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

Walt Bresette deep in thought as he prepares to address a Protect the Earth rally on the Capitol steps in Madison.  

Date: Mon, 22 Feb 1999 10:04:58 GMT 

I just received the terrible news of Walt's departure from our lives. Only yesterday I was talking about him with Alex Smith (who'd been with him a few weeks back and counted him a true mentor of her own) and remembering again the wisdom, sparkle, humor and profound humanity of someone who, though I met him only once, impressed me indelibly. I carried Walleye Warriors with me on a trip to Scandinavia, to work with the Saami in 1994, and shared passages from it with them. He was a truly universal spirit. He and I talked a little about the joys and challenges of sharing our lives with relative born with Down syndrome (my own dear brother died last year). And, when I worked as a consultant for the World Council of Churches historic consultation on Mining and Indigenous Peoples in 1996, it was Walt who came first into my mind as a moderator (we talked about his coming to London for that event and he wanted to do so, but was too committed back home). 

Roger Moody    ( 



From: "KOLA International Campaign Office" <
Date: Mon, 22 Feb 99 20:08:03 PST 

KOLA wishes to express its sincere feelings of sympathy with 
the relatives of Mr. Walter Bresette. He was an awesome 
human rights and environmental advocate and he will be 
greatly missed. 

Elsie Herten & Florence Bald Eagle, 
KOLA International Campaign Office 

From skip jones 
Date: Wed, 03 Mar 1999 07:48:23 -0600 

Hi Folks, 

We lost a good friend with the passing of Walter Bressette. 
Walt was a man of vision. He pursued that vision with a passion. He 
stood, sat and walked for justice. He loved the earth. He care deeply 
for his people and all people were Walter's people. Walter loved music. 
He was a Gentle Warrior. I feel a great loss. 
For the Earth and the Generations to Come, 
Skip Jones  

From: "Bob Olsgard" 

Walt Bresette, a Voice for Lake Superior is Gone 
Date: Sun, 21 Feb 1999 20:10:40 -0600 

Friends of Lake Superior, 

Today Lake Superior lost a good friend.Ý Walt Bresette, ardent voice for clean water, sovereignty and justice died of a heart attack in Duluth, Minnesota.Ý 

In the coming days, we will share our memories of the brilliant light he brought into our world.Ý Here, in his own words, is a short sketch of his life, his work and his family, which he wrote in the fall of 1996. 

Biographical Sketch: Walt Bresette 

October 1996 - 715/779-5071 

He is a Lake Superior Chippewa from the Red Cliff Reservation in northern Wisconsin where he works out of his home. He is best known as a community activist with a special focus on native rights, environmental concerns and cross-cultural alliance building. He is currently the part time coordinator of the Lake Superior Alliance - a group concerned with economic sustainability, environmental threats and cultural diversity of the Lake Superior basin. 

In 1994 he and co-author Rick Whaley won the Wisconsin Writer's Council booklength non-fiction award for "Walleye Warriors: An Effective Alliance Against Racism and For the Earth." The book documents the turbulent times over spearfishing rights in northern Wisconsin during which Bresette helped found the Witness for Non-violence and the Midwest Treaty Network. He is currently compiling essays about mining issues in the region. 

He is also working with award-winning radio producer Dick Brooks in a CPB public radio project called "All My Relations." In it he travels around the U.S. and Canada talking with people about fundamental values of life and the land. He and Brooks have collaborated on other radio projects; he is one of the founding board members of WOJB Public Radio. 

As a result of his now two decades of activism he has become a sought out lecturer and trainer. In recent years he has lectured at most major universities and has an ongoing contract for agency training about native and cultural issues. 

His most recent activity has focused on concerns of a large copper mine at White Pine, Michigan. He's challenged the decision to test new technology called "solution mining" at this cavernous abandoned mine which he describes as a "leaky toxic 11 square mile hole in the ground five miles from Lake Superior." He resigned in protest as a citizen member/advisor to the US EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council when the agency went forward and authorized the acid mine project. He was also instrumental in blockading the rail line which was transporting the acid to White Pine. And recent hearings by EPA on this project are directly attributable to the train blockade and other issues raised during the protest. 

Bresette has established many alliances and lists the following as active affiliations: The Lake Superior Alliance, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Arctic to Amozonia, the W.A.T.E.R. Campaign, Anishinabe Niijii (mining watchdog group), Midwest Treaty Network and Witness for Non-violence, and the Waub Ojeeg Institute for Cultural Preservation. He also remains the public/media liaison for the Anishinabe Ogitchida. 

He is the survivor of two failed marriages with four children - Nicholas, Claudia, Katy and Robin Walter Bresette - the latter three in joint custody with their mom Cass Joy. He goal is to turn his family property at Red Cliff into a hospitality grounds as well as a site for multi-cultural gatherings, trainings and fun. 


A letter to Walter Bresette 

They tell me that you have left on your final voyage. You, dear friend, who have wandered so selflessly in so many directions on behalf of human dignity and the environment. Only yesterday I watched a short clip of you used to close the just released CD -ROM (Alex Smith's excellent "Maawanji-iding, Gathering Together [Ojibwe histories and narratives from Wisconsin]"). Your clip was preceded by two others-of your people who have gone before you, Archie Mosay and Marilyn Benton. In the clip, as you broke into your usual impish smile, you typically closed the presentatiori by saying, "Well, I'd better get back to work." 

Your work on behalf of others has been tireless, both in publications and your personal involvement in various causes. As an author of an important book on Native fishing rights, as well as your appearance in my own film "Wisconsin Powwow," where you so eloquently described the problems facing vendors of true Native crafts with competition from Oriental fakes, to winning the court battle over "Feathergate," ensuring Indian rights to items deemed sacred and requisite for regalia, to joining others at Bad River blocking train traffic leading to pollution in the Upper Peninsula. 

Elsewhere, your many long walks on behalf of justice for Indian rights, your recent appearance on Madeline Island over concerns about tree cutting on historic Old Fort Road, serving as powwow MC, providing the principle Bayfield outlet for Native crafts at the Buffalo Trading Post. I could go on. 
Whenever your name has been mentioned, the firstword that comes to my mind is,"integrity." On top of that, Walt, you have gone about your business mostly unrewarded, but with an uncanny sense of humor. In the spirit of Wenabozho, the Ojibwe trickster, you were the creator, I believe, of the in-joke that the Chippewa contribution to safe sex was "wet dream-catchers". I imagine you currently dancing among the Northern Lights with that smile on your face. May you have a well-deserved rest, Walter, in the land of the spirits. You will be greatly missed. 

Your friend, Tom Vennum 


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