Episode 5: The Power of Indigenous Knowledge (with Marvin Defoe)
This episode starts with a meal around a fire, in a place where people have been cooking and eating for more than 5,000 years. Our hosts are Marvin Defoe and Edwina Buffalo-Reyes, members of the Red Cliff band of Lake Superior Ojibwe in Bayfield County. For the last three years, the Red Cliff Tribal Historic Preservation Office has been collaborating with two archaeologists helping excavate sites on tribal lands. Listen to hear what they are doing to reclaim and revitalize the deep history and culture of their people—and to help train a new generation of scholars committed to centering indigenous knowledge.
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Video of Anishinaabe Microwave
The Human Powered production team visited the Red Cliff Reservation. Edwina Buffalo-Reyes (Assistant Tribal Historic Preservation Officer) and Alex Breslav (Indigenous Arts and Sciences Coordinator) demonstrated how to use hot rocks to cook in a cedar log. They prepared a meal of Lake Superior trout, wild rice, and wild greens. Marvin Defoe likes to call it an Anishinaabe microwave, a technology used by people in the Great Lakes region for over 5,000 years.
To learn more about Act 31, a state law passed in 1989 that requires that all students in Wisconsin learn about the history, culture, and tribal sovereignty of Wisconsin’s federally recognized tribes, check out these resources and this book by JP Leary. Leary is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Education Center for First Nations Studies.
Frog Bay Tribal National Park
Frog Bay Tribal National Park (FBTNP) is the first tribal national park in the United States. The park is managed by Red Cliff’s Treaty Natural Resources Division and has carefully planned infrastructure with respect to the sensitive habitats within the park.
Red Cliff puts special emphasis on the sustainable management of natural resources, both on the Reservation and in the Chippewa ceded territories. The Park permanently protects 175 acres of rare boreal forest, the lower estuary and mouth of Frog Creek, and an undeveloped portion of the Lake Superior shoreline.
Frog Bay Tribal Park is open to visitors. However, it is located within the larger Frog Creek Conservation Management Area. In order to preserve cultural and historical use of this special place, the Conservation Management Area is accessible only to tribal members. Learn more about Frog Bay Tribal National Park here.
Each of the six Ojibwe bands in Wisconsin has a reservation.
By the time the treaty lands of 1825 were established, the Ojibwe, Menominee, Potawatomi, and Ho-Chunk had ceded the lands that eventually became the state of Wisconsin. During that same decade, the Oneida and Mohican (Stockbridge-Munsee Bands) resettled in Wisconsin from New York State. Today Wisconsin has more reservations and tribal lands than any other state east of the Mississippi River. Each Nation has its own unique history, traditions, and rituals.
This interactive map shows the tribal lands and treaty lands in the Northern Great Lakes. It is part of The Ways: Great Lakes Native Culture & Language, an online educational resource for 6-12 grade students that features videos and digital media exploring contemporary Native culture and language. The stories center on Native communities around the Northern Great Lakes, including a story about commercial fishermen from the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The resources were developed by PBS Wisconsin Education to support educators in meeting the requirements of Wisconsin Act 31.
Gete Anishinaabeg Izhichigewin Community Archaeology Project
The archaeological work and field school described in this episode was funded in part with a Major Grant from Wisconsin Humanities.
And in 2020, The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa received a $50K Tribal Heritage Grant award to continue its Gete Anishinaabeg Izhichigewin Community Archaeology Project. Funding for the Tribal Heritage Grant program is made available by the Historic Preservation Fund and is administered by the Department of Interior National Park Service.
Red Cliff is one of only 13 award recipients nationwide to receive one of these tribal heritage grants.
Marvin Defoe is an educator, teacher, birch bark canoe builder, and Red Cliff elder. He grew up in the Red Cliff community and is part of the sturgeon clan. Named Shingway Banase in Anishinaabe, he is passionate about maintenance and revitalization of the Ojibwe language. Marvin has been the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for four years. Learn more about the Red Cliff Ojibwe from Marvin in this video.
Edwina Buffalo-Reyes is from Red Cliff and of the eagle clan. In her words, “Ziigwaanikwe nindizhinikaaz. Miskwaabekaang nindoonjibaa. Migizi nindoodem. I am a mother first and always. I have three children and am currently the Assistant Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for my community. My life path has come full circle and has returned me to my community to raise my children and learn as much as I can about the history and ways of life of my people, the Anishinaabe – past and present.”
Heather Walder is a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, and a research associate at the Field Museum in Chicago. Since 2018, she has co-directed Gete Anishinaabeg Izhichigewin Community Archaeology Project, a collaboration between the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and academic archaeologists.
John Creese is an anthropological archaeologist in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at North Dakota State University. His current fieldwork focuses on collaborative Indigenous archaeology in the Western Great Lakes region of North America. Dr. Creese is also currently serving as the Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Journal of Archaeology.
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Host: Jimmy Gutierriez
Senior Producer: Craig Eley
Producers: Jessica Becker, Jen Rubin, and Jade Iseri-Ramos
Executive Producers: Brijetta Hall Waller and Dena Wortzel
Photographers: Stanley Schrock and Jessica Becker