Stewardship Youth Rangers

Learn About Anishinaabe Culture and the Environment (Week 7)

Greetings from the Stewardship Youth Ranger (SYR) teams. We had a busy week filled with hard work and plenty of learning!

On Monday, we started out the week preparing for our Youth and Elders Summit by creating presentations on the stewardship projects we completed this summer. We also travelled to Rainy River First Nation and Mitaanjigamiing First Nation (formerly known as Stanjikoming First Nation) to invite elders to the event. As part of our invitation, we offered each elder tobacco – we used the knowledge of this important cultural exchange that we learned about earlier this summer from Brian Smith, Anishinaabe Language Coordinator with Seven Generations Education Institute.

On Tuesday, we travelled to Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation, 40 kilometers east of Fort Frances, to participate in a community gathering. We had the opportunity to listen to several speakers from the community talk about the rich history of their land. We also enjoyed drumming songs, which one of our rangers, Mitchell Jones-Foy, took part in. We spoke with youth coordinators who help to provide young people from the communities with opportunities to work, while also learning more about their own culture.
On Wednesday, one of our SYR teams had the opportunity to learn more about the invasive species called purple loosestrife, a wetland plant that reduces the space and nutrients native plants need by forming dense stands with thick mats of roots. Purple loosestrife has spread around many areas across northwestern Ontario.
Our teams went into the field to put our new knowledge of this plant to work by travelling north of Devlin to an area where we recorded the presence of the plant by mapping its location before removing it. We feel we have now mastered our Global Positioning System (GPS) mapping skills, as this was yet another opportunity where marking points and tracks were essential to our success!
In addition, we also mapped the presence of milkweed plants. Milkweed is very important because the monarch butterfly, which is a species of special concern under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, lays its eggs on milkweed and the caterpillars feed solely on milkweed when they hatch.
Our Youth and Elders Summit at Rainy River First Nation took place on Thursday, organized in partnership by ShooniyaaWa-Biitong, the United Native Friendship Centre and the Ministry of Natural Resources. We travelled to the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre (Manitou Mounds), a national historic site of the Anishinaabe people of Rainy River First Nation.

The day began with introductions, a pipe ceremony and a variety of songs, including opening songs, a food song and a healing song for the family of one of the rangers who had recently lost a loved one. Our SYR teams shared our experiences and photos of the projects we have completed in support of fish and wildlife, land and traditional medicine, community engagement and water resources.

We were grateful to the elders who provided to us their insight about our projects and program, and also shared with us their own experiences about being stewards of the land. It was a very proud moment for all of the rangers when the elders and whole gathering acknowledged all of the hard work we have done to take care of the land by arranging for an honour song to be performed on a drum from Rainy River First Nation. A big miigwech to everyone who took the time to come out with us and be a part of this special day – we will always remember it!

The week came to an end on Friday as we travelled to the Emo Fall Fair. Here we set up an information booth to enhance the public’s awareness about the SYR program and share our knowledge of environmental stewardship with others. It was great to share the knowledge we’ve gained this summer and encourage our community to be good stewards of the land!
Be sure to check back next week for tales from our final week as the 2013 SYR teams!