Traditional approaches and the future of Minnesota’s forests: The Thirteen Moons project

What future for the forested landscapes of our region? We inhabit a region known for abundant forest resources, a region situated within a state nationally known for its forests. It is a special place and our people have special connections with our surroundings. Meanwhile, families grow, children move away and back, communities change in size and composition, the economy cycles, and the climate influences our habitat. We know these things and thus recognize that our future landscape could take many forms, and for these reasons we continuously revisit the question of how people connect with natural resources and the forested landscape?

There is no single answer to this question. Economic benefits of the wood and paper industries are felt directly and indirectly throughout the region. Forested landscapes also offer recreational opportunities and contribute to our vital tourism industry. Many of us work in these industries. We know families that generate seasonal income or other benefits from non-timber forest resources, such as maple syrup and balsam boughs. Forests provide habitat for many animals that feed our families, such as deer, bear, and moose.

Forests contribute to our individual and collective identity and to our individual and common culture. We are northern Minnesotans: independent and resourceful. We are loggers, mill workers, trappers, hunters, harvesters, jam-makers. We have fun making a few bucks in the woods even if we don’t really, once we run the numbers.

There is no certain future for our region’s forested landscapes but we have a hunch that understanding people connections to natural resources and the forested landscape will help us to ensure that future resources align with our collective needs and wants. To learn more about these connections Extension is making a concerted effort to learn about the full array of forest resources, both timber and non-timber, used and appreciated by people within and around the region. The Thirteen Moons program is one example of this effort.

Thirteen Moons addresses an identified need to fortify connections between Fond du Lac (FDL) community members and traditional natural resources. This program emerged from a 2008 listening session and needs assessment that focused on Band members’ perspectives on natural resources and their use. The traditional Ojibwe calendar year follows the 13-moon lunar cycle. Each moon is named for a natural phenomenon – the activity of a seasonally active animal, an important cultural practice or belief, or a prevalent environmental condition. Thirteen Moons taps into this cycle, providing educational content relevant to the community’s interests through partnerships with knowledgeable community members.

There are two components to the program. The first component is a monthly feature in the Fond du Lac tribal newspaper running under the Thirteen Moons banner. Each feature centers thematically on the month’s moon and contains educational content related to culture, ecology, and management. The second component is a thirteen-workshop series, each workshop based upon the corresponding Ojibwe moon and offered as closely as possible to its cycle. The workshops both feature and target FDL community members. Upcoming workshop announcements and highlights can be found  here

Dave’s work addresses forest livelihoods, focusing on Tribal traditions and uses. He’s based in Cloquet, MN.

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