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TEACH: Native Peoples of the Region

8 | Tribes and First Nations today

The lasting influence of Native American tribes and First Nations is evident by looking at any present-day map of North America. You'll see thousands of cities, rivers and lakes that bear the names of the continent's original settlers. The Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin's Menomonee Falls, and the city of Ottawa, Ontario, the capital of Canada, are just a few.

Today, dispersed on reservations throughout the region, the surviving descendants of the Great Lakes tribes keep the values and traditions of Native American culture alive. Through pow wows, art fairs and other cultural events, tribes are connecting with their ancestry and exposing present generations to their traditional dance, music and belief system.

Related map: Native American U.S. State Populations (1990 Census)

Tribal fisherman. Click for larger image.Many tribes are undertaking ambitious natural resource programs to protect and restore their environment. On fishery issues, tribes and First Nations cooperate closely with researchers, and federal and state/provincial resource managers. For example, through an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in northern Michigan operates a fish health isolation facility, which is playing a key role in efforts to restore the lake trout fishery in the Great Lakes. In exchange, the USFWS provides yearling trout from the hatchery to Keweenaw Bay and the community's reservation waters.

Ice fishing on Lake Superior. Click for larger image.Fishing remains a great source of income for many tribes, especially those who make their home in the western half of the Great Lakes basin. Native Peoples' rights to the fish and other natural resources in the region have been protected by various federal treaties and state/provincial agreements. Tribal fishing rights are maintained and managed through groups such as the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commisson, based in Odanah, Wis., and the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, based in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

Gambling at a tribal casino.Casino gambling opportunities are also growing among tribes in the Great Lakes region. In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized Native Peoples' rights to run gaming operations when it ruled that states had no authority to regulate gaming on Indian land if such gaming is permitted outside the reservation for any other purpose. Congress established the legal basis for this right when it passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988. The IGRA appears to be working to the benefit of Native Peoples in several states, most notably Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The revenues generated are helping tribes and surrounding communities become economically self-sufficient, and enhance their education and health care systems.

See also: GLIN: Native Peoples of the Great Lakes Region

Photos: Tribal fisherman and fishing through the ice on Lake Superior, both courtesy Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission; gaming, courtesy Kewadin Casinos, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

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