The Menominee Reservation in northeastern Wisconsin is the first stop marking the beginning of a journey making a documentary that is a platform for Native Americans to share their perspectives about adaptation in a rapidly changing world. We hope to bring these voices into the climate change and sustainability conversation.
The Menominee Forest Keepers are the original inhabitants of Wisconsin and at one point managed ancestral lands spanning over 14.5 million acres. Presently the 234,000-acre Reservation is penetrated by the Wolf River which is known as the “life blood” of the Forest. Approximately 95% of this land is forested with more than 400 acres of rivers and streams moving through it. This dense forested land provides vital ecosystem services for the rest of the state such as fresh water purification, erosion control, and local climate regulation.
In the heart of the forest lives The Menominee Tribal Enterprises (MTE), a community-based sawmill owned and operated by the Tribe. The facilities in Neopit, WI began operations in 1908 and have been processing timber continuously here for 110 years. MTE is the backbone of the Tribe’s economy and provides economic stability for the community. Guided by environmental stewardship and traditional beliefs MTE’s operations reflect the ethics of the Menominee people that a healthy ecosystem is critical for a healthy community.
While walking through the White Pine Stands among trees that are 200 years old and towering at 150 ft heights Forest Manager Marshall Pecore observantly points out this tiny White Pine seedling, (which is still wearing the seed pod!) The regeneration of White Pine (Pinus strobus) requires a deep respect for the needs and conditions the tree needs to thrive. MTE plans 150 years into the future and every time they selectively harvest a White Pine they are planning for regeneration to ensure the stock is there for the future.
MTE is a Native-owned and operated business whose workforce is comprised of 95% tribal members. Out of 186 employees there are both sawmill workers and forestry workers. This Menominee man is in the integrated random length hardwood/softwood sawmill department cutting logs into boards. The process from cutting to milling all within a few miles on the Menominee Reservation.
Rows and rows of diverse hardwoods lay in the evening sun. After being dried, planed and molded the stacks lay in these yards ready to be shipped out from the Menominee Reservation. We just learned that the Milwaukee Bucks will be using there hardwood maple for a new court and we are hoping to be there for the opening ceremony this fall!
To this day 95% of the Menominee Reservation is so densely forested that the borders can easily be recognized from Satellite images of Northeast Wisconsin and the sharp west border is used by NASA to refocus their satellites. The cultural strength demonstrated by the Menominee’s for generations have kept most of their forest in-tact.