KBIC Service Learning and Stewardship
Rachael Button

Throughout last semester, Conserve School students engaged in service learning projects, including clearing trails in the Trap Hills, volunteering with the Vilas County Humane Society, helping Bayfield School set up an outdoor classroom space, and working with LOLA (Land O' Lakes Arts) to raise funds to support creativity in the Land O' Lakes community. These volunteer experiences gave Conserve School students a chance to experience stewardship in action. The first weekend in December students had a particularly interesting opportunity to give time to and learn from Keewanaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC)'s Natural Resources Department.

In September, Conserve School students met Jerry Jondreau, a forester from the Keewanaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), when he came to speak to stewardship students about wild ricing and the preservation of the Ojibwa cultural practices. As Conserve students grappled with the process of forming their own Leopold-style land ethics, many students reflected on ideas they learned from Jerry.

For example, CS15 student Anakah Denison wrote in her eportfolio, "My land ethic is partially inspired by the Ojibwa speaker, Jerry Jondreau. [He spoke about] how in his culture, whenever anything [was taken] from the land, be it rice or herbs or birch bark, they always give something back; it is an important part of [Ojibwa] culture to treat the earth and its creatures as equals. You cannot take forever and expect resources to not be depleted. They understood this idea, and lived out their solution, and even made it a part of their culture and tradition."

Anakah, along with a group of and six other Conserve School students (Elena Price, Lizzie Hopkins, Logan Adams, Rye Amos, Siri Martin, and Yami Salgado) and two Conserve School staff (Kate Witkowski and Rachael Button), had the opportunity to visit the Keewanaw Bay Indian Community's Natural Resources Department the first weekend of December. Students toured KBIC's fish hatchery and native plant greenhouse. They met Evelyn Ravindran—the hatchery's manager—and learned how she built the hatchery from the ground up--expanding it from a tiny home basement operation to a two building facility on 15 acres of land of which strives steward and protect native fish resources by producing is 50,000 lake trout yearlings (6" fish), 40,000 brook trout yearlings, 30,000 coaster brook trout and 50,000 walleye fry annually.

Students volunteered time to KBIC's Natural Resources Department by either helping to clip brook trout fins (to aid with the marking and management of hatchery fish) or by participating in a native seed saving project. They worked alongside KRIC's technicians, including high-school aged interns from the tribal community, engaging in conversation about stewardship, vocation, culture, and ecology.

Part of the Keewanaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC)'s Natural Resources Department's environmental vision is that "people from all walks of life come and enjoy the beauty of our Reservation." After several hours of processing seeds and clipping fins, Conserve students and staff took time to experience places in and around the Keewanaw Bay Indian Reservation. Students explored the beaches across from the hatchery, skipped stones on Lake Superior, then hiked a roadside trail outside of Alberta to Canyon Falls where they followed a raging river to a waterfall veiled in icicles.

To learn more about the Native Culture of the Great Lakes follow the links below.

Great Lakes Native Culture: https://theways.org/

The Keewanaw Bay Indian Community's Department of Natural Resources: http://nrd.kbic-nsn.gov/about-us:

The author of this article, Rachael Button, teaches Environmental Stewardship at Conserve School.

Conserve School student, Siri Martin, helps fishery technicians, by fin clipping brook trout (Photo by Yami Salgado)

Student Siri Martin and Conserve School teacher Kate Witkowski enjoy Lake Superior (Photo by Rachael Button)

Conserve School student Anakah Denison hikes at Canyon Falls (Photo by Rachael Button)

Conserve School student Yami Salgado, enjoys the lake (Photo by Yami Salgado)