This summer of 2019, I was honored and humbled to be accepted as one out of the 13 students participating in the Research for Undergraduate Students (REU) Sustainable Land and Water Resources Program (SLAWR). The program has three main groups that divide the students to work in different areas for the summer; the first team is in Pablo, MT working from the Salish Kootenai College, the second team is in Duluth, MN working from the University of Minnesota Duluth and the third team is in Minneapolis, MN working from the University of Min- nesota Twin Cities. I was located in Minneapolis, MN for the summer work in a geochemistry laboratory as well as a hydrology laboratory.
The specific project I was conducting research on with the assistance of my mentors Dr. Gene-Hua Crystal Ng and Dr. Cara Santelli, is called Kawe Gidda-Naanaagadawendaawin Manoo- min meaning, “First we should consider manoomin.” The word manoomin is derived from the Ojibwe language meaning Wild rice (Zizania palustris). This project has many portions to the overall big picture which is concerns of depleting manoomin populations within the Great Lakes region. Through my research essay, I formed three main objectives. The first being to integrate indigenous traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) into scientific environmental preservation and indigenous resource sovereignty. This is key for conducting research on manoomin in the Great Lakes region. The second objective is formulating a productive project plan that is built around partnerships and relationships with tribal nations and communities. The final objective is delivering results that relate to all aspects of science and traditional ecological knowledge. This entails articulating findings or reasons behind why particular methodologies need to be conducted, in order to establish a positive relationship. This comes from all sides of the partnership – university researchers and tribal participants.
One of the many partners within this project is the Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians located in northern Wisconsin. In regards of the stated objectives, my field site was located on the Bear River that runs through the Lac Du Flambeau reservation. This is where I conducted fieldwork and extracted samples along this river. I traveled by canoe along this river to reach my sites and would extract whole sediment cores from the bottom of the river itself. After doing so I would extract the porewater to be taken back to the laboratory for testing. Porewater is the water that lies within the sediment itself. After conducting laboratory tests, the analysis was next.
Manoomin is ecologically important to the Great Lakes region and in other northeastern parts of the US. It creates habitat and nesting grounds and estab- lishes a food source for animal species living within these ecosystems. Manoomin is also important because it is the only annual aquatic grass that is native to the U.S. This great significance means if this plant were to vanish, how would these other species thrive? How would these water systems that manoomin resides in obtain nutrients and prevent erosion? Manoomin also provides to the Indigenous peoples that are throughout this region. It is a main staple. The food source that brings together the people for ceremonies, gatherings or feasts, and the processes for harvesting. If manoomin populations are depleting not only is the ecosystems impacted but the indigenous peoples that utilize this resource.
This research experience allowed me to grow as an undergraduate in my field of study. I learned new techniques from the various methodologies presented to me. I gained more experience of what it is like to work in the field versus in the laboratory. I have also learned so much from the tribal partners that I had the privilege of working with. They really demonstrated to me what manoomin means to them through their view and voice. I will always have a place for manoomin in my heart.
I encourage all Haskell students to engage in some type of summer intership of your interest. This is where you can network, to possibly engage in more opportunities within the future. This demonstrates experience for your resume whether you present this to a future job opportunity or for a future education opportunity. Take advantage of what you wish to experience and encounter for your goals. Take that leap towards your future.