Partnerships in the Copper Country
By: Timothy Maze
The telling of the history of the Keweenaw Peninsula relies heavily on the aspect of heritage. For many, this history is not an abstract concept for them only to visit and enjoy, but it is the history of their family, and subsequently, a history of themselves. What we see in the Keweenaw is a living history, as contemporary politics, households, and culture are all shaped by the now defunct copper industry that had taken over this landscape, shaped it, and then eventually abandoned it. But the purpose of this project is to understand that the story of copper in this region runs much deeper than another tale of labor, corruption, and industry in American history, but as a tale of indigenous heritage, craftsmanship, and networking.
The nature of this project is based around research, and in this current climate, a lot of that work is done from home. For many, this can make it difficult to acclimate into their positions, but I am fortunate to have already lived in the region and gotten to know some of the heritage sites that surround me, as well as some of the people that I will be working with. Though most of our contact is done remotely, Jo Holt, my Parks contact, and myself, have met up to explore one of the many heritage sites in the region. The Quincy Mine was a large mining operation that left behind many structures and ruins, creating one of the largest heritage sites here. Across the street from the large mine shaft, which is owned by the Quincy Mine Hoist Association, are a collection of ruins that are owned by the National Park Service. This is where Jo, along with Sean Gohman, Executive Director or Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission, had explained to me exactly how the partnerships between the many sites in the Keweenaw operated. There are many heritage sites spread throughout the Keweenaw, but not all of them belong to the National Park Service. Many of them are privately owned, some are owned by Historical Societies, while others are owned by state, country, and township organizations. And the work that the advisory commission does helps to connect each and every one of these entities to create a more cohesive narrative of the history of the Copper Country.
Though this project focuses on indigenous and pre-contact heritage, understanding the way that the copper industry itself is viewed in the Keweenaw can help to understand the story that is being told. Through conservation, Jo and I have agreed that in this tale of copper, indigenous voices are left out and the full history of the copper industry absolutely cannot be told without including those voices in a critical and defined way. Along with visiting such sites, most of my activity has revolved around steeping myself in the literature regarding the industry, the history, and the narratives of indigenous copper use. This activity is paramount to understanding the depth of this project, and one that will continue for the duration of it. I look forward to visiting the rest of the heritage sites, as well as providing photos and documentation of what I find.