MARINETTE — Activists spent the week of the Fourth of July kayaking the Menominee River in protest of the Aquila Resources’ Back Forty Mine.

At least three members of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and anti-Back Forty Mine activists kayaked down the Menominee River to bring awareness to their cause.

Wayne Swett, Jwin Zillier and Dawn Wilbur met at Stephenson Island Wednesday morning and drove together to a boat launch near Aquila Resources in Stephenson. From there, they began to travel down the river back toward Stephenson Island. This trip was planned to take up to four days, but Swett said it may be less than that.

“We’re in no hurry. We are going to enjoy the river and have fun while bringing awareness to this issue to as many people we can,” Swett said.

During the kayaking trip the group made frequent stops to interview property owners along the river about the Back Forty Mine.

“We already have several people living along the river who have contacted us to be interviewed,” Swett said before the trip. “Some of them are even planning on having a fire pit and campers out for us if we would like to camp on their property.”

Swett said he was unsure where they would be staying each night, but it was nice that so many people had made offers.

Swett has been an activist against the Back Forty Mine for a little over three years.

“I’ve been against this mine since the first time I heard about it,” he said. “I am a Menominee Indian myself, so I feel very strongly about this. This is the land of my ancestors and we need to protect it. We need to respect our land and our history.”

Even without Swett’s personal and cultural ties to the Menominee River, he said he would still be against the Back Forty Mine.

“I’m a Navy vet and I believe in standing up for what’s right,” Swett said. “If you don’t do something, if you don’t say something, you’re giving Aquila Resources your consent and I will not give them my consent.”

“This is our water that they are threatening,” Swett said. “They are going to poison our water, our land, the animals, the ecosystems.”

Swett continued to explain some of his cultural ties to the Menominee River.

“As a Menominee Indian, this is where my ancestors originated,” he said. “We need to protect the water because it’s sacred. All life begins in water. It’s our duty to protect the water and to speak for the water because it cannot speak for itself. We are its caretakers.”

This was Swett’s first time kayaking to bring awareness to why he and so many others are opposed to the mine, but it is not the first time he has worked as an activist to stop mining on native land.

He said at one time he was also an activist against a mine in Saint Croix, Wis., which threatened Ojibwa land. He was living in the area and helped the Ojibwa tribe with protests and activism against that mine.

“I worked with the Ojibwa people and they were able to get the mine to leave,” he said. Swett said having seen the anti-mine activism succeed in Saint Croix helps him to know that his activism against the Back Forty Mine is not doomed to failure. “We set up camps for six weeks and eventually they pulled out entirely.”

“This is our land and our water, we need to protect it,” Swett said.