacks. At the same time, research has shown that government violence against people in the name of counterterrorism, wartime destruction of infrastructure, and long-term U.S. military presence abroad breed ill-will toward the United States and broaden support for the same groups that the U.S. post-9/11 wars officially aim to eliminate.

By reviewing a wide range of relevant literature from scholars and think tanks, this paper explores some of the most robust non-military models of counterterrorism and outlines eleven paradigms and the implicit assumptions of the states and experts who employ them about the problem of terrorism. The accompanying infographic separates state-led models of counterterrorism into the categories of “coercive,” “proactive,” “persuasive,” “defensive,” and “long-term.”

Deaths caused by governments in the name of counterterrorism vastly exceeds deaths caused by militant groups who use terror tactics. Between 1995 and 2019, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) calculated that 3,455 U.S. citizens were killed in terror attacks. In contrast, Costs of War data has shown that the U.S. post-9/11 wars have directly killed over 929,000 people. Meanwhile, between 2001 and 2021, the U.S. poured $8 trillion into counterterrorism warfare.

 

READ FULL PAPER>


Veterans for Peace Madison
Clarence Kailin, Chapter 25  

website… https://madisonvfp.org/

facebook… https://www.facebook.com/groups/madisonvfp

twitter… https://twitter.com/MadisonVfp

@MadisonVfp

 

Oh, I marched to the battle of New Orleans
At the end of the early British wars
The young land started growing
The young blood started flowing
But I ain’t marching anymore

For I’ve killed my share of Indians
In a thousand different fights
I was there at the Little Big Horn
I heard many men lying, I saw many more dying
But I ain’t marching anymore

It’s always the old to lead us to the wars
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me, is it worth it all?

For I stole California from the Mexican land
Fought in the bloody Civil War
Yes, I even killed my brothers
And so many others
But I ain’t marching anymore

For I marched to the battles of the German trench
In a war that was bound to end all wars
Oh, I must have killed a million men
And now they want me back again
But I ain’t marching anymore

It’s always the old to lead us to the wars
Always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me, is it worth it all?

For I flew the final mission in the Japanese skies
Set off the mighty mushroom roar
When I saw the cities burning
I knew that I was learning
That I ain’t marching anymore

Now the labor leader’s screamin’
When they close the missile plants
United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore
Call it peace or call it treason
Call it love or call it reason
But I ain’t marching anymore
No, I ain’t marching anymore


The Pentagon and CIA Have Shaped Thousands of Hollywood Movies into Super Effective Propaganda – Let’s Try Democracy (davidswanson.org)

By David Swanson, World BEYOND War

“Propaganda is most impactful when people don’t think it’s propaganda, and most decisive when it’s censorship you never knew happened. When we imagine that the U.S. military only occasionally and slightly influences U.S. movies, we are extremely badly deceived. The actual impact is on thousands of movies made, and thousands of others never made. And television shows of every variety.

The military guests and celebrations of the U.S. military on game shows and cooking shows are no more spontaneous or civilian in origin than the ceremonies glorifying members of the U.S. military at professional sports games — ceremonies that have been paid for and choreographed by U.S. tax dollars and the U.S. military. The “entertainment” content carefully shaped by the “entertainment” offices of the Pentagon and the CIA doesn’t just insidiously prepare people to react differently to news about war and peace in the world. To a huge extent it substitutes a different reality for people who learn very little actual news about the world at all.”

 

follow the money

ban bribery

demand transparency

WashPo Magazine: Lake Superior’s Forever Chemicals

Story and photographs by Shantal Riley
JANUARY 12, 2022

“A mass of gray clouds loomed over a panorama of humid wetlands in late summer on the Bad River Reservation in northern Wisconsin. Carpets of bright-green grass blanketed the glassy surface of the water, accented here and there by clusters of purple loosestrifea spiky invasive plant, as an aluminum skiff glided silently over the water. Edith Leoso, tribal historic preservation officer for the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, leaned over the edge of the boat, running her hand across the bushy grass tips and loosening showers of wild rice. “If it sinks to the bottom, that means it’s ripe,” she said.

The wild rice is sacred to the Ojibwe, also called Chippewa. “We were from the East Coast, originally,” she told me. “There was a prophecy that said there would be a light-skinned race that would come across the great salt water. In their coming, they would bring destruction upon us. In order to maintain our way of life, to maintain who we were as a people, we would have to move to the West.” There would be signs along the way: “We would know when we arrived at our final stopping place when we saw food that grew on top of the water,” Leoso said. “That was our manoomin. … ‘Mino’ in our language is good, and ‘min’ is seed. So, ‘good seed.’ ”

The rice grows on the Kakagon-Bad River Sloughs, which sit atop 16,000 acres of wetlands on the southern rim of Lake Superior. The area serves as a spawning ground for lake sturgeon, walleye, yellow perch and northern pike. Both fish and wild rice are staple foods of the Anishinaabe, as the Ojibwe call themselves.

 

Early last year, the state of Wisconsin issued a fish consumption advisory that recommended eating no more than one meal a month of Lake Superior rainbow smelt, caught by tribes and local anglers during smelt runs in the spring. It was the first advisory for any of the Great Lakes warning of fish with elevated levels of PFAS — perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of man-made chemicals linked to cancer that have shown up in drinking water systems around the country.

PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment. After years of industrial use, the federal government recently took steps to regulate them. But will it be enough to assure the safety of the Indigenous people who have fished on the lake for thousands of years — and depend on the fish for survival?

A few days earlier, I was in a small plane flying over the deep green forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The plane shook violently from turbulence as it approached Keweenaw Bay, a V-shaped inlet on the southern shore of the lake. A thin layer of smoke had settled on the water, blown in from wildfires burning hundreds of miles away in Canada.

 

The lake tribes live in close-knit communities that I knew I’d need help to access. So, I retained a local, Charlie Rasmussen, to advise me on various aspects of the trip: He warned me about spotty cellphone coverage, which roads were under construction and where deer liked to dart out in front of traffic; he also gave me leads on locals I could speak to about fishing. (He is a writer, photographer and communications officer for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, a nonprofit that supports member tribes through natural resources management, conservation and public information. But his work with me was in a freelance capacity.)

A rental car secured, I drove an hour south along Highway 41, to the L’Anse Reservation, where a pocket of woods was quiet but for water spilling over a mossy rock ledge. Jerry Jondreau was trying to catch brook trout on Silver River, which twists its way through the reservation. The reservation is home to the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), one of about a dozen bands, including the Bad River Band, who live around the lake.

 

 

The lake itself is often hailed for being the cleanest of the Great Lakes. But Jondreau said its pristine reputation is a misconception. “I can’t bring fish back to the family from the lake,” he explained. “We don’t eat as much fish as we used to.”

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake on Earth by surface area, spanning a vast 31,700 square miles. Surrounded by dense forests and relatively sparse populations, more than 80 species of fish live in its cold, remote waters. While the fish are abundant, they’re rife with contaminants: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, the pesticide toxaphene — all linked to cancer — and mercury, left behind as a legacy of mining in a rugged region known as Copper Country. There are enough pollutants now circulating in the great lake that Michigan lists more than a dozen consumption advisories for its fish, and the pollution runs headlong into areas where tribes practice subsistence fishing.

On a windy August afternoon, the choppy waters around Lake Superior’s Madeline Island glittered with flecks of sunshine. Boats headed north, fishing poles straining toward wakes churning behind them. In 2019, Wisconsin scientists took samples from fish swimming near the island, considered the spiritual homeland of the Ojibwe. Six fish species had detectable levels of PFAS — and rainbow smelt had an average of seven times the amount of PFAS that were found in the other fish, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. It was enough to trigger the January 2021 consumption advisory for Wisconsin waters. Two months later, Minnesota and Michigan followed suit with their own advisories.

PFAS were introduced to Americans in the 1940s. Prized for their resistance to heat, oil and water, they were key ingredients in products like Scotchgard and Teflon. Today, they’re found in food packaging, carpets, furniture, clothing, makeup and everyday household items like dental floss. They’re used on an industrial scale in nonstick and waterproof coatings, electronics, degreasers and fire foams. The chemicals have been linked to a host of serious health problems: high cholesterol, liver damage, suppression of the immune system, thyroid disease, kidney and testicular cancer, among others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some take years to be eliminated from the human body.

“They dissolve easily in water,” says environmental engineer Christy Remucal, who studies PFAS in her lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Remucal was not involved in the testing of the Lake Superior fish.) So, the chemicals move around the environment fairly easily, she told me — and there are thousands of them. One of these, called PFOS, or perfluorooctane sulfonic acid — found at airports and military sites with histories of fire foam use — tends to build up in fish.

But Michigan scientists were puzzled when the little smelt showed higher levels of PFOS than larger, predator fish such as lake trout. “Typically, the higher up on a food chain that you go, you’re going to have higher levels of contamination,” explains Brandon Armstrong, an aquatic biologist with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), referring to a process called biomagnification. “It was surprising to see such a high level of PFOS in smelt because they feed low on the food chain,” he says. “They’re eating small fish and zooplankton out in the glades. They’re not a top-predator species.”

 

Smelt is just one among many fish that tribal communities in the lake basin depend on. Indeed, food sovereignty was a cornerstone of 19th-century treaties in which the Ojibwe ceded millions of acres and retained their rights to fish, hunt and gather. These rights were challenged a century later, when William Jondreau, an Ojibwe man — and grandfather of Jerry Jondreau — was arrested for catching lake trout when it was out of season. He claimed, under treaty rights, that he was free to fish on Keweenaw Bay, where his people had fished for centuries. His case went before the Michigan Supreme Court and, in the 1971 landmark Jondreau decision, the court ruled that the 1854 treaty with the Chippewa superseded state fish and game laws.

The decision reaffirmed his people’s right to hunt and fish on ceded territories. But there has been a steady “devaluation” of treaty rights since, Jerry Jondreau argues. “In those agreements, we retained our rights to hunt, fish and gather,” he says. “In exchange, the U.S. got all the land. It’s accruing wealth. But the fish, the water … those things are becoming sick.”

 

On the Bad River Reservation, a flash of lightning lit up a dark cloud over the Kakagon River. Seconds later, a low rumble of thunder rolled through the wetlands. Edith Leoso watched from the back of the boat as it sped inland. The rice harvest would be plentiful this season, she said. But the smelt population is in decline — and has been for years. Even so, she said, “people are still smelting when they shouldn’t be. We should leave that fish alone.” They’re fishing out of necessity,she explained, regardless of consumption advisories: “We don’t recognize them if we have to feed our families. That’s the bottom line.”

Michiganalso lists consumption guidelines for fish in hundreds of smaller lakes and rivers. “Fishing is a primary source of subsistence for Ojibwe tribes throughout the basin,” says Valoree Gagnon, director of university-Indigenous community partnerships at the Great Lakes Research Center of Michigan Technological University. “So, when you’re asked to lower fish consumption, you’re not just losing meals, you’re losing all those practices associated with fishing: sharing knowledge and passing that to future generations. It changes all kinds of social dynamics.”

The lake tribes have been proactive in response to environmental threats to their water. In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the Bad River Band the authority — known as “treatment as a state” — to set its own water-quality standards. A decade later, KBIC received the same authority.

 

Researchers are doing additional testing to identify possible sources of PFAS in Lake Superior. But contaminated sites already identified may hold clues. The chemicals have been found at the Duluth Air National Guard Base, adjacent to a PFAS-polluted creek that leads to Saint Louis Bay, at the southwestern corner of the lake in Minnesota; they were first detected at the Duluth air base in 2010, said Bioenvironmental Manager Maj. Ryan Blazevic of the 148th Fighter Wing in an email. The wing “no longer conducts fire protection training in a manner that discharges firefighting foam,” he said. (Firefighter training is a common source of PFAS at military bases.)”

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There is not enough accountability.  Bribery rules, along with conflicts and those who harm hide behind the corporate charters [that mean anything the money says they do.]  – Brad