Thursday, November 9, 2017

FALCON 2017 – First American Land-Grant Consortium Conference and Poster Presentation, Washington D.C.

Dolly Potts, Agricultural Research Intern
Nov. 9, 2017

I traveled to Washington, D.C. on November 10 for my first First Americans Land-Grant Consortium (FALCON) conference to present my poster and presentation on traditional gardening and gathering. My trip proved to be a reminiscent and new experience for me. The last time I was in Washington D.C. was in 1978 with AIM (American Indian Movement) Longest Walk. The recent passing of long-time AIM activist, Dennis Banks made the trip very special. The walk was to make the country aware of the many broken treaties and the bad conditions on Indian reservations. Natives walked across the United States starting at Alcatraz in the San Francisco to Washington D.C. Everyone joined the walk from reservations along the route, I joined in Kansas. I visited some of the sites the group camped around while waiting for government officials to meet with us in 1978. The meeting never happened and the increased security in the nation's capital on this trip made me aware of how much things have changed.

The conference was great; we visited with a number of students who were involved in agricultural projects like ours. One of the groups was raising Bear Island Flint corn. Another had transitioned to raised beds and wanted to know more about the amendments we used in our garden. Everyone was very interested in how our project blended the traditional aspect with the scientific aspect. One of the participants talked about gathering as an important part of native culture. She gathered sixteen plants that were edible or had medicinal properties around the outside of the hotel. Remember, we were in downtown Washington, D.C.! She then proceeded to make a tea out of a few of the plants and it was delicious.

I left the conference proud of the College of Menominee Nation Sustainable Development Institute agricultural project growing Bear Island Flint Corn. I was very proud of the fact that the project has successfully blended indigenous science with western science. I am most proud of the fact that the project has brought back food that was grown and found in the ancient Menominee garden beds. The project has revitalized gathering practices and shared them with Menominee youth. This work has been a good step toward food sovereignty for the Menominee community.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Update on Bear Island Flint Corn Research Plot

Dolly Potts, Agricultural Research Intern
Sept. 13, 2017

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 interns’ projects. 

Adam holding corn
Rebecca Edler holding the moisture reader
Bear Island Flint corn braided

Monday, August 14, 2017

Menominee Language Summit 2017

 Dolly Potts, Agricultural Research Intern
August 14, 2017

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 Menominee Nation.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Update on the Bear Island Flint Corn Agricultural Research Plots

Dolly Potts, Agricultural Research Intern
July 25, 2017

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 project.

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.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Indigenous Planning Summer Institute

June 5-9, 2017

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. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mapping with Dr. Overstreet

Dolly Potts, Agricultural Research Intern
June 28, 2017

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 Menominee.

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. 

Field Trip to sites of the Back 40 in Michigan

Dolly Potts, Agricultural Intern
June 21, 2017

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 site.

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 visit.