Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Restoration of Spur Lake

From the National Resources Foundation of Wisconsin – 2021 Annual Report

Centuries ago, their Ojibwe ancestors migrated from the East to find the place where “the food grows on the water.” In 1806, their tribe fought the Sioux to control the wild rice beds their ancestors led them to. Now, a new generation of the Sokaogon Chippewa are working to secure the future of this culturally and spiritually important plant.

Unfortunately, habitat loss due to climate change and the overdevelopment has taken its toll on native rice plants. The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) estimates about half of the wild rice that once grew in Wisconsin is now gone and has named wild rice as the most vulnerable plant species to climate change.

To help restore wild rice beds at Spur Lake State Natural Area in Oneida County, the Foundation, with support from the Brico Fund, is collaborating with partners to address climate resiliency head on. The project is a partnership with the Sokaogon Chippewa Community, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission and others who have formed the Spur Lake Working Group. Together, they research, plan, and implement changes to the property that consider the impacts of climate change, with the goal of making this site, including its wild rice beds, more resilient to changing climate conditions.

Youth Play a Central Role

Sage, Hutson, Macy, Serena, Chloe and Annika are teenagers who want to help. In recent years they were hired by the tribe’s Environmental Department to help on a variety of projects, including the Spur Lake wild rice restoration. The students helped remove beaver dams on Twin Lakes Creek, which forms the outlet of Spur Lake. The beaver dams were artificially elevating the water level and reducing wild rice habitat within the lake.

“During workdays, they were able to develop a tangible connection to a lake that has been important to their community for so long,” says Nathan Podany, a hydrologist with the Sokaogon Chippewa Community.

“In the coming years, the ultimate manifestation of success would be for the youth who worked on Twin Lakes Creek to be able to harvest rice on Spur Lake and to know that their effort paid off.”