Gun Lake Tribe is dedicated to the restoration of nmé, or lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), in West Michigan. These fish are culturally linked to Native Americans and are known as the king of the fishes. Nmé clan members share many characteristics of the fish including long life, slow and deliberate movement and being very knowledgeable. They serve as the spiritual advisors and mediators for the tribe and are sought out for their wisdom. Pottawatomi food caches in the lower reaches of the Kalamazoo River were rich with nmé fragments (Barr 1979 as cited in Wesley 2005). Native Americans had great respect for the fish and used all parts of the nmé. The tribal approach to sustainable management of resources is to recognize the impact that current actions will have on the next seven generations. The long life of the nmé requires management of resources with this forward-looking approach.
Nmé rehabilitation is a multi-agency project working toward self-sustaining populations of Kalamazoo River and Grand River nmé. Including these two, there are 11 nmé 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) and Grand Valley State University on rehabilitation efforts since 2009. Rehabilitation efforts are funded by the Tribe, FWS and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Read More...
Mnomen (wild rice) is a sacred gift from the Creator and literally translates to “good berry.” It has been a central component of the culture of indigenous people in the region for thousands of years and continues to be of great importance to the Neshnabé community. The spiritual significance of mnomen is evidence of the fulfilling of the prophecies of the Neshnabék migration story; it is used in ceremonies and feasts. The traditional and social importance comes from rice camps where mnomen is harvested, processed and reseeded, and it is a time when Elders pass on their knowledge to the next generation. The Tribe's Mmnomen restoration is a joint effort coordinated by the Environmental and Language & Culture Departments. The Tribe strives to restore and revitalize mnomen in local waters and in the lives of the Tribal community. Read More...
Babkan Zhe Gajë-Dayêk - Prevention, Control and Management
Michigan has already experienced significant negative effects from babkan zhe gajë-dayêk (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. Babkan zhe gajë-dayêk 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. Gun Lake Tribe realizes that babkan zhe gajë-dayêk are impacting Michigan as well as our entire planet. The Tribe is committed to protecting our natural and cultural resources through the management of babkan zhe gajë-dayêk. The Tribe understands that the time is now to begin to make changes in order to reduce the effects of babkan zhe gajë-dayêk. The Environmental Department has partnered with the West Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species (WMCISMA) and the Barry, Calhoun and Kalamazoo Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (BCKCISMA) to enhance these efforts throughout the Tribe’s service region. Read More...
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 monitoring and control as well as Early Detection monitoring for other forest pests. 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
Mshkodékik (prairies) have been an important feature to the landscape for Neshnabék people of the Great Lakes region. Many villages were located on the edge of mshkodékik where life included yearly maintenance of the area to minimize the growth of woody species and stimulate the growth of native grasses and wildflowers. The word “mshkodéki” (prairie) roots in the word “shkode” for fire, which signifies that fire on the landscape was an important aspect of the habitat. Midwest mshkodéki ecosystems depend on periodic fire events to rejuvenate the land. Once the villages moved and fire was not used regularly to maintain the mshkodékik, the mshkodékik that remained eventually turned into forest. The Environmental Department is working to restore and maintain mshkodéki and pollinator habitat by managing native grasslands. These efforts include conducting prescribed burns, babkan zhe gajë-dayêk control, addressing erosion and mshkodéki and pollinator plantings.
Education & Outreach - Cultural Connection to Nature
Educational and recreational opportunities are offered throughout the year related to our projects. Educational efforts are focused on babkan zhe gajë-dayêk prevention, reducing our environmental footprint and project highlights. Events include the Environmental Speaker Series, Earth Day Celebration, John Bush Memorial Fishing Contest, Jijak Youth Camp, Kalamazoo River Voyage, Aquatic Invasive Species Landing Blitz, Lake Sturgeon Release Celebration, Mnomen Harvest and more.
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 Neshnabék people. You can find more information on the oil spill and settlement here: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/es/ec/nrda/MichiganEnbridge/.
Zibi Yajdan- The River Tells It
Environmental Programs - Pollution Prevention, Water Quality, Environnmental Response
Additional environmental programs and environmental capacity building aimed at protecting Grandmother Earth are funded through the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA funded activities include pollution prevention (recycling, food waste recovery and solid waste management), air quality activities (climate change adaptation planning and indoor air quality), Emergency Response, Water Quality (water monitoring and analysis) and environmental educational outreach (coordination/organization of Jijak Youth Camp).
Nonpoint Source Pollution Prevention Program
The Gun Lake Tribal Nonpoint Source (NPS) Program was created in 2019. The first step was the creation of the Tribal NPS Assessment Report and Watershed Management Plan, to fulfill the EPA’s requirement for a Clean Water Act Section 319 program. The report and the program plan are each designed as stand-alone documents which follow specific EPA guidelines and comply with the requirements of the Act. The NPS Assessment Report identifies critical source areas of NPS pollution and summarizes the current conditions of Tribal water resources and NPS impacts. Based on these findings, the NPS Management Program Plan provides a detailed framework to identify and guide appropriate, sustainable future management actions including the implementation of best management practices. Currently, the Tribe is working with area partners to implement projects listed within the NPS Management Plan.
CLICK HERE for the full Nonpoint Source Management Plan.
Environmental Hazard Reporting
Members of our community are encouraged 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 concerns and protect our natural resources.
Concerns can be reported to the Environmental Department for investigation and so that staff can 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 include: improper dumping of chemicals, open trash dumps, animal waste runoff into waterways, etc. For your own protection, do not handle or come into contact with hazardous or unknown substances as part your investigation. Migwéch for your assistance in protecting our resources.
Gun Lake Tribe does not have any brownfield sites on Tribal lands. If you are interested in known contamination sites, you can utilize this map developed by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy found here> https://www.mcgi.state.mi.us/
What is a brownfield site? A brownfield site means real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties protects the environment, reduces blight and takes development pressures off greenspaces and working lands.
What is a superfund site? Superfund sites are polluted properties in the USA requiring a long-term response to clean up hazardous material contaminations. They were designated under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980. In 2021, there were 1,322 superfund sites on the National Priorities List in the United States.
What is a underground storage tank (UST)? A UST System is a tank and any underground piping connected to the tank that has at least 10 percent of its combined volume underground.
Why be concerned about USTs? Until the mid-1980s, most USTs were made of bare steel, which is likely to corrode over time and allow UST contents to leak into the environment. Faulty installation or inadequate operating and maintenance procedures also can cause USTs to release their contents into the environment. The greatest potential hazard from a leaking UST is that the petroleum or other hazardous substance can seep into the soil and contaminate groundwater, the source of drinking water for nearly half of all Americans. A leaking UST can present other health and environmental risks including the potential for fire and explosion.