I’m not terribly good at personality profile articles.  I find that while interviewing I tend to get distracted by something and then focus on that for my article.  Below is the original article I wrote for class.  I liked it enough to want to share it, even though it did not complete the parameters of the assignment.  The topic is a tad out of date, but no less interesting.

Beyond jobs and environment

Beyond jobs and environment, it’s tribal

By Blythe Robbins

Wis. – Bringing new jobs to the state is at the forefront of current economic and political agendas.  In December 2011, Wisconsin ranked twentieth at 7.1% unemployment, down 2% from the start of the year, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Gogebic Taconite, a Florida iron ore mining company, proposed a new mine in Northern Wisconsin, which would bring in 700 jobs locally and an additional 2000 jobs to the Milwaukee area, with the need for equipment supplied out of the Caterpillar plant.  The mine also boasts $1.4 billion revenue over the course of the 35 year project.

In late summer, Gogebic Taconite began to pull their interests due to the tight constraints of Wisconsin’s current mining legislation.  In fear of losing jobs and revenue, two bills were introduced: AB421 and SB326.  These bills would supersede current legislation requiring DNR research and approval, removed contested case hearings and no longer require long term risk assessment of accidental health and environment hazards.

Arvina Martin, American Indian Outreach Coordinator for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, has been working to bring attention to the legislation.

“It’s a misnomer to say this is between jobs and environment,” she stated.  “There is no guarantee that the jobs will go to locals.”

She states that in Wisconsin, there are no mining education programs within the tech schools.  Martin also pointed out that a recently closed mine, in Minnesota, left a high unemployment rate.  Local fear is that Gogebic Taconite would choose to hire experienced employees, from out-of-state, who are willing to move to accommodate the new mine.

The passing of this legislation could also set a negative precedent.  “This is a treaty violation,” she said, elaborating that the Bureau of Indian Affairs is investigating as the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe Chippewa Indians had not been consulted before the bill was introduced.  The Great Lakes Indian fish and Wildlife Commission, a regulating body between the state and tribes, is also looking into the matter. If passed, it would be done without the backing of the tribes.

One hearing was scheduled on the legislation with only a six-day notice to review a 198 page draft.

While the mine is proposed in Hurley, the hearing was scheduled at State Fair Park in Milwaukee.  The reasoning, that more jobs would be created in the Milwaukee area.  Many feel the choice was made to eliminate the voices of the people who would be most adversely affected.

Martin worked in conjunction with tribe officials to notify all potentially affected peoples of the hearing.  She reached out through her tribal contacts and on social media to inform on the potential violations the passing of such legislation could incur.

Rep. Mary Williams, R-Medford, whose district represented the proposed mine location, was in charge of scheduling the hearing.  Under pressure of the tribes, a second hearing was scheduled in Hurley.  Again, there was limited notice before the hearing took place.

Martin attended both hearings, upping the level of communication by keeping a flowing commentary on her twitter feed for those who could not make it.

The bill is now stalled, having passed the state assembly in January.  According to Martin, other legislation issues have supplanted the mining bill.

Martin has since returned to her main job with the DPW.  As American Indian Outreach Coordinator, she is a part of the team that is in place to reach out to minorities in Wisconsin and educate them in their rights.

Established at the height of the Walker Recalls, the DPW created Outreach Coordinators for seniors, Hmong, Latinos, African Americans and American Indians.  Their goal was to reach out to minority communities, educate them in their voting rights and give them access to recall petitions and Voter ID cards.

Martin grew up in Madison, but has “family in both Stockbridge and Ho Chunk communities so we were up in both areas quite a bit.”  She is an enrolled member of the Ho Chunk Nation with Stockbridge-Munsee heritage.

She also received a lot of support from the Madison Indian community when it came to her education. In 2002 Martin graduated Dartmouth College with a degree in Native American Studies, focusing on government-to-government issues. “I always knew I wanted to use my education to help the community that helped me.”



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