Celebrating Water in a Time of Climate Change | Fond du Lac Water Gathering | Nagaajiwanaang Nibi Maawanji'idim

Nikki Crowe
Nikki Crowe, director of Fond du Lac Tribal College Extension's 13 Moons Program speaks to the group at Celebrating Water in a Time of Climate Change.
Eamon Coyne for MPR News

Scientists, elders and community members from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa spoke at a May 17 gathering at the Black Bear Casino and Resort in Carlton, Minn. The evening was called "Water in A Time of Climate Change," and it was produced as a collaboration between the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Resource Management Division and MPR News. Explore moments from the evening here.

Nearly half of Fond du Lac tribal lands are wetlands. These vital and sensitive areas are vulnerable to the severe weather events and other impacts of climate change.

The Fond du Lac Water Gathering was an opportunity for the Fond du Lac community and others from around Minnesota to hear about the science, the adaptation plans and the rich traditional ways that protect water and other resources.

Natalie Putnam and Hunter Jaakola
Natalie Putnam, right, a freshman at Cloquet High School, is Ojibwe. She's been studying fish populations in regional wetlands since she was in 7th grade. She was joined at the event by Hunter Jaakola, who is a junior at Harbor City International School.
Eamon Coyne for MPR News

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Natural Resources Division worked with the 1854 Treaty Authority and the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe on a Climate Adaptation Plan for the reservation and surrounding land the Ojibwe ceded to the U.S. government in 1854. The 2016 report was recognized by the National Adaptation Forum at its 2017 gathering in St. Paul earlier this month.

The event: Water in A Time of Climate Change

Lyz Jaakola

At the Fond du Lac event, band member Lyz Jaakola told the story of Doreen Day working with her grandson to write a song to honor the water. They wrote the song to share with everyone who wishes to honor the water.

Fond du Lac elders

Fond du Lac elders talked about seeing far fewer snowshoe hare in the woods in northern Minnesota. Their observations are shared by scientists who study animal populations in the Great Lakes region. Scientists say the snowshoe population is declining because of climate change, but there is still hope for the little bunnies to adapt.

Les Gibbs

Les Gibbs, the event's emcee, shared a story about seeing far fewer leopard frogs around his home in northern Minnesota. Scientists think many factors such as pollution, disease and changes in habitat are hurting the frog populations.

Kyle Powys Whyte

Kyle Powys Whyte is Potawatomi and an associate professor of philosophy and community sustainability at Michigan State University. His work focuses on climate change policy as it relates to indigenous people. He explores the moral, political and structural components of climate change policy.

Karen Diver

Karen Diver served as chairwoman of the Fond du lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa for 9 years, from 2007 to 2016. She left her second term as chairwoman early to serve in the Obama administration as Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs.

While she held that position, much of her work focused on creating policy so tribes could better connect with federal resources to deal with climate change. At the water gathering, Diver talks about her focus on climate change as an Anishinaabe woman, a tribal chair and as a member of the Obama administration. She also shares her thoughts now, as a private citizen watching President Trump whose views regarding climate change are very different from his predecessor.

Diver mentions the decline of walleye in Lake Mille Lacs, which is co-managed by the state and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Diver notes that climate change is a factor in the decline.


Robert "Sonny" Peacock

Dr. Robert "Sonny" Peacock is an elder member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. He is a U.S. Navy veteran and former chairman of the Fond du Lac Tribal Council. He now works at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.

Sonny sat down with producer Melissa Townsend to talk about some of the traditional Anishinaabe teachings that relate to climate change, its causes and its impacts.


Water in a Time of Climate Change was produced by Nikki Crowe, Melissa Townsend and Kate Moos, with support from The McKnight Foundation. Facilitation by pow wow emcee Les Gibbs. Technical director was Corey Schreppel. Special thanks to Wayne Dupuis, Mike Munnell, Julian Kitto, Dan Huculak, Lyz Jaakala, Karen Savage Blue and Reggie DeFoe.