Bad River FRTEP

The Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP) is a successful tribal community outreach model focusing on agricultural productivity and youth development. FRTEP offices are located on reservations and staff often partner with local communities, governments and institutions. Programs are developed through local objectives, reaching an audience that is often missed by broader extension efforts. FRTEP is often the gateway to success for other programs for farmers and ranchers and 4-H.

The Ashland County FRTEP educator position was created by the Tribal Chairman and community members of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to serve Bad River youth with traditional foods education and experiences.  The objectives of the position were created within the job description with the goals to: 

  • provide youth with meaningful education to use their treaty rights to wild harvest foods and medicines
  • learn gardening and high tunnel food production
  • participate in physical activities to reduce childhood obesity
  • and to preserve, prepare, and share food in culturally meaningful and appropriate ways

If you are interested in learning more about how to advocate on behalf of the Federally-Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP) this report reviews program data and tells the stories of FRTEP agents as they work to support Tribal Nations’ agricultural aspirations.

Bad River Tribal Food Sovereignty

Loretta Livingston and Joy Schelble represented the Bad River Food Sovereignty Project and were honored as Changemakers at the 2020 MOSES Conference. Together, they demonstrated significant leadership to empower others in the Bad River community. Their efforts worked to embody the adage that food is medicine. Loretta and Joy continue to work together to demonstrate the power of food as a commons rather than a commodity.

You can read more about Joy & Loretta’s work together, and their 2020 Changemakers Award. (Starting on pg. 7)

Living Earth Presentation

The ninth annual Living Earth Festival focused on sustainable development through heritage tourism, traditional agricultural practices, and the importance of Native foods and food sovereignty. In this presentation, Loretta F. Livingston and Joy Schelble were joined by youth program members Sydnee Bigboy and Tia Burns (all tribal members) to describe their Bad River’s food sovereignty and youth programs. Historically, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe has maintained a substantial annual food supply from gardens, the watershed, and the forest. Bad River Food Sovereignty is working to restore that capability, by establishing and managing community gardens and providing people, from youth to elders, with education and other tools and resources, including seedlings. The program is also working to reconnect community members with Ojibwe food traditions—including seasonal foods available in their yards and beyond—and with knowledge of their treaty rights to wild-harvest foods and medicines. This presentation was webcast and recorded in the Potomac Atrium of the National Museum of the American Indian on July 21, 2018.

Bad River Youth Development

Youth engagement in a culturally grounded food system is one of the key initiatives of the FRTEP extension program at Bad River. The goal is to increase youth involvement in growing, gathering, consuming and producing food for others from local and traditional sources which in turn helps to reduce childhood and adolescent obesity and improve physical fitness through hunting, fishing, gathering, gardening and related activities.

The Extension approach to improving the Bad River youth population’s individual relationship to food and health includes all of the components of growing, harvesting, cooking, preserving, demonstrations and public events, and meaningful youth involvement. Educational programs address youth development in addition to improving nutrition and reducing obesity and preserving culture and language.

Natural resources education and conservation, treaty rights, and connection to place and culture are closely intertwined in the Bad River community. Ojibwe language is rooted in nature and is best learned in the context of natural resources and the environment. Extension is providing youth opportunities to build these foundations through educational programs that connect them to place and culture. Extension has created and continues to develop curriculum and educational approaches that are affecting schools and partner youth-serving programs at Bad River and beyond.

Tribal youth are learning about the biological sciences, natural resources and food systems through engagement with traditional foods. There are leadership development opportunities, as well as cultural and economic engagement. Youth have learned how to harvest maple syrup, spear and clean fish, the traditional Ojibwe game of lacrosse, Ojibwe language and traditional cooking. They have combined hiking with knowledge about traditional plants and harvesting methods and mentored kindergarten and Head Start kids.

Community Gardens

The Bad River Gitiganing Community Garden project was started in 2003. One project operates in an ancient gardening site. There are also home gardens, a garden at the Elder Center, and experimental gardens where permaculture methods are being tested to grow more food in the heavy clay soil. The Tribe is also working on re-educating members on how to harvest and prepare wild foods, and providing community members with some of the resources to carry this out.

The turtle-shaped garden once held mostly medicinal plants, but has been expanded to include lettuce, tomatoes, squash, cabbage, carrots, onions, beans, sunflowers, corn and other crops. Adjacent to the turtle garden is a new orchard, containing dozens of apple trees. Extension has also done a soil giveaway for residents and offered tilling services for home gardeners.

Extension also offers raised bed gardens at the Birch Hill Community House, the Boys and Girls Club, and Elder Center. About 60 youth have been involved in planting and harvesting, which encourages exercise and healthy eating, and they take part in weeding and watering and learn about the different stages of the plant life, soil composition, and soil health. Elders take care of gardens, as well, and the food is consumed at an afternoon activity involving food preparation and cooking. Some elders also have home gardens, both for vegetables and traditional plants used for medicine.

Another goal at Bad River is to give tribal members the knowledge and resources needed to harvest wild foods. Youth have learned how to make wild rice knockers (the sticks used to knock the kernels of wild rice from their stems), and how to navigate canoes to go pick the rice. These efforts have helped youth to access the wild rice for health and wellness reasons, as well as providing an economic opportunity for families from selling rice.

Teaching Resources

The Power of Plants – Plant ID Booklet –  Guide to identifying and harvesting native plants for traditional Ojibwe uses.

The position is on a four year grant cycle and at the conclusion of each cycle the objectives are reviewed by an community advisory board and modified as needed to better serve Bad River youth.

The FRTEP educator provides opportunities and education for youth at:
– Bad River Head Start
– Mashkiisiibii Boys and Girls Club
– Birch Hill Community House
– Bad River Healthy Lifestyles program
– Ashland Middle School high tunnel
– Ashland Elementary school garden