Sustainable Development Institute's Spheres of Influence: Education, Research, Outreach, Practice, and Indigenous Wisdom
SDI is part of College of Menominee Nation (CMN) and exists to conduct research, share ideas, and strengthen the Menominee values and approach to sustainable development. This blog was created to share what is learned, known, and valued of the Menominee approach to sustainability to those who wish to share this knowledge and wisdom.
Fall is on the way and just around the corner is the harvest
of the traditional agricultural research plot. Adam and I have been checking
the plot at least three times a week. The stalks are drying and we get a peek
at the kernels every now and then. Mostly when we find a cob the raccoons have
taken down and chewed on. So our tally of raccoons has grown to eight. Thanks to
Don Reiter, with the Environmental Services for live trapping the bandits and
releasing them elsewhere. The damage was minimal with the raccoons getting
twelve to fourteen ears.
Today we measured the moisture of the corn using a moisture
reader a farmer would use. Adam picked a cob out of the plot to measure. The
corn registered at 42% moisture content. We will pick the plot at 15% moisture
content. The corn is shrinking and drying out on the stalks. A few of the ears
are still green. They were planted later to fill in the spots that did not
germinate. Adam, Rebecca and I have been discussing the harvest and working on
the procedures for the testing. I braided a few of the cobs and hope to do some
traditional harvesting braiding the corn. In the meantime, Adam and I have been
assembling the soil lab at SDI. I will write another blog about this project soon.
Tomorrow Adam, Rebecca and I leave for Minnesota to attend a
Food Summit and Native American Nutrition conference. My poster on Traditional
Gardening and Gathering Practices was accepted for a scholarship to the events.
We are hoping to learn more about the traditional practices used to grow and
harvest crops. Our posters are on
display in the atrium at CMN for viewing along with the rest of the summer
The Language Summit was the one of the first efforts to
bring the Menominee community together to discuss how to bring back the
Menominee language as a primary means to communicate. The summit helped me to
understand the history and the issues facing the Menominee community. The
summit also discussed the sustainability and climate resiliency of the
Menominee Nation. I gained a better understanding of how Native nations have
built into their language and culture the keys to being resilient.
The two current administrators and teachers of the Menominee
language told us about the history of and the efforts revitalizing the
Menominee language. I enjoyed hearing the early efforts and how the elders used
humor to cover the mistakes that were made. There were funny stories told of
mispronunciations and communication today as well as the past. I learned about
the “old Menominee” language and how efforts sometimes get confused as the “new
Menominee”. I agree with the presenters that all efforts are good efforts. I left
with a good feeling that the teachers of the Menominee language have the most
sincere intentions to insure the Menominee language is preserved. I learned
that the current language revitalization efforts include young teachers. The
presenters gave us information on the “Language Nest”, babies in a Menominee
language immersion program. What a wonderful thought, babies speaking their
first words in their native language.
After lunch we had small group discussions of the language
and how we could use the language to communicate issues like climate change. The
group I participated in was very excited about using the language to teach
kids. The group discussed how there would need to be parental involvement for
the program’s success. On the question
of climate change, the group felt that the Menominee language provided the
answers to resiliency.
There was a good turnout of both the community and
administration at the Summit. Chris Caldwell, SDI Director, called the Summit
the first annual. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn and discuss issues that
are occurring in Tribal Nations across the country. Efforts to pass the
language to young people was gallantly communicated in this conference by the
The sixteen plots of Bear Island Flint Corn planted at
College of Menominee Nation Sustainable Development Institute are coming along
very well. There are over a thousand corn plants currently growing in the plot.
The area is a scientific research project to find how and what Traditional
Menominee amendments to the soil will affect the yield of the corn. The
amendments were discovered in ancient garden plots on the Menominee
reservation. The gardens were studied by archeologists exploring the forest
sites of Menominee ancestors.
The corn was planted June 2, 2017 with the full moon. A
traditional meal was served before planting, a Traditionalist told the “Green
Man” story, relating how the Menominee received the gift of corn. It took a
weekend of rain and the first sprouts showed. We lovingly called them “babies”.
The Sustainable Leadership Cohort (SLC) students took temperature and moisture
readings on the plot. We attended a workshop where one of CMN’s English professors
presented how to write a scientific research paper. The college mathematician
professor analyzed and presented points of the collected data at the workshop. The
students use the data collected for a research paper. The PhD intern from Brown University helped
the students to write the scientific research paper. Growing the corn has been
a group effort. Rebecca, Adam and I really appreciate the help with our
After the Fourth of July break the “babies” turned into “teen-agers”
this is the stage the corn is now. We have tassels (when the top of the corn
develops) and the next stage is the ears growing. Our first amendments have
been applied to the soil on June 23. Another two week round of temperature and
moisture testing is being conducted. The second round of amendments will occur
in the next two weeks. We have been weeding the corn and nature has taken care
of the rest.
Written by: Dolly Potts, Agricultural Research Intern
My week attending IPSI was a week of learning and enjoying new
friendships. We stayed at the Whispering Pines Resort on Shawano Lake in Wisconsin.
Most of our time was spent in the woods and on field trips to various Menominee
Reservation and Oneida Nation sites. We shared cooking duties and our group was
broken into the Bears, Sturgeons, and Eagles.
Ted Jojola, Indigenous Design &
Planning Institute, University of New Mexico did a lecture on Digital Video
Story Training. He assigned each group to do a three minute video for the last
day. The topic of our video was “What does Indigenous Sustainability mean to
you?” I was in the Sturgeon group who broke into two groups. The group I was in
did a Water is Life theme with women as the focus. So for the rest of the retreat we focused on
taking pictures of water. We also did interviews of two people talking about
water and what it meant to them. I liked that our field trips took on a purpose
for obtaining information for our video.
Each evening we would build a fire by the lakeside and recount our days
activities, make s’mores, or present our ‘where I’m from’ poem activity. Good
thing my roommates had earplugs on the list of things to bring. By the time I
hit the bunk, I was happily exhausted. Whether going into the forest or
visiting the Turtle School everything we seen was truly awe-inspiring. Creator
has blessed the Northwoods of Wisconsin with beauty and grace.
The best thing about the week was meeting and spending time with others
from all over the country. We all shared our love for being Native and our
tribe’s customs and heritage. We all wanted to learn more and practice
sustainability concepts where we lived. We all had something to share with each
other. The friendship and fellowship of the week was one of a lifetime. I am so
fortunate for the opportunity to participate. Thank you to College of Menominee
Nation Sustainable Development Institute.
The last day was bittersweet, everyone was looking forward to their
presentation, going home to begin summer with loved ones and sharing what we
learned to our communities. I will use what I learned and hope that others
benefit from the teachings I gave. Following are just some of the shots of the Indigenous
Planning Summer Institute (IPSI) of 2017 fun we had.
A group of the agricultural research Interns and the student
Interns from SLC (Sustainability Leadership Cohort) attended a workshop with
Dr. Overstreet, archeologist with Menominee tribe. He went over mapping
archeological sites on the Menominee Reservation. Dr. Overstreet gave us a
brief overview of the description of a square mile of land as determined by the
US Quadrangle Scale. He gave us a brief history of the mapping of the Menominee
Reservation and early archeological exploration. Armed with a map of the Chief Oshkosh
Settlement we went into the woods to use our map reading skills. We looked for
sites of ancient storage pits and cellars. Dr. Overstreet said some of the
sites were house structures.
We were accompanied by Jeff Grignon, woodsman with the MTE
(Menominee Tribal Enterprises). Jeff is an expert and historian of the
Menominee Forest. One of Jeff’s jobs is to relocate markers and sites that were
involved in the 2007 blowdown in the forest. Jeff gave us the history of the
site we investigated along with information elders had given him. He is an excellent
resource when going into the Menominee Forest like he says, “I live here”.
After coming out of the woods with the same number of people
we went in with, we headed to the Menominee Museum garden. Dr. Overstreet has
reconstructed a Menominee settlement pre-contact. He is growing a garden with
Bear Island Flint corn like the plot at SDI. He is reconstructing a bark house
structure after his first attempt caved in. Dr. Overstreet is using pre-contact
implements to put in and maintain his garden. So everything went in with
digging sticks and bone scapula hoes. Dr. Overstreet is using the mound
technique with his plants. Each plant is planted on a mound with a furrow
between each row. This is the way gardens were planted in ancient gardens of
The trip into the beautiful Menominee Forest was energizing
and spiritually fulfilling. It was so green and enchanting. As fellow intern
Adam says, “It was like the energy of people who lived there was still feeding
the forest.” We were so grateful for the efforts and time of Dr. Overstreet and
Jeff Grignon as our guides.
On June, 20, I took a trip to the Back 40 Mine sites that are in
controversy with Aquila Resources Inc. I accompanied a group with Dr.
Overstreet who did the research for the sites. He is a consultant to the
Menominee tribe. The trip included seeing a dance ring, mound site and garden beds
that are part of the contested area. Aquila is trying to acquire ownership of
the land where the sites are located. The garden beds are part of a village
that the Menominee inhabited before moving to their current location.
Dr. Overstreet spoke at length about the Backlund Mounds and
village area where several burial mounds have been located and mapped. The
mounds were excavated by a Dr. Spaulding in the mid-1950s. Another mound group
was on Michigan state land. Spaulding was required to submit reports of his
findings to the state DNR. Rather than submit reports Spaulding used the
Backlund site which was privately owned. More than a dozen individuals were
recovered and are currently housed at the Archaeological Museum at the
University of Michigan. After 1956 the area became a pine plantation. The site
is now owned by Aquila whose current mining project is in dispute. Our group
was not allowed access to the area, though in the past groups were able to tour
The Dance Ring is always a spiritual event for me. I spoke
of memories as a child being in a dance ring. I spoke of the importance of
saving sites for future generations and how important it was to respect Mother
Earth. I spoke about respect for ancestors how it was
important to Native people that they not be disturbed. Most of all I talked
about how important it was to teach our children to honor and respect the
earth, to be grateful for the life it provides.
The day was wonderful, sunny and warm. I always enjoy the
company of Dr. Overstreet, his knowledge of the sites completed the experience.
I especially enjoyed listening to him tell us about the garden beds at our
final site. I can almost see people tending the garden and other activities of
village life. The day concluded with the trip home and the good feeling of the
Zea mays (Bear Island Flint
Corn) is the corn I will be helping with during my internship at SDI. I will be
working on the Agricultural Research Project as an assistant. My duties include
research and use of traditional Menominee gardening methods. My mentor is
Rebecca Edler who is head of the project and is working with UW Extension. We
have staked off the ground for the corn plot and have done a burn for it
creating charcoal to add to random sections of the plot. Fish emulation,
conventional fertilizer and non-treated will be the treatments to the other
plots. Following are some highlights of
Bear Island Flint Corn.
Yellow, pink, white, red
and blue striped kernels on 5 to 6 inch ears.
Rare and heirloom from
Maturation: 85 to 93 days
Corn is pollinated by the
Originally domesticated by
Mesoamericans, corn is a staple food with many other traditional uses. Home
gardeners love to grow corn, and there are many varieties suited for different
climates. The seeds are planted 1 inch deep in rows or clumps. Corn needs rich
soil, full sun and adequate moisture to produce good ears. The plant grows six
to 10 feet in height and 2 feet width.
In celebration of planting
our initial crop of Bear Island Flint corn for the Agricultural Research
Project. We at SDI are honored to host Traditionalist Leslie Teller sharing the
Green Man story. Please join us, bring a dish to pass and your dish bag to help
the environment. No dish bag that’s fine, bring your appetite.
SDI Planting Potluck
Where: Sustainable Development
Institute (SDI) Building