by Nicole Smith
The majority of Ojibwe people still exercise their treaty rights to hunt, gather and fish. Due to global warming, however, ricing and fishing, as well as other natural resources, are becoming greatly affected.
“These harvesting practices are all integral components in the retention of Ojibwe language, culture and life way,” said Dylan Jennings, public information director for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission in Odana.
Ojibwe communities are intertwined with their surrounding ecosystems and rely greatly on the wildlife, fish, plants and many other resources not only culturally but also economically. Because of the geographic boundaries of the reservations, it is very difficult for people who live there to pick up and move where global warming may not be as severe and still practice their treaty rights.
Ogaa (walleye) may be a rarity in the Wisconsin lakes in the very near future, according to recent research by Wisconsin and federal agencies, headed by the U.S. Geological Service Survey National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. Walleye are a cold-water fish and as the temperatures warm up an overabundance of largemouth bass will thrive as walleye disappear. If this happens, the traditional mainstay of spearing will be something the Ojibwe people will have an even more difficult time doing.
Fish are just one of the many resources being impacted by climate change. It is affecting water levels as well, contributing to torrential rains, storms and flooding (especially this year) which adversely affects the growth of manoomin (wild rice).
“Variability in temperatures and water fluctuations associated with climate change will adversely affect the life cycle of rice,” concluded a study from the Environmental Studies Department of the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Minnesota.
“Climate change and the cumulative effects on treaty protected resources is of great concern to Ojibwe bands,” Jennings said, “because it threatens our very existence and way life.”