Menominee Continue Sustainability Legacy

May 15th, 2002 | By | Category: 13-4: The Many Faces of Leadership, Tribal College News

For over 5,000 years, dating back to the earliest traces of the Menominee Indians of Wisconsin, the forest has been central to the lives and well being of the tribe. The Menominee have created the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) to examine sustainability issues and apply them to the Menominee model of sustainable development.

The institute provides frequent workshops for the community. Residents of the area learned about food preservation at a class co-sponsored by the institute and Menominee County UW-Extension. Supermarkets have replaced the root cellars and gardens used by earlier generations, according to Terry Peters, one of the class participants and part of the college staff. Instead of traditional food preservation, many people now use chemicals and preservatives, in many cases without the vitamins and minerals of natural foods.

Through the class, participants learned how to process blackberries and tomatoes. Working with her 11-year old nephew, James Grignon, Peters canned 28 quarts and 24 pints of blackberries and 20 quarts and 24 pints of tomatoes. She said that the home-canned fruit and vegetables provide greater nutritional value, taste, and satisfaction. Subsequent classes focused on preserving venison and other wild game.

The classes are part of Woodlands Wisdom, a project involving six Upper Midwest tribal colleges and the University of Minnesota. They are working to improve the overall health of their people (see TCJ, Vol. 13, N.1). At Menominee the program has sponsored several nutrition forums. One gathered information about traditional diets and diet-related illnesses. The Menominee Sustainable Development Institute is developing a nutrition degree program.

The institute also sponsored a workshop on photovoltaics where participants could walk through the demonstration and see the cost reductions. Another symposium was aimed primarily at non-Indian seasonal homeowners, teaching them how to bring sustainability to the household level, according to Holly Youngbear Tibbets, dean of the Sustainable Development Institute. Co-sponsored by the Menominee Town Forestry Department, the workshop provided a manual, Home Environmental Stewardship, which helped them assess their property and develop a plan for improving environmentally friendly practices. The agenda included methods of dealing with gypsy moth infestation and shore land plant restoration.  For more information, see the website <>.

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