(Keshena, Wisconsin) - Menominee Tribal School students are learning valuable lessons about protecting the environment and learning their tribe's heritage including keeping native language alive.
In April 2008, the 180 tribal school students participated in "Clean Up the Rez Day."
The students picked up garbage around the reservation.
The many environment projects at the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin were part of the EPA Great Lakes 2008 Earth Day challenge.
Teachers and elders honored the students for their environmental work by holding a drum & feast.
"So they gave me some tobacco, some 'naeqnemâaw' and asked me to pray a little bit, so I am going to say a little prayer," said Dana Warrington, Keshena High School culture teacher.
"Give thanks that we still have our drums," Warrington said. "Give thanks that we have a school, and be happy that we have something to eat here today. So I want to pray a little bit."
Students heard words of encouragement from two teachers were Beth Waukechon and culture teacher Dana Warrington.
They told the students about the importance of taking care of Mother Earth because she takes care of us. They had a chance to talk to elders about protecting the planet.
During a field trip to Green Bay the students visited Pamprin Park, where their Earth Day activities made one of the attractions even more special.
The students climbed all over a replica of the Planet Earth - and were reminded of their clean up of the reservation. The Menominee reservation is known for it's beauty.
The 234,000-acre reservation has thick forests and includes 24-miles of the pristine Wolf River - that's federally protected.
Sturgeon used to spawn in reservation portions of the river - until two dams were built blocking their annual migration route.
The Land of the Menominee - and the tribes connection to nature - are noted at several locations on the reservation including Spirit Rock.
Fifth grader La-Rie Corn hopes to form an Earth Club at the school in Neopit.
After whitewashing gang graffiti, students replaced it with traditional American Indian art.
Corn, 11 years old, said students went down to the community park and painted over the graffiti and put up Native American applique designs.
A group of fourth graders said they learned the importance of respecting the Earth and how it fits their heritage. MITW Tribal School fourth graders: Tahekiah Bourdon, Raven Webster, Shae Perez, Naneque Latender, Sherlinda Nahwahquaw
Named the "People of the Wild Rice," Menominee legend calls the sturgeon "the protector" of the grain that grows in water.
Corn said sturgeon hold a really high place in Menominee culture because the sturgeon guard the wild rice, one of the three gifts the creator has given to the Menominee people.
Language arts instructor Joe Awonohopay said all Earth Week 2008 classes were devoted to the sturgeon including the effects of pollution on life cycle.
The Implementing Sustainable Development class at the College of Menominee nation collected electronic waste for recycling, pharmaceuticals for proper disposal.
The goal of the EPA Great Lakes 2008 Earth Day Challenge was the collecting and recycling of one million pounds of e-waste plus the collection/proper disposal of one million pills. The EPA says those goals were exceeded by 400 to 500 percent.
The Earth Healing Initiative assisted some challenge organizers by offering interfaith liaisons to volunteer and encourage members of local churches and temples to participate in the Earth Day related events in their area.
This video on the projects connected to the Great Lakes 2008 Earth Day Challenge was made possible by a grant from the USEPA in collaboration with the EPA Region 5 office in Chicago, the EPA Great Lakes national Program Office in Chicago in cooperation with the non-profit Interfaith Earth Healing Initiative in Marquette, MI.
The EHI involves American Indian tribes and a coalition of churches, synagogues and other faith traditions joining together to heal, protect and defend the environment.
I'm Greg Peterson, Earth healing TV
Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin official website - homepage
MITW Tribal School website
College of Menominee Nation
Earth Healing Initiative
Interfaith graphics by Justice St. Rain (Bah'i) of Interfaith Resources - Special Ideas: