Photos by Greg Peterson, Steve Durocher and Samantha Otto
(Marquette, Michigan) – The impact of numerous environmental projects created by the northern Michigan Earth Keepers over the past few years is measured in the hundreds of tons as over 15,000 residents have turned in hazardous waste, teens are restoring wild rice beds, businesses and homes are reducing power consumption and thousands of dollars used to protect Lake Superior
The non-profit Michigan Earth Keeper Initiative, its nine faith communities, an Upper Peninsula American Indian tribe and over 400 volunteers were honored this week with the “2007 Lake Superior Magazine Achievement Award.”
The annual award established in 1994 “recognizes organizations or individuals who have improved the well-being of Lake Superior and it’s residents,” said Lake Superior Magazine Editor Konnie LeMay who traveled from Duluth, Minnesota to honor the interfaith environment project.
(Photos by Greg Peterson, Tom Buchkoe, Steve Durocher and Samantha Otto)
LeMay cited “734,000 pounds worth of environmental impact just since the signing the Earth Keeper Covenant in July 2004 by nine faith communities.”
Presenting an engraved crystal plaque during a Sept. 17, 2007 ceremony at Presque Isle Park in Marquette, LeMay said the “spiritual role model of the Earth Keepers certainly has improved the well-being and environmental awareness of Upper Michigan’s residents – it has offered a concrete way to action.”
The Lake Superior Magazine November issue honors the Marquette-based Earth Keepers whose environment projects include annual Earth Day hazardous waste collections, an energetic student team with its own projects, wild rice restoration, an energy summit, and most recently a classical music concert to protect the biggest, deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes that Native Americans call Gitchie Gummi.
The project is co-sponsored by the Cedar Tree Institute, the Superior Watershed Partnership, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the congregations of over 140 churches and temples representing nine faith communities (Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist, Baha’i, Jewish, and Zen Buddhist).
Rev. Jon Magnuson, who dreamed of creating the Earth Keepers ten years ago, told LeMay that Lake Superior Magazine first announced the existence of the faith-based environment initiative.
“Lake Superior Magazine announced the informal announcement of the Earth Keeper Covenant” and we want to thank the magazine for being a partner that way,” Rev. Magnuson said.
The covenant was signed by the leaders of the nine faith communities in 2004 pledging to actively protect the environment and reach out to American Indian tribes.
Rev. Magnuson honored the memory of one of the first signers of the covenant – Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan Bishop James Kelsey who was killed in a June 3, 2007 traffic accident.
Bishop Kelsey was “one of the Earth Keepers true point people for the religious leaders,” Magnuson said.
“Jim Kelsey’s spirit will carry us on – he was known as the environmental bishop and that was because of this work that he partnered with us on,” Magnuson said.
Magnuson said the Earth Keepers “lift and honor” the members of the “Keweenaw Bay Indian Community have been with us on every one of our initiatives” including a sister effort called the Manoomin project that involves restoring wild rice to seven remote sites in northern Michigan.
United Methodist Church Marquette District Superintendent Grant Lobb accepted the Lake Superior Magazine award on behalf of the nine faith leaders.
Over 15,000 residents have participated in annual Earth Day hazardous waste collections (2005-2007) at sites across the U.P. have recycled or properly disposed of about 370 tons of pharmaceuticals, old/broken computers, cell phones, pesticides, raw liquid mercury, drain cleaner, oil-based paint, vehicle batteries and many other substances.
2005 – 2007 Earth Keeper Clean Sweep
Pharmaceutical, electronic, household hazardous waste
The Manoomin Project
American Indian guides teach at-risk teens to plant wild rice.
The teens learn to respect themselves, nature and tribal customs
The Earth Keeper Manoomin Project have planted over one ton of wild rice seeds in the past three years through the hands of at-risk teenagers and American Indian guides. The project teaches teens to respect themselves, nature and American Indian heritage.
The Manoomin Project includes classroom time and other learning like Tai Chi relaxation exercises and listening to stories from American Indian elders. In July 2007, KBIC elder Glenn Bressette of Harvey, MI explained how he overcame some of the same obstacles the at-risk teens are currently facing.
Bressette described racism in Marquette when he was young when his mother told all her children to lie about their American Indian heritage. Bressette said he was called a “dirty Indian” and an “old drunken Indian.” Bresette said when he was in his teens police officers shot at him as he tried to steal gasoline and described how he became an alcoholic trying to numb the pain from racism.
The Boreal Chamber Symphony
“One night only” July 15, 2007 Lake Superior Day
The Boreal Chamber Symphony was formed by Midwest classical musicians during April 2007 that made its “one night only” performance a free benefit for the Earth Keepers on Lake Superior Day. The musicians to raised thousands of dollars for the Lake Superior Defense Fund.
Nearly 400 people attended the nearly four hour event – the debut of the Boreal Chamber Symphony directed by Craig Randal Johnson of Minneapolis – raising thousands of dollars for the Lake Superior Defense Fund. Thousands of people watched an on-line video made of a rehearsal on the edge of the lakeshore using Lake Superior as an musical instrument following a June 25, 2007 press conference at Presque Isle in Marquette that promoted the concert.
2007 Earth Keeper Energy Summit
Over 500 businesses, churches/temples, and homeowners pledged to reduce power consumption, some received energy audits, millions in energy savings in next few years
This summer’s Earth Keeper Energy Summit inspired 500 businesses, homeowners and churches/temples to reduce their power consumption – and many signed up for energy audits. The participants are expected to reduce their utility bills by millions of dollars over the next few years.
The Northern Michigan University
EarthKeeper Student Team
The Northern Michigan University EarthKeeper (NMU EK) Student Team is creating chapters at three other Upper Peninsula of Michigan universities. The nine Earth Keeper faith leaders and the KBIC President/CEO Susan LaFernier stood together at NMU on April 6, 2006 to announce the creation of the student team.
The student efforts have included an adopt-a-watershed project and spreading the Earth Keeper message to children and adults at schools, churches and temples.
The NMU EK Student Team participated in all Earth Keeper events. In October 2006, the students recorded a video for an MTV contest.
On October 6, 2006, Rev. Lynn Hubbard of Eden on the Bay Lutheran Church in Munising sponsored a benefit concert for the student team with Greg LaCombe and the Loose Ends band.
Rev. Hubbard has scheduled a second benefit concert for the student team at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, October 12, 2007 at Upfront & Company restaurant in Marquette. The public is encouraged to attend the free benefit concert.
The Earth Keepers have been fortunate to receive several international awards including the Lake Superior Magazine honor.
Pictured left to right (in above photo) are Earth Keeper consultant Ron Sundell; Cedar Tree institute Executive Director Rev. Jon Magnuson, Catholic Earth Keeper Kyra Fillmore representing Roman Catholic Bishop Alex Sample, Lake Superior Magazine Editor Konnie LeMay, United Methodist Church Marquette District Superintendent Grant Lobb, Jewish Earth Keeper Jacob Silver of Temple Beth Sholom in Ishpeming, U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak’s District Director Tom Baldini, Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan Operations Coordinator Jane Cisluycis, and Superior Watershed Partnership Executive Director Carl Lindquist.
In August 2006 and repeating again in 2007, the Grand Rapids, Michigan based Acton Institute named the Earth Keeper Initiative and the Cedar Tree Institute one of the 13 hardest working faith-based non-profits in America.
The Manoomin Project received the hardest working honor in 2006 putting two Cedar Tree Institute projects on the hardest working list. World Magazine did features stories on the projects as part of the award.
On September 8, 2006, the Lake Superior Bi-National Forum presented the Earth Keepers with its Environmental Stewardship award during a ceremony in Marquette attended by the 9 faith leaders.
The Earth Keepers and the Manoomin Project have been fortunate to receive a large amount of positive coverage by the news media including national magazine articles, an United Methodist Church national TV crew did a story in Marquette during the 2007 clean sweep, and Rev. Magnuson was one of the guests on a national Native American radio talk show on September 14, 2007.
Numerous national magazines have done stories on the Earth Keepers including Grit, The Lutheran, Thrivent Magazine and others. The Associated Press has run numerous stories on the Earth keepers and the U.P. media has been very supportive.
The Earth Keeper Team
A core group of about a dozen dedicates souls who inspire 400 plus volunteers and whose faith communties have turned out over 15,000 northern Michigan residents to three Earth Day clean sweeps that have recycled or properly disposed of about 370 tons of hazardous waste.
Having fun while protecting the environment: Rev. Jon Magnuson, whose dreamed up the Earth Keepers ten years ago, shares a light moment with one of the hardest working volunteers during the Lake Superior Magazine press conference in Marquette, MI on Sept. 17, 2007.
Catholic Earth Keeper Kyra Fillmore of Marquette is a mother of two young children who shuffles a busy home life with doing God’s work. Her husband and father are also very active in Earth Keepers.
Over one ton of pharmaceuticals and over $500,000 narcotics was collected during the 2007 Earth Keeper Clean Sweep at 19 free drop-off sites across a 400 mile area of northern Michigan. The drugs were destroyed in a high-tech, low pollution, EPA-approved incinerator near St. Louis, Missouri.
Over 320 tons of electronic waste (below) was turned in by the public during the 2006 Earth Keeper Clean Sweep. Old/broken computers, cell phones and other electronics were recycled. The photo by Tom Buchkoe of Marquette represents about 80 percent of the e-waste that was turned in by the public, small businesses and schools.
The annual “Blessing of the Wild Rice” (below) is held each September in Marquette as a show of respect for the return of the once native grain – and to thank the supporters of the Manoomin Project. Everyone has a fun time and the meal includes various forms of wild rice.
The wild rice is prepared in several ways including searing the grain into a crunchy treat mixed with dried fruit.
Native American guide Don Chosa created this offering (below) to nature during the 2006 Blessing of the Wild Rice.
A member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Native American guide Don Chosa and the teens (below) bring the natural offering into the woods where it was placed behind a log during the 2006 Blessing of the Wild Rice in Marquette.
The at-risk teens involved in the Manoomin Project first arrive – in essence doing community service – after being sentenced in juvenbile court. Many of the teens have so much fun planting and testing the wild rice they ask to return the next year.
These teens are truly a joy to work with and only need a little bit of positive attention to grow into the great leaders of tomorrow. The Manoomin Project honors the teenagers and the KBIC for working so hard to restore wild rice to northern Michigan. Below are links to a tribute music video honoring those involved in the project.
Earth Keeper related website addresses are:
Earth Keeper TV:
The Cedar Tree Institute:
The Superior Watershed Partnership
The Lake Superior Interfaith Communication Network:
Earth Keeper TV Manoomin Project Music Video on blip tv:
You Tube – Manoomin Project Music Video:
Manoomin Project article/photos (scroll down a little bit):