Native Americans and the Environment: Perspectives on the Ecological Indian

By Michael E. Harkin; David Rich Lewis | Go to book overview

11. The Politics of Cultural Revitalization
and Intertribal Resource Management
The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission
and the States of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota

Larry Nesper and James H. Schlender


Introduction

In multiplying current examples of putatively anti-ecological practice among American Indian peoples in The Ecological Indian: Myth and History, Shepard Krech (1999, 216) included the Wisconsin Ojibwes, who “reportedly let thousands of fish spoil in warm weather,” a cryptic reference to a legal, social, and political conflict between the bands of Lake Superior Ojibwe Indians in northern Wisconsin that spanned the last quarter of the twentieth century. Krech was making a general point: Indians have “a mixed relationship to the environment,” and the practice of regarding them as conservationists strips real people “of all agency in their lives except when their actions fit the image of the Ecological Indian” (216). It is nonetheless unfortunate that he chose to make his point at the expense of the Wisconsin Ojibwes, partially owing to the nature of the evidence he drew upon (though admittedly signaled by the use of the qualifier “reportedly”), but also because they are deeply, effectively, and legally involved in the management of the natural resources of the northern third of Wisconsin, by virtue which they are critiquing the image of the ecological Indian in the region's shared collective consciousness.

In 1983, after nearly ten years of litigation, the bands of Lake Superior Ojibwes had their treaty-based off-reservation hunting, fishing, and gath-

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