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      Native American pig farmer fights for rights

      A farmer and Native American with the Keeweenaw Bay Indian Community is suing the state of Michigan in federal court over its ban on exotic pigs.

      Brenda Turunen has been farming for 23 years and says the state's actions violates her Native American rights.

      "Why are they picking on my right to farm here? I'm not doing anything wrong here. I have a domestic hog production," said Brenda Turunen, farmer. "We just want to quietly run our own farm here."

      Turunen's domestic hog production may be shut down. The Department of Natural Resources told Turnunen to get rid of her pigs. Now she's fighting it and suing the DNR.

      It's all because of an invasive species order that was passed by the state last April, making it illegal to possess feral swine. However, Turunen says she is doing nothing illegal.

      "I do not have feral swine on my farm, never have, never will," Turunen said.

      She says the DNR is violating her right to farm, which is protected by the 1842 treaty between the United States and Lake Superior Band of Chippewa Indians. Under the terms, many rights, including farming, were ensured for Native Americans on designated land off the reservation.

      "That farming is subject only to reasonable regulation enacted by the federal government or the tribe itself. The state of Michigan has no right to regulate those activities," said Joseph O'Leary, attorney.

      At Ma Hog farm, Brenda owns at least 1,000 pigs, and they are all raised in closed pens. Her hogs are a unique breed known as the hogan hog, which is a tastier meat and can withstand the U.P. weather.

      They look like the Eurasion hog which is listed as feral swine. However, the order also categorizes an exotic pig based on looks, which can be found in both domestic and wild boar. Some say the invasive species order is too broad.

      "If the ears are erect, folded or floppy, that's a characteristic of an outlawed pig. Similarly they said that the outlawed pigs have straight tails, although they have muscles to curl their tails when they need it," O'Leary said.

      Turunen invested millions in her 119 acre farm; raising and selling hogs is how she keeps it running.

      "I love the pigs and I would just be sad to see them go. This is my livelihood. I love the pigs and I can't imagine this property without them," Turunen added.

      The DNR has made no comment on the matter.