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Community-led Active Research in the Fight for Anishinaabe Food Sovereignty in the Winnipeg River Drainage Basin

Thu, April 11, 8:30 to 10:00am, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Champaign


In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, members of Ochiichagwe’Babigo’Ining Ojibway Nation (henceforth OON), in what is now known as northwestern Ontario, thrived along the Winnipeg River, due to the steady food supply of fish and wild rice (manomin). After hydroelectric development and mill expansion in the 1950s, artificial water fluctuations and polluted effluent and organic waste degraded the habitat conditions for fish and manomin crops near OON. By 1978, food scarcity led to the almost complete abandonment of OON.
The community made initial attempts at promoting the regrowth of the manomin crops through seeding as well as constructing man-made dams. Unfortunately, these rehabilitation efforts prompted little regrowth of the crop, demonstrating a need for a greater understanding of the historic environmental impacts of the Winnipeg River near OON and the ecological needs of manomin.
In 2017, band administrators at OON approached Dr. Brittany Luby and Dr. Andrea Bradford to discuss the role of universities in knowledge production. What evolved is an interdisciplinary research program designed to develop a greater understanding of the effects of water level regimes on manomin density and to determine whether crops can be reintroduced under the current conditions.
In this presentation, Luby and Samantha Mehltretter, MASc. Candidate and research assistant, will discuss the formation of a community-led active research team in the fight for Anishinaabe food sovereignty. They will discuss the triumphs and challenges associated with this interdisciplinary project that lies at the intersection of traditional ecological knowledge, engineering, and environmental activism.