Bad River Band Celebrates the Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs
On Friday, July 27th the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians hosted a Water Celebration to commemorate the recent designation of the Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs in northern Wisconsin as a Ramsar Wetland of International Significance, the Band’s recent receipt of a Blue Globe Award from the World Wetland Network, and the establishment of the Band’s own water quality standards.
Located where the meandering Kakagon and Bad Rivers empty into the cold waters of Lake Superior, the 11,000-acre Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs complex is both culturally and ecologically significant due its diversity of habitats including: sloughs, coastal lagoons, floodplain forests, sedge meadows, and coniferous bogs. These habitats support a vast array of species, such as Manomin, Ogaa, and Name (Ojibwe words for wild rice, walleye, and lake sturgeon, respectively), in addition to numerous other migratory fish, shorebirds, waterbirds, raptors, and songbirds.
The Sloughs have a long list of previous recognitions including designation as: a National Park Service National Natural Landmark, a Nature Conservancy Priority Conservation Area, a Wisconsin Land Legacy Place, a Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative Important Bird Area, a Wisconsin Wetlands Association Wetland GEM, and a Wisconsin Coastal Wetland Primary Inventory Site. Indeed, this coastal wetland ecosystem is recognized to be among the richest and most extensive of its kind.
The wild rice beds within the Sloughs are the largest within the Great Lakes basin and are an essential cultural symbol linked to the migration story of the Ojibwe people. In Ojibwe tradition, it is said that the water is the life blood of the Earth and that the Ojibwe people traveled from the east in search of a place where food grows on the water. The wild rice was that food and, to the Band, the Sloughs was the home for which they had searched.
Accordingly, protecting this important resource is a high priority for the Band. In 2011, the Band’s Natural Resource Program received funding through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Tribal Wildlife Grant Program to develop a comprehensive climate change monitoring plan for the Sloughs. This project will establish baseline data on current environmental conditions, actively manage habitat to promote watershed resilience, and further develop the capacity of the Band to proactively address any future climate change impacts.
“For generations, the Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs have been at the heart of our traditions and cultural identity and have provided the Bad River community with their subsistence needs,” said Erv Soulier, the Band’s Natural Resources Director. “This monitoring plan will empower the Band with the ability to predict climate related impacts, develop ecological adaptation strategies, and establish collaborative support frameworks to ensure the conservation of this unique resource for the seventh generation.”