Lake Sturgeon Rehabilitation in the Kalamazoo River is a multi-agency project working towards protecting and increasing the population of Kalamazoo River lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens). The Kalamazoo River is one of eleven lake sturgeon populations remaining in the Lake Michigan Drainage. The Tribe has worked with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Grand Valley State University and the Kalamazoo Chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow on Kalamazoo River rehabilitation efforts since 2009. Rehabilitation efforts are funded by the Tribe, FWS and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Read More...
Mnomen (wild rice - Zizania aquatica and Zizania palustris) restoration efforts are funded through a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant. Mnomen is an important natural resource both ecologically and culturally. It is a sacred gift from the Creator and literally translates to “good berry.” Mnomen is a culturally important plant to the Anishinabe people of the Great Lakes region. It has been a central component of the culture of indigenous people in this region for thousands of years and continues to be of great importance to the Anishinabe community. Mnomen’s spiritual significance is evidence of the fulfilling of the prophecies of the Anishinabek migration story; it is used in ceremonies and feasts.
Mnomen populations have declined in local lakes due to changes in hydrology, herbicide use and boat traffic. The Environmental Department is working to restore mnomen for use by future generations of people and wildlife. Using BIA GLRI funding, the Tribe monitors known mnomen beds while identifying water bodies with high potential for restoration success and conducting restoration activities. Three waterbodies have been seeded annually since 2015 in the Gun Lake Tribe service area. Staff are working with a statewide planning group to develop state regulations and protocols to guide wild rice restoration and harvest. Environmental and Language & Culture staff invite Tribal community members to attend monthly meeting that are held throughout the field season to guide restoration activities and efforts.
Turtles are very important to the Anishinabek. In the Anishinabe creation story there was a great flood. Afterwards a small speck of soil was placed on the turtle’s back, which grew to become North America or “Turtle Island.” The turtle is also the leader of the fish clan, one of the original seven clans of the Anishinabek. This clan is looked to for truth and wisdom.
Urbanization, including increased impervious surface by means of roads, buildings and related structures, shoreline development and the resulting habitat fragmentation, cause turtle mortality as female turtles travel away from the wetlands to search for nesting sites. These increased impervious surface areas lead to an increased use of road salt, mostly in the form of NaCl (Foreman et al 2003), which eventually is washed off the roads and parking areas into local wetlands and other bodies of water (McBean and Al-Nassri 1987).
The main objectives of the Mshike Conservation Project, funded through BIA GLRI, are to monitor, conserve and improve turtle populations on Tribal properties. The Tribe is interested in learning the sex ratio of newly hatched mshike, if chloride or sulfide is affecting the animals and if artificial habitat will combat wetland fragmentation.
Environmental Programs - Pollution Prevention, Water Quality, Environmental Response
Additional environmental programs and environmental capacity building are funded through the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA funded activities include pollution prevention (recycling, solid waste management), air quality activities (climate change adaptation planning, indoor air quality), Emergency Response, Water Quality (water monitoring, analysis) and environmental educational outreach including the coordination/organization of Jijak Youth Camp.
Invasive Species - Prevention, Control and Management
Michigan has already experienced significant negative effects from invasive species that are present on our land and in our waters. However, Michigan is continually threatened by new invasions as these organisms invade ecosystems beyond their natural, historical range. Invasive species may threaten the genetic integrity of native species and its connection to the local population’s life history, geographic diversity and diversity of habitats. The presence of these species will negatively affect native ecosystems, human health and the cultural, subsistence, commercial, agricultural or recreational activities that tribal communities depend upon. The Gun Lake Tribe realizes that invasive species are impacting Michigan as well as our entire planet. The Tribe understands that the time is now to begin to make changes in order to reduce the effects of invasive species.
Forest resources are of cultural, ecological, educational, historical, medicinal, nutritional and recreational value to the Gun Lake Tribe. After the discovery of multiple invasive species threating Tribal property, the Tribe created the Invasive Species Management Plan (ISMP) to guide invasive species control efforts on Tribal Lands. The purpose of the ISMP is to improve and protect native plant and animal diversity, improve aesthetic and recreational uses, and improve wildlife habitat on Tribal properties. The ISMP focuses on practical strategies and actions that will help to reduce the impact of invasive species on culturally significant resources and the native ecosystem. The Gun Lake Tribe will work with other organizations to come together to protect and care for Mother Earth. Through a BIA grant, the Gun Lake Tribe began a program to initiate treatment of invasive species on Tribal Properties and to update and implement the strategy of this plan. The objectives of this project are to (1) develop a comprehensive forest invasive species action plan, (2) draft and adopt a Forest Pest Ordinance, and (3) respond to and treat invasive species threatening Tribal forest resources. Additional activities include: invasive plant surveys on Tribal lands, restoration of native species and rapid response to new terrestrial invasive species. The overall benefit to invasive species prevention and response is protecting traditions, land and natural resources for future generations.
In accordance to traditional belief, water represents the sacred connection we have with all life. Mbish (water) literally means the substance that supports our life or path on Mother Earth. It is water that opens the door way of life. The Great Lakes Basin holds a vast history of honoring the resources that were bestowed upon her people. Bmadzewen yawen I mbish (water is life). Aquatic invasive species (AIS) threaten native life, systems and economies that rely on our fresh water. Managing AIS within the inland lakes and streams is an important part of the Gun Lake Tribe’s commitment to managing natural resources. AIS threaten resources culturally significant to the Tribe. Through a previous FWS GLRI funded project, the Tribe updated the ISMP to include aquatic invasive species and began implementation of action steps. Current efforts are funded through a FWS GLRI grant and a BIA grant to implement the ISMP. Control efforts are focused within the Great Lakes Basin, with targeted focus on the Kalamazoo River Watershed specifically the Gun River and Rabbit River sub-watersheds and associated lands. Comprehensive vegetation surveys were conducted on Tribal waters and invasive species surveys have been conducted and mapped at additional waterways. Prevention through education and outreach of the Tribal Community and Public is a large portion of this project. These actions will help with the management of AIS before these species become widespread and too costly to treat. In addition, three waterless watercraft cleaning stations have been installed at Gun Lake to prevent further spread of invasive species.
For invasive species training modules or to report invasive species, please visit: https://www.misin.msu.edu/
Woodlot management efforts include implementation of forest stewardship plans, black ash surveys, emerald ash borer parasitoid release and beech bark disease detection/monitoring. As part of the forest stewardship plans, Environmental staff conduct forest stand improvements (FSI). FSI is the act of cutting a set number of trees of specific sizes to improve the health of the woods. Benefits of FSI often include higher growth rates in remaining trees, reduced stress of the forest plants, augmented food production (including maple syrup), increased habitat for wildlife and improved lighting to ground level plants. Some cut trees will remain where they fall to create wildlife cover or they may be piled to make homes for rabbits and other small game species.
Native Grassland Management
Many local Native American villages in the 1800s and earlier were located in or at the edge of prairies. Once the villages moved and fire was not used regularly to maintain the prairies, the prairies that remained eventually turned into forest. The Environmental Department is working to restore and maintain prairie and pollinator habitat by managing native grasslands. These efforts include conducting prescribed burns, invasive species control, addressing erosion and prairie and pollinator plantings.
Midwest ecosystems depend on periodic fire events to rejuvenate the land. Other benefits include: stimulating prairie grass and wildflower growth, improving habitat for upland game species and enhancing cover for grassland nesting birds. Prairies and other grasslands were historically maintained by Native people, including Pottawatomi, through burning the area yearly to minimize the growth of woody vegetation like trees and stimulate growth of grasses and wildflowers.
Education & Outreach - Cultural Connection to Nature
Educational and recreational opportunities are offered throughout the year related to our projects. Educational efforts are focused on invasive species prevention, reducing our environmental footprint and project highlights. Events include the biannual Environmental Speaker Series, Stewardship Workdays, Earth Day Celebration, John Bush Memorial Fishing Contest, Jijak Youth Camp, Kalamazoo River Voyage, Aquatic Invasive Species Landing Blitz, Lake Sturgeon Release Celebration and Mnomen Harvest.
Gke’ndaswen, or The Knowledge Project, is funded through the BIA Tribal Youth Initiate. Through Gke’ndaswen we aim to connect Tribal youth to the environment and build a relationship to nature and culture. Activities demonstrate that natural resource conservation and management is necessary for maintaining cultural lifeways. We offer hands-on activities that demonstrate this connection, as well as offer opportunities for college visits and job shadowing to learn more about higher education and careers in the Natural Resource and the Environmental field.
Natural Resource Use by Anishnabek: Past, Present & Future
As part of the global settlement for the Kalamazoo River Oil Spill, Enbridge Energy is funding a study of past, present and future uses of natural resources by Anishinabek people. This study s in development, please check back for updates. You can find more information on the oil spill and settlement here: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/es/ec/nrda/MichiganEnbridge/.
Environmental Hazard Reporting
We encourage members of our community to be on the lookout for environmental hazards or potential threats to the environment. Through early detection, we can notify the proper authorities to address the concern and protect our natural resources.
We are asking all tribal citizens and community members to be on the lookout for environmental hazards throughout our community and to report these discoveries to our Environmental Department so that we can investigate and notify proper authorities to address the hazard. As good stewards of our resources it is our responsibility to observe and report when we see things that threaten the health of our lands and waterways. Things to look for are: improper dumping of chemicals, open trash dumps, animal waste runoff into waterways, etc. For your own protection please do not come into contact with hazardous or unknown substances as part your investigation. Miigwetch for your assistance in protecting our resources. Please do your part in keeping an eye out and reporting environmental hazards that you become aware of.
Are you interested in local known contamination sites near Gun Lake Tribe’s parcels? You can utilize the map developed by the State of Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy here https://www.mcgi.state.mi.us/