Bad River Youth Learn About Their Culture Through Summer Programs

Students Had the Chance to Try Out Things Like Testing Water and Making Ricing Sticks

BAD RIVER RESERVATION, Wis.- Madelyn Wiggins sits among a small group of fellow Bad River Band youth, all whittling 3 foot long pieces of wood.

They’re making ricing sticks; Tools used when harvesting wild rice.

“Ricing is so important to our people. It’s part of the reason we migrated to this area because we were told to look for the food that grows on water,” explains Wiggins.

It’s part of Indigenous Arts and Science, a summer program where students learn about the environment and Ojibwe culture and traditions.  The program is put on by the tribe and receives funding from the Earth Partnership program of the University of Wisconsin Madison.

“What we do is try to encourage indigenous arts and science related based education,” says Lori Lemieux, the program coordinator.

It’s all in an effort to educate the students about their own heritage, and hopefully, inspire them into pursuing a career focusing on environmental protection.  But the program serves more than just an academic purpose.

Lemieux believes learning about their roots will help the students form their own personal identities.

“Historically that’s how we survived. And so it’s still something that we do in this community to make sure that all that knowledge is passed on and that it keeps going,” says Lemieux.

And it’s especially important for indigenous communities whose cultures were historically suppressed, to pass their traditions on to the next generation.

“Our youth is what we have left,” says Wiggins. “We’re here to carry on these traditions and like it’s kind of our job.”