The protection of local lakes in and around the Fond du Lac reservation in Minnesota is the focus of this research project. In doing so, restoration efforts will be studied to preserve wild rice, wildlife, surrounding habitats and the communities that rely on them. Cranberry Lake (Mashkiigiminag Zaaga’igan) is located downstream from the mining district on the Iron Range, also known as the “Duluth Complex”. Wild rice has been found in these surveyed areas and is threatened by discharge from area mines and tailing basins that may diminish wild rice.
Incorporating Participatory Research study involved conducting interviews of community members, focusing on Tribal Elders’ voluntary contribution to gain ecological knowledge of historic areas and events. Many people are culturally sensitive to the survival of wild rice (Manoomin), because it is used in ceremonies and as a healthy-natural food.
The Fond du Lac Resource Management Department wanted to know about the fire history and the pre and post European fire regime (intensity, frequency and historical plant community) of the Fond du Lac area. In order to determine these, we analyzed the charcoal preserved in lake sediment cores from three rice lakes. According to Whitlock and Larson (2001), “Charcoal analysis quantifies the accumulation of charred particles in sediments during and following a fire event. Stratigraphic levels with abundant charcoal (so-called charcoal peaks) are inferred to be evidence of past fires”.
In this study fire frequency occurred more frequently from 1900 – 2000, these were potentially maintained burn sites to establish healthier areas for new growth. Recognizable grass charcoal was found in the core from as early as the 1700’s.