Wednesday, April 18, 2012

By the River of Slippery Rocks: Escanaba

What a great time it was for me last night presenting in Linda Cree's (my mother's) Cultural Anthropology class down at Bay de Noc Community College! A wonderful discussion throughout that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Escanaba, or zhooshkwaanaabi, comes from the river (or ziibi) of the same name, meaning "river of smooth, slippery, flat rocks" in Anishinaabemowin - the language of which the Ojibwe language is a part. Today it's a town that sits on the border of the treaties of 1836 and 1842. With the river as the dividing line for those treaty areas emptying into michi-gami (Lake Michigan), at the delta, an interesting situation has arisen. As the river delta is in constant flux, the bureaucratic mindset wanting to pin down the territory to enforce game laws on treaty harvests is in an uproar. At one time, those from the 1836 Ojibwe nations can hunt on a particular piece of land, but as the river delta shifts, that same piece of land ends up on the other side of the river and now is no longer 1836 territory but 1842 territory open only for treaty harvests to those who's nation signed the 1842 territory.

Although this provides a headache for the tribes in game enforcement, I think the DNR is the one with the greatest headache. From my view, though, I see it as a lesson the river is giving - how can you divide the land in such arbitrary ways and expect it to stick? Mother Earth sets the rules, no matter how hard people may try to tame her and keep her controlled.

The zhooshkwaanaabi area is also near a great known piece of history - the Grand Island-Bay de Noc Trail. Much more than a hiking trail, this path has connected gich-gami (Lake Superior) with michi-gami (Lake Michigan) for centuries, perhaps millenia. To my knowledge, no one actually knows how long people have been traveling this path between the two lakes, but it was already well established when the fur traders started using it. When I take my classes there, I remind them to really let themselves soak in the place. After all, if many Indigenous cosmologies are right and if quantum physicists are correct about this being a holographic universe, all of time is connected, like a sphere. Thus, as we walk that path, so too are our ancestors walking it, according to these theories.

So, it was a real treat to present to an anthrology class, particularly this one, as the students had a great background in the material to fully understand the implications and meanings of a lot of the concepts discussed in the presentation. What a great group! Miigwech to my mom and everyone for a wonderful evening!


  1. Thank you for the presentation at Bay College. I realized how many spices are extinct each year, and all human must change their life style to Green Path. Otherwise, we will extinct. I would love to learn Anishinaabeg's way of living and want to change my life to Green path from Burn path. Yuko Lamb

  2. I enjoyed the presentation. It was quite the eye opener. Its strange because before this class I never really realized the damage we do living the way we do. I hope to someday help make a change. I have looked into some organization to maybe join the cause. I hope that you can get the word out there so that people realize that we need to make a change. I tell just about all my family and friends. The more people that realize it the more people that maybe will become environmentally conscious. We are destroying ourselves and all the other living things on this planet. That in itself should be enough to make us want to change. Thank you for your presentation.
    Connie Dube

  3. Ms. Cree Dunn I appreciate your time and energy in a cause to promote environmental awareness. I am not used to thinking of Uppers as an indigent population at risk for exploitation. The presentation reveals some painful facts about our place in a global economy. The Rio Tinto is not the first company to exploit our region they are only one among any over several hundred years.
    I do not believe the American culture is the Burnt Path. I believe many Americans are beneficial and humanitarian. I agree with you, shortsighted decisions have harmed and robbed many people. I agree the philosophy of Seven Generations is a wise way to live. I hope sanity returns to the consumer driven culture. I pray other young folks speak for change. I pray these generations look ahead and protect our truly precious assets the future generations.
    Thank you for sharing, Steve Mleko.

  4. Ms. Cree Dunn, thank you so much for the wonderful presentation about the 7th Fire Project. I found your presentation very informative. I truly believe that many people are living on the Burnt Path today. I was always taught that everything we, as human beings, do affects the planet, other people, and people yet to be born. I want there to be a clean, healthy, and safe planet for my daughter and all the generations that proceed ours. I also try very hard to instill these values in my daughter and all the people around me. I do believe that a lot of people are waking up to the destruction of the Earth and how to make things better. Again, thank you for your time and effort put into your presentation. Alicia Gendron

  5. I just wanted to say that I appreciated you taking the time to give my class your presentation. I found it quite informative. I always knew that the way that we live today had negative effects on the land around us. Your presentatin just enhanced that knowledge by giving clear examples of how life today effects the future of the planet. Thanks for the presentation! Maranda LaFave

  6. Hello Aimee! Thank you so much for your wonderful presentation. I learned a lot from the Seventh Fire Project and I think everyone in our culture could benefit from learning more about the topics you discussed in your presentation. I was pretty clueless before taking this Cultural Anthropology class and never really thought about our Earth's resources or how other cultures lived before. I never knew how damaging mines could be to our environment and I'm sad that Michigan and other states have not taken the same initiative as Wisconsin to ban mining unless proven to be safe and unharmful to our environment. I also did not know that we have lost 50% of our song birds in such a short time or that so many animals have become extinct including so many on their way to extinction. I definitely learned a lot from the Seventh Fire Project. I am trying to make small changes every day to become more efficient and less wasteful. In doing so I hope to get my life off the Burnt Path and back on the Green Path and encourage others to do the same. Thank you again so much!
    Shannon Lindstrom
    Cultural Anthropology Winter 2012

  7. I just wanted to say thank you for coming in and presenting to our class. I really enjoyed all that you talked about during the presentation. I was very surprised at a lot of things that i never knew. I was quite surprised that there were so many extinct species of animals in this area and that there are more species that are on the endangered list.

    Another thing i didn't know is that the mining they are proposing to do could be so dangerous and that they are wanting to do some of the mining on Indian sacred land.

    Jordan Trudell

  8. I really enjoyed your presentation. I thought that you connected with us very well (Megadeath!) You gave a good overall view of how industrialism is affecting the Earth overall. The choice of the Burnt path or the Green path is something that really hit home. You talked about a very scary subject with out being intimidating and making us want to avoid the problem. There was hope in knowing that every little bit helps and that we have a choice. I can make a little bit of a difference and educate myself. I really wanted to go for a walk and enjoy nature. It's sad to think about how much I'm missing out on because so much has been destroyed, but I'm determined to enjoy what we have and make sure future generations can enjoy it.