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The Triumph of Anaem Omot and the Menominee River Coalition

Menominee Ancestral Bear statute at Menekaunee Harbor Park in Marinette, Wisc. on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Nestled along the serene banks of the Menominee River, the Anaem Omot area, also known as the Sixty Islands, stands as a symbol of resilience and cultural significance. This sacred land, intertwined with the history of the Menominee people, recently faced a monumental threat – the proposed Back Forty Mine. But, through the unwavering efforts of the Menominee Indian Tribe, the Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, and supportive communities, Anaem Omot has been preserved, safeguarding not only the environment but also the soul of a people.

Anaem Omot: A Land of Rich Heritage

Anaem Omot, or “Dog’s Belly,” is a five-square-mile area steeped in history. For nearly 10,000 years, this land has been home to indigenous settlements, including a tribal village on the Wisconsin side of the river. The area is graced with burial mounds and large circles where ancestral dream dances were performed. It’s a living tapestry of the Menominee Nation’s past, a place where the echoes of ancient footsteps still resonate​​​​​​.

The Threat of the Back Forty Mine

In 2015, the tranquility of Anaem Omot was jeopardized when Aquila Resources proposed the Back Forty Mine, intending to excavate gold, zinc, and other metals. The plan involved constructing a 750-foot deep, open-pit mine dangerously close to the Menominee River, posing a grave threat to the area’s environmental and cultural integrity​​​​.

A Coalition’s Unyielding Stand

The Menominee Indian Tribe, alongside the Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River and allied communities, embarked on a relentless campaign to protect Anaem Omot. Their efforts bore fruit as the Menominee tribe successfully challenged a wetlands permit issued for the mine. In a significant victory, a Michigan administrative law judge revoked this permit, and the mining permit was sent back for further review due to potential impacts on groundwater​​​​.

The Historic Victory

The collective struggle culminated in a historic win. Authorities in Wisconsin and Michigan endorsed the Menominee Indian Tribe’s nomination of Anaem Omot to the National Register of Historic Places. This designation not only honors the site’s deep-rooted cultural significance but also serves as a bulwark against the mining threat​​.

Environmental and Cultural Ramifications

The preservation of Anaem Omot extends far beyond its immediate geography. It represents a crucial victory for environmental conservation and cultural heritage. The Menominee River, a vital source of drinking water and home to a world-class smallmouth bass fishery remains untainted, continuing to nurture life and sustain communities. The protection of Anaem Omot also ensures that the Menominee people’s ancestral stories and traditions are not lost to the ravages of industrialization​​​​.

Business and Community Impact

The safeguarding of Anaem Omot and the Menominee River positively impacts nearby businesses and communities. By averting potential environmental hazards like acid mine drainage and water contamination, the region maintains its allure for tourism, fishing, and recreation. This victory underscores the importance of sustainable practices that benefit both nature and the economy.

In conclusion, the story of Anaem Omot is a heartening reminder of what can be achieved when communities unite for a common cause. It’s a narrative of triumph, where the reverence for nature and cultural heritage prevails over industrial exploitation. Anaem Omot’s journey from a threatened land to a protected historic site is not just a local victory; it’s a beacon of hope for environmental and cultural conservation efforts worldwide.