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Community granting program to preserve traditional Ojibwe gathering practices

LAC DU FLAMBEAU, Wis. - The Lac du Flambeau Tribal Historic Preservation Office is offering a community granting program to tribal members that will assist in the revitalization of traditional Ojibwe gathering activities.

Like most indigenous tribes in North America, the traditional Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) lived in harmony with nature. Their semi-nomadic lifestyle included traveling through heavily forested regions by canoe and foot in the warm months and by toboggan and snowshoe in the winter. Although the Ojibwe relied heavily on hunting, fishing, and trapping for food, gathering activities according to the changing seasons yielded the majority of food for their families and provided the foundation for social activities shared by families and clans. Maple sugar collecting, berry and medicinal plant gathering, and wild ricing are just some of the traditional seasonal activities that are not being pursued by most tribal families today, essentially because of diversions such as lack of time, money, and knowledge.

Kelly Jackson, Lac du Flambeau Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, is overseeing the program, one of several programs which the Historic Preservation Office will be undertaking this year. "The THPO office tries to do smaller projects within our yearly plan, and because we are a compliance program we are rarely able to give back to the community something of value which we gathered throughout that year."

Jackson presented the idea for the program at an informal tribal council "retreat," during which the THPO staff presented various other project ideas to the Tribal Council, ideas that would reflect the primary mission of the THPO office: to promote, educate, enhance, identify, encourage and preserve cultural and traditional activities, materials, and areas for the benefit of future generations. The tribal council agreed to fund the projects at the next council meeting.

Criteria for applications for the community granting project was reviewed and approved by the Tribal Cultural Committee. The applications were comprised of six questions, with each given a point value. The most important question asked on the application was the first: "Describe gathering activity, including who will be completing the activities, i.e.: number of people; youth and elders." Jackson explains why emphasis was placed on this response. "The CCC felt that this is also about education - which is very important to the recovery of our traditional gathering activities."

This project is designed to promote cultural gathering. "I conducted some interviews with families a few years ago during a maple sugaring project and learned that families no longer, or have never, participated in sugar maple gathering because of different factors," Jackson said "lack of time is a large part of it, and materials needed for gathering can be very expensive."

The tribal council has agreed to fund $1,005 for the program. An additional $1,000 may be available, hopefully before the start of the ricing season, which usually begins in September. Of the 12 applications received, five finalists have been selected. Four of the finalists are choosing to gather wild rice. "If we do receive the additional money, we will be able to grant money to all five finalists for partial funding. However, if our budget remains at $1,005 we will only be able to fund two of our applicants, one is a ricer, and the other is a black ash basket maker," said Jackson. Ricing requires a canoe, paddles, ricing sticks and other tools.

The cultural granting program would not only assist Lac du Flambeau families and future generations, it would provide information on determining the present needs of the community, with regard to bringing back traditional cultural gathering activities.

For further information, contact the Lac du Flambeau Tribal Historic Preservation Office at (715) 588-2270 or (715) 588-2139 or e-mail ldfthpo@nnex.net.