Harvest Edcuation Learning Project (HELP) Camp

The first wigwams going up at HELP camp, Spring 2013.

The first wigwams going up at HELP camp, Spring 2013.

In 2013, the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa established the Harvest Educational Learning Project (HELP) camp in the Penokee Hills of northern Wisconsin. The purpose of the camp was to keep a presence of resistance at the edge of the property where  Gogebic Taconite (GTac) wanted to build a 22-mile mountaintop removal open-pit iron ore mine in the Penokee watershed, on the shores of Lake Superior.

The camp was located on county land and within Chippewa ceded territory.  The Chippewa have treaty rights in the region to hunt, fish, and harvest.  The GTAC mining site was also in the State Forest Management Tax Credit Program, making it a public space. HELP was guided by state agreements with the Chippewa tribes for harvesting of  foods, berries, herbs, medicinal plants, and other materials necessary for cultural sustainability.

GTAC armed security forces in northern Wisconsin. Photo: Rob Ganson

GTAC armed security forces in northern Wisconsin. Photo: Rob Ganson

The camp hosted tribal members and non-native guests and had several winterized wigwams and tents. Camp members also conducted research in the region, taking an inventory of resources, blazing trails, doing historical and archaeological work, and harvesting local resources. Camp denizens kept the camp open for nearly three years, even through the brutal northern Wisconsin winters, illegal legislation that stripped us of our rights, armed mercenaries sent by GTac to guard their equipment, attacks by local mining thugs, and continual media propaganda misrepresenting the water protectors as violent.

Over five thousand people from around the world signed the visitors’ book at the camp after it opened and before it was disbanded.

Harvest Camp was located approximately 1/2 mile south of Highway 77 on Moore Park Road between Mellen and Hurley, WI. The camp disbanded because resistance and community solidarity won, and GTac discontinued pursing its mining project in February 2015.

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