Located in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior, the Bay Mills Indian Community is about 15 miles southwest of Sault Ste. Marie and is one of the many Sault Ste. Marie bands of Chippewa Indians (Ojibwa). The amount of land totals less than 5 acres and is divided into two parcels.
Great Lakes research
Looking out over the pristine headwaters of the Upper Saint Mary’s River, the main campus of Bay Mills Community College is located between the sole outlet of Lake Superior and Waishkey (Waiska) Bay in the heart of the Bay Mills Indian Community. The Bay is an important recreational and cultural resource for members of the Community, its neighbors and many tourists who visit the area. Research is being done to study contaminants in the Bay, including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, personal care products and micro plastics. The project is also studying the biodiversity of the Bay including surveying all mussel species present. Mussels, like clams and oysters, are good indicators of how healthy a body of water is, and many mussels in Michigan are threatened or endangered.
“One of the things that … we’ve taken to the next level within our market – we have a prescription for health program for our tribal diabetics to purchase fruits and vegetables at the market with diabetes dollars; and [Extension] was really the leader in teaching us how to convince our administration within [the Tribe] and use our diabetes money for market coupons.”
“Something that I think [the agent] does really well, and I think is probably critical for the success of FRTEP problems is engaging respectfully with Tribes. [The agent] never comes to the table as a savior. It’s never like, “What skill do I have that will better you?” She always comes as a partner and acknowledges that she’s there as a partner more than parachuting in to make our lives better.”
FRTEP programs have had a major impact on individuals, families and tribal communities. Just how much impact has now been quantified thanks to a research project that used Ripple Effects Mapping (REM) and content analysis. The Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF) engaged in a joint collaboration with an evaluation team and the Western Extension Risk Management Education Center to measure the long-term impacts of the Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Program (FRTEP) serving the Bay Mills Indian Community. Click the link below to read the report.
Waishkey Bay Farm
Bay Mills Community College’s Waishkey Bay Farm is a 40-acre property that serves as a teaching, research, and incubator facility focusing on sustainable agriculture and food production consistent with traditional Anishinaabek values. Current operations include hoop house vegetable production, a community garden, pasture poultry production and processing, domestic blueberry production and novel berry research, honey bee hives and raising grass-fed beef.
Boat to School
Sixth grade students from JKL Bahweting Anishnabe, a public tribal charter school, learn about the importance of fish to the Great Lakes ecosystem and how humans have been managing those fish and enjoying their benefits for many years. Activities included tasting whitefish tacos while learning about seafood’s nutritional benefits, dissecting walleye stomachs to learn about fish diets, and a fisheries career panel. Students have visited a walleye hatchery to see the process of raising walleye for release into the wild. They also visit a commercial fish operation where they learn about sustainable commercial fishing, methods, fish population dynamics, and taste many fresh samples.
Health and Nutrition
About 100 people received food safety training in 2018, in the areas of food preservation, cottage food law, or ServSafe. Seasons of the UP (6 classes and 3 field trips) were offered, with 35 people attending. Approximately 350 adults attended seven-part nutrition training, with an additional 68 youth completing a nutrition series. One hundred seniors benefited from Project Fresh coupons.
Agriculture and Agribusiness
In partnership with Bay Mills Community College and Bay Mills Health Center, regular food production education workshops are offered to the entire community at BMCC’s agriculture education center Waishkey Bay Farm. The 2018 workshops included DIY low hoops for season extension with raised beds, tomato pruning and trellising for hoop houses, shiitake mushroom cultivation, seed saving, soil health, berry care, garlic planting, and Michigan Cottage Food Law.
- Provided 463 tribal families with Gitigaan Miinkaanensan (garden seeds) kits.
- Provided 174 tribal youth with complete home garden kits (raised bed containers, soil, seeds and gardening knowledge)
- Supported Virtual Intertribal Food Summit with partners at the Intertribal Agriculture Council so we can continue to grow food sovereignty capacity and connection even at times when communities cannot gather together.
- Provided support for tribal childcare center garden as part of their reopening plan tied to the tribal government’s reopening of essential services.
- Created an online ordering system for the annual farmers market spring plant sale in Bay Mills Indian Community.
For more information on Extension activities at Bay Mills please visit their Facebook page.
Dave Ivan – Program Director