Stories, Memories, and Condolences About Walt
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Photo by Kathy Olson

A classic Walter move...hamming it up at a relatively ceremonial event, the Gathering of the Waters Ceremony at the Protect the Earth Community Gathering. His son Robin smiling up at him. 

At the ceremony people from all over the earth bring a little bit of water from their home watershed to pour into a common vessel. As the water is poured the people speak about their water. The blending of the water symbolizes how all the waters of the world are connected and how we as humans are connected to the water.
Walter had been helping people for hours to step to the microphone and speak about their water supply, which, way to commonly was threatened or polluted. When this woman stepped forth with her pure clean water from her own deep well......well Walter just had to test it out!
Always the character.


This is a story about the time I spent with Walter Bresette. 

My name is Richard Reese, and the lands of my great grandparents lie in what 
is called Norway, Wales, and Germany. I now live on land stolen from the 
Anishinabe. My home is located 500 feet above Lake Superior, between two 
hills, between two ghost towns, between two large copper lodes. To the west 
is the Pewabic Lode, home of the Quincy, Pewabic, Franklin, Mesnard, and 
Pontiac mines. To the east is Arcadian Hill, the Arcadian Lode, home of the 
Arcadian Mine. I literally live in the Valley of the Copper People. 
I spend a lot of my life trying to make sense of the world. Thus, I spend a 
lot of time deranged and crazy. The way I heal myself is to go to the old 
mines and look for copper. The less you think, the more you can pay 
attention. Stop the thinker, and all that's left is the wonderful peace and 
power of the land. Anyway, my ranch has sort of become an orphanage for the 
Copper People. Everywhere you go in my house, and around my yard, there are 
clusters of rescued Copper People. It seemed like just a hobby. I didn't 
think much about it. 

Maybe four years ago, I heard Walter telling stories in Hancock. One story 
described the four instructions that the Creator gave to the Anishinabe -- 
and one of these instructions was to be like stone -- be strong. And I now 
know that by caring for the sacred Copper People, I was working on a great 
personal need -- the need for strength -- spiritual strength. 

The following is a story about the second time I met Walter, written as the 
events unfolded, and posted to an online group. As it turns out, this was 
the last time that I saw Walter alive. 

October 24, 1997 [My friend Vern has been talking to Walter, an Anishinabe 
man who is teaching a course at Michigan Technological University, called 
"Alternative Views on the Environment." Walter has agreed to give me a 
two-hour course to speak my views to the class. On this day, Walter and 
Vern have stopped by the ranch.] 

Today, I had a wonderful experience. A fundamentalist Native American 
walked through my door, sat down, and started telling stories. Walter is an 
Anishinabe activist, storyteller, and lover of his home, his family, his 
community of all spirits. 

He talked about the White Pine Mine, in northern Michigan, which had 
recently shut down. He told about how the natives had gathered there to 
"spiritually" close the mine. The president of the mining company flew in 
from Toronto, they built a fire at the mouth of the mine, and drumming, 
songs, and prayers followed. A ceremony had to be held to let the spirits 
of the mine know that the horror was over, the machinery would not come 
back, and that the healing process could now begin. Some of the elders were 
wary of standing too close to the mine mouth, because such awesomely 
powerful -- and possibly dangerous -- spirits dwelled within that dark, 
gaping, painful wound in the Earth. 

We shared a meal, and the conversation continued. I happened to give Walter 
a large, green, beautifully-shaped piece of float copper to hold (float 
copper is smoothed and polished by passing glaciers). He took it in his 
hands, bowed his head, and he and the stone spent quite a spell in deep and 
sacred communication. Walter has been fighting mines for years, and he held 
in his hands a sacred member of the Copper People, a beautiful being who had 
been spared from the crushers, smelters, and factories. Watching the two 
together was a deeply moving experience! Brother embracing brother. Love 
and radiance filling the room. 

Ladies and gentlemen, this profound love for the Earth -- for the spirits of 
all beings, animate and inanimate, past, present, and future -- is what is 
missing in our discussions, in our culture, in our religions, in our 
schools, and in each of our lives. If our hearts are filled and brimming 
with love for the community that surrounds us -- the ENTIRE community -- 
then we would not need to spend our time in these discussions -- we would 
need to spend our time in prayer, in song, and in sharing. The Earth has 
the answers we are seeking. It is our sacred obligation to seek, to ask, 
and -- most important -- to LISTEN! 

When we can rekindle that love -- the overwhelming, boundless, bottomless 
love that our ancestors had -- and have -- for the Earth, all these 
questions that are bouncing around in cyberspace will become pointless and 
silly. When our hearts are hot and strong and radiant with that love, we 
will cease causing harm -- we will do what is right, proper, and good. We 
do not destroy what we love. Love is the answer. Community is the answer. 

October 25, 1997 


I am bone-tired. So very tired! The last few days have been days of 
awesome power. Sleep has not been easy. 

Today, I went up to Arcadian Hill to gather apples for the winter. And as I 
walked across the land, it was truly alive with spirits. Alive like it has 
never been before. I am tired from shedding tears. Sobbing in the woods. 
Tears of grief. Tears of pain. Tears of relief. Tears of joy. It is like 
I have opened my eyes for the first time -- now as I come to the end of my 
44th year. 

When my buckets were filled, I headed back towards the road. Before I got 
there, the spirits said to stop, put down the apples. The Copper People had 
a gift for you. It was my job to find it. 

I walked to the clearing where the Arcadian #4 shaft once was. The voices 
said to go to the right. I did. Follow the edge of the woods. I did. 
Eventually, I saw the green dot in the gravel. I gave it a kick, and three 
inches of dirt moved. I knew that I had found what I was supposed to. The 
stone was dirty and heavy. 

I walked to a puddle and broke open the ice. I began washing the stone, and 
the center fell out -- it was hollow. It had an arch of copper sticking out 
of the top of it, sort of shaped like a rainbow. But the rainbow wasn't 
complete -- there was a break in the middle of it. Two fingers of copper 
were bent over facing each other, as if preparing to kiss. 
When I came home, I took the brush to the stone, and half of the rainbow 
fell off. It was weakly connected to the stone. After I finished cleaning 
the stone, I looked at it again. At one end of the stone, a little copper 
man is sticking up -- a torso, neck, and head -- with eyebrows, a nose, and 

Here's where the story gets interesting. The man is bent forward and is 
looking down. He is bowed, as if in prayer. He looks like you did the 
other day, while holding the float copper. It was an amazing sight to 
behold. This man has been in prayer for maybe three billion years -- 
somewhere around the time that the first single-celled beings appeared in 
the Mother Sea. 

The copper man is waiting for you. 

November 1, 1997 

Love and Greetings to my Brothers and Sisters! 

Halloween has passed, and the spirits of our ancestors have returned from 
the Other Side -- to be with us, to listen, to teach, to love, to celebrate, 
to pray, to give thanks. 

On Thor's day there was a gathering in the Valley of the Copper People. A 
feast for the dead. A celebration of their return. A ceremony of 
welcoming. A ceremony of the Anishinabe People, the indigenous people of 
this land -- led by an Anishinabe man named Walter. 

I was born on Thor's day, and during the feast for the dead, my 45th year 
passed away, and my 46th year was born. Thor is a power being. When giants 
obstruct his path, Thor smashes their skull with his sacred hammer. Thor is 
the god of the THUNDER!!! and LIGHTENING!!! His rumbling and crashing 
excites the release of the fertilizing showers of spring rain -- the rains 
that call the tender green sprouts out of the Earth, the rains that call the 
tender green leaves out of their swollen brown buds, the rains that call the 
Frog People to sing in the pond in the Valley of the Copper People, the 
songs that call the Goose People back from the south -- the songs that tell 
them to build nests, to make love, to lay eggs. 

But the green is gone. The Frog People have returned to their homes in the 
mud. The Goose People have returned to their homes in the south. The 
spirits of the ancestors have returned from their homes on the Other Side. 
They are here now. It is the other season. The season of the ancestors. 
The season of snow and quiet and rest and peace. The season of dreams, of 
voyages, of stories. 

I am bound by my honor to not reveal what took place in that gathering, but 
I can tell you that it was good. It was healing. It was strong. It will 
be remembered for long years. It was a time of softness, of gentleness, of 

I can tell you that after this gathering, I had a dream. I dreamed that I 
held an ancient wooden war club, a club once held by a man of great power, a 
man we refer to as Black Hawk. This club was once buried, then dug up by 
White ones, then returned to a Native man. This sacred club has a ball at 
the end of its handle. On the ball is carved a network of diamonds. When 
this club was first born, the edges of the diamonds were sharp -- their 
purpose was to cut and tear open White skin, to excite the blood to flow in 
fertilizing showers. 

But this sacred club is very old. It has been on the war path, defended 
ancient communities, spilled the hot red blood of the White invaders -- it 
has been buried and unburied, stolen and returned. And over the years, this 
club has been touched by many hands, loved by many hands, softened by many 
caring touches. Its edges are no longer sharp. Through many years of love, 
its cutting diamonds have become smooth and gentle. In this dream, the 
loving touch of many hands have removed the war from this club. It has been 
given a new song -- a song of peace. That was my dream. 

I can tell you that after this gathering, there is a new spirit in this 
place, the spirit of the Bear People. Sitting beside the Copper People 
gathered in this place is a bear claw, a gift, a spirit of protection. Of 
this, I can speak no more, because this is all I know. 

I can tell you that after this gathering, there is a new Copper One in this 
place, from a clan of Copper People that I had not met before. Most of the 
Copper People I meet have the same shape that the Creator gave them three 
billion years ago -- when all continents were one, and the Keweenaw was 
south of the Equator. While other stones crumble into dust, the Copper 
People remain strong and unchanged through the ages. 

They watched the coming of the first two-leggeds. They watched the 
dinosaurs come and go. They watched the first dragonfly zig, zag, and 
hover. They watched the first beings crawl up out of Mother Ocean, onto a 
beach of brown dry land. They see with Long Eyes -- they have listened to 
the Story of Life from the time when the Creator spoke its first words. 
The Creator gave the Copper People a tough skin, an abrasive skin -- like 
coarse sand paper. You can recognize a Copper Person while blind folded, by 
touch. When you touch their skin, it feels like a cat's tongue. I am 
speaking of the clan of Earth Copper. 

But some Copper People have been changed. Some have danced with the 
glaciers. Some of been smoothed by the dancing of the Ice People. These 
smooth ones are of the clan called Float Copper. But this New One is not of 
the clan of the Float People. 

This New One is of the clan of the Water Copper -- beings who have danced in 
the waves for centuries, beings who have danced with the beach gravel, 
beings who have become soft and gentle while dancing with the soft and 
gentle water of Lake Superior. Their touch brings sensuous pleasure. Their 
song is kindness, caring, peace. 

On the morning of Halloween, I got up, built a fire, and made coffee. In a 
cloud of tobacco, Walter and I spoke and listened. I will share some of 
these words with you. 

I had asked Walter for feedback on my talk of the previous day. My words to 
those students were not charged with tension, fear, and anxiety -- but with 
directness, with sincerity, with power. But some said that my words had 
stirred fear. This was not my intent. My motive had been to inspire 
thought, concern, awakening, action -- to inspire seeking and questioning, 
learning and communication, healing and transformation, gentleness and 

I wanted to start a spreading fire that would lick the spirits of the 
masses -- and race across the land, cleansing and purifying, burning and 
renewing, killing and giving birth. But Walter told me that the mystery 
that he was pursuing was not one that required many people -- just a few -- 
maybe ten or twenty. 

When I gave my talk, I asked a question -- why did most of the 
civilizations, in the lands that we call the United States, collapse -- 
before the invasion of the Whites? Was it a shortage of firewood (they had 
no axes made of the Iron People)? Was it disease? Was it the terrible new 
technology of the bow and arrow? Or was it a spontaneous collective act of 
intelligence, of healing, of gentleness and peace? 

Walter told me a story. He told me of a legend he had heard of, the legend 
of a people who live south of the border, up in the mountains. In these 
mountains are ruins, the ruins of an ancient civilization. These people 
told Walter that one day their ancestors got up, packed up, walked out of 
the city, and closed the great gates behind them -- never to return again. 
He told me another tale, of a phone conversation he had with another Native. 
He said, "I don't think they're going to leave -- it looks like they're 
planning on staying here." The man said, "Who are you talking about?" 
Walter said, "Those White people." He continued, "Maybe it's time for us to 
have a Ceremony of Welcoming for them, so that they will feel more at home 
here -- and start caring for this land." 

On the day of my talk, I told the students that our culture and its schools 
only talks to one brain, the left brain, the brain of linear thought, 
reason, rationality, analysis. Our right brain withers, shrinks, gathers 
dust. Our right brain is the brain of creativity, of vision, of prayer, of 
spiritual power. I suggested to the students that since we all have two 
brains, maybe we ought to use BOTH of them! 

Walter described his two lives to me. One life is public -- he works for 
Native rights, for peace, for the environment. He travels around the world. 
He has met many famous people, and many unknown people who have important 
stories to tell. His other life is spiritual. His sacred life is a 
spiritual quest, a pilgrimage, a search for answers to great mysteries. 
His sacred life is a world of spirits, powers, mysteries, visions, 
prophesies, stolen fires, frozen objects, ancient beings, lost scrolls, 
forgotten caves -- a world of seeking, of questioning, of discovering, of 

I have lived for 45 years mostly by using my left brain. To my mind, 
Walter's sacred world is 100% irrational, mysterious, incomprehensible, 
purely and absolutely nonsensical. Yet, it stirs inside me profound 
feelings, forces, spirits, something important. There is much that my 
people have forgotten, much that we need to remember. 

I suggested that Walter speak of his sacred life to the students, because it 
was of such great importance. He laughed! "If I told them those stories, 
they'd all start FOLLOWING me! I'd NEVER be able to get rid of them!" He 
said that nearly every single White person is looking for a LEADER, someone 
to give them instructions, someone to FOLLOW! They don't know how to 
conduct their own lives, to find their own paths, to live their own visions. 
We talked a bit longer, then Walter suddenly got up, picked up his bags, 
declined an offer of breakfast, hugged me, and walked out the door. I just 
sat still. I spent the entire day doing nothing. I didn't read anything. 
I didn't turn on my computer. I didn't return phone messages. The radio 
stayed quiet. 

As the afternoon grew old, I went out the door and took a long, long walk. 
Mists were filling the air, a heavy fog was rolling in. The wind was 
blowing hard from the east -- from Norway, from Wales, from Germany -- the 
lands of my blood and my people. As I walked in the darkness, along Quincy 
Hill ridge, high above the valley below, I sensed that I was not alone. I 
was walking with a crowd of spirits, uncountable in number, my ancestors, my 
family. I was not alone. My people were with me. 

This Halloween day was like no other day that I have lived in all of my 45 
years. It was like a dream. I was completely relaxed, comfortable, 
content, satisfied, fulfilled. For the entire day, hour after blessed hour, 
I was a being of immense and total peace, happiness, and quiet. I have met 
the gentle and peaceful clan of the Water Copper. I have dreamed a dream of 
a war club that sings of peace. This was a day of nothing but peace! 
The ancestors have returned. My prayers go out to one and all of you! I 
pray that you will have a pleasant reunion! I pray that the coming season 
will be a time of learning, of remembering, of awakening, of healing -- a 
time of good stories, warm fires, loving words, and peace. 

Journey in peace, my dearest friends, my Brothers and Sisters! Find peace! 
Create peace! Celebrate peace! Peace to one and all! 

Copper Man 

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