With a week behind us, it feels a lifetime we’ve been together on this journey. Orientation allowed us time and space to build the foundation of a group contract, begin sharing individual life maps, align expectations, and ensure everyone is wrapped in the woven cedar basket of this course. We call this, “container building”, and it is no small metaphor that we each cast a stone from Lake Superior into a cedar and birch basket woven by April Stone that will hold us through the next month together. We also were able to share afternoons with the Montano Family, and Alan Brew of Northland College, sharing in stories of both Ojibwe, and white settler cultures and histories in this place. The fern laden floor of the Frog Bay Tribal National Park provided a stark contrast to the power plant and Super Fund site in the bottom of Chequamegon Bay as cars raced by on the four lane highway. The history of pillage on the land is still present today in the form of concrete rubble, abandoned piers, and toxic waste. But these are the stories of this place that we took with us on our first transition from Potter’s Farm out to the edge of the Bad River Reservation. We landed on an endless beach looking out over 400 miles of fresh water to the northeast and were introduced to issues of indigenous sovereignty, resource protection, and the Bad River reservation. We were also introduced to April Stone, world renowned basket weaver, educator and Bad River Tribal member. April led us to a traditional homestead with fruit trees, gardens, a giant red barn and hand-built home occupied by Joan, an elder woman who has spent the past 30-odd years studying birds and ecology in this area. With Joan and April, we headed into the woods with axes to harvest a Black Ash tree and convert it, slowly, into handmade baskets. After speaking to the tree, offering “sema”, and taking our moments with the three we learned about responsible harvest, and began the felling process. Each student took their turn with an American felling Axe and hewing axe as we felled and sectioned the tree into a log for pounding and weaving. Each day, we rise for breakfast and a checkin, getting a hang for our group camp, and heading down to the basket station for work until the afternoon when we set out for various field trips and teachings in and around Bad River. Tomorrow we break camp and head to the north end of Madeline Island, the only island of the Apostle Islands that is inhabited year round, and not a part of the National Park. There, we will engage in mid-course feedback and reflection and begin a chapter focused on food systems, farming, timber and fisheries.
We got lucky with our student group! Aida, Ruby, Claire, Cricket, Brooke, Yaz, Ben, Logan, Sebastian, JP, Julian, Nick, and Rowan are rock stars, making fun and joy from living outside, working in the woods, and braving bugs and outhouses to engage in a deeper relationship with the this sacred earth. We are so grateful for their laughter, camaraderie, and individual leadership in all aspects of the course. Thank you all for supporting their journey!
And stay tuned!