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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.

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Menominee River: A Vital Lifeline for Michigan and Wisconsin Communities

The Menominee River: A Natural Treasure

The Menominee River, a majestic waterway, forms the natural border between Michigan and Wisconsin. This river is not just a picturesque landscape; it is an integral part of the region’s identity, offering ecological, economic, and cultural benefits to the communities along its banks.

Ecological Significance

  • Diverse Ecosystem: The Menominee River hosts a rich tapestry of flora and fauna. It is home to numerous fish species, including bass, walleye, and trout, making it a paradise for anglers and a crucial habitat for aquatic life.
  • Water Quality: The river’s health is vital for maintaining the quality of life in the area. It plays a key role in sustaining the local ecosystems, with its clean and nutrient-rich waters supporting both terrestrial and aquatic species.
  • Conservation Efforts: Various conservation initiatives highlight the river’s ecological importance. These efforts aim to protect and preserve the natural habitats and the species that depend on the river.

Economic Contributions

  • Recreational Hub: The Menominee River is a cornerstone for recreational activities. Fishing, kayaking, and rafting attract thousands of tourists annually, boosting the local economy.
  • Support for Local Businesses: The influx of visitors benefits local businesses, from bait shops and boat rentals to restaurants and lodging facilities. This economic activity underscores the river’s role as a regional economic stimulant.
  • Employment Opportunities: The tourism and recreational industries around the river provide numerous jobs, contributing significantly to the local employment landscape.

Cultural and Historical Importance

  • The Menominee Tribe: For the Menominee Indian Tribe, the river is not just a body of water but a sacred entity. It’s tied to their history, culture, and spiritual beliefs, representing an ancestral connection that spans centuries.
  • Historical Landmarks: The river’s banks are dotted with historical sites and landmarks, each telling a story of the region’s past, from Native American heritage to the early European settlers.

The Threat of the Back 40 Mine

The proposed Back 40 mine, a potential mining project along the river, poses significant risks:

  1. Environmental Risks: The mining process could lead to severe ecological damage, including water pollution from toxic runoff and habitat destruction.
  2. Impact on Wildlife: The disruption to the natural habitats could have a detrimental effect on the river’s diverse wildlife populations.
  3. Cultural Destruction: The mine could desecrate sacred sites and disrupt the Menominee Tribe’s connection to their ancestral land.
  4. Economic Downfall: Environmental degradation could reduce the river’s appeal to tourists, negatively impacting the local economy and livelihoods.
  5. Health Concerns: Potential contamination of the river poses health risks to local communities who rely on the river for their water supply and recreational activities.

In Defense of the River

Protecting the Menominee River from the Back 40 mine is not just an environmental issue; it’s a matter of preserving a way of life. Community groups, environmental activists, and the Menominee Tribe are at the forefront of this battle, advocating for the river’s protection.


The Menominee River is a lifeline for the Michigan and Wisconsin border region, offering invaluable ecological, economic, and cultural benefits. The threat posed by the Back 40 mine project serves as a call to action for all who value this natural wonder. It is imperative to safeguard the river for present and future generations, ensuring that it continues to be a source of life, culture, and prosperity.

The Menominee River’s story is a reminder of the delicate balance between development and conservation. It is a testament to the river’s resilience and the community’s dedication to preserving this crucial natural resource. As stewards of the environment, the responsibility lies with everyone to protect and honor this vital waterway.

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Wisconsin tribe seeks to protect a historic site where company plans to mine for gold

Authorities in Wisconsin and Michigan have now signed off on the Menominee Indian Tribe’s nomination of a site to the National Register of Historic Places, but that’s drawn backlash from some Michigan lawmakers who say it’s a veiled attempt to stop the Back Forty mine on the Michigan-Wisconsin border… – Click to Read More