MAZINA’IGAN PAGE 12 By Paula Maday, Staff Writer Learning to use asemaa “What are they doing?” my son asked me, intently watching three boys who stood at the edge of the water, holding their hands out and speaking. He had been run- ning around since we arrived at the lake, weaving in between trees and splashing at the edge of the water like energetic 5-year olds do. But now suddenly he stood still and focused, completely fascinated by what these older kids were doing. “They’re talking to the spirits,” I replied, “saying thank you and asking for safety before they go out on the water. In their hands, that’s tobacco, or asemaa.” “And when they have that in their hand, the spirits can hear them?” he asked. “Yes.” “I want to do it!” he exclaimed. Heskippedtothepavilion,wherewescoopedsome asemaa into his little hand, and then walked back down to the water. Standing at the edge, I guided him in saying his name, saying thank you to the water and thank you to the fish, and asking to keep everyone safe on the boats. Then he gently brushed the tobacco into the water as he had seen the other boys do, understanding the care with which to handle the sacred medicine. In that moment, I felt so much gratitude for the opportunity that this youth spear- ing night offered. Because even if my little one was too little to spear, he still learned the first and most important part of any harvest: using asemaa and giving thanks. Two bands, one gathering AttendingWaaswaangMaawanj’iding(GatheringonthePracticeofSpearing)on April 14 were 19 youth from Red Cliff and 13 youth from Bad River. The event was a cooperative effort between GLIFWC and other tribal programs, and people from both bands who wanted to usher the time-honored Ojibwe tradition of spearfishing to the next generation. Around 6:30 pm, the caravans arrived and people started gathering inside the pavilion. I noticed that elders, volunteers, parents, youth workers and community members filled in the spaces between youth, forging connections where there had been none before, and creating one cohesive group. Two bands were present, but this was one nation, gathering together to exercise their inherent rights. In front of a roaring fire, Red Cliff elders Marvin Defoe and Richard Lafernier smudged,performedapipeceremony,andsharedmanoomintogettheeveningstarted in a good way. Lac Courte Oreilles Ogichidaa Mike Tribble spoke next, sharing his and brother Fred Tribble’s story about spearing off-reservation back in 1974 and being arrested for it. That story was the impetus for the LCO v. Wisconsin case that affirmed treaty rights for treaty tribes doing inland fishing, and an important part of these kids’ story too, as they prepared to exercise their harvesting rights without fear of being arrested or harassed. Marvin Defoe said of the youth, “They were very good listeners, respectful, and participated in today what our ancestors did a thousand years ago no different. Elders, parents, and our communities are still teaching as they did back then. If you teach our youth to love the earth, they will defend it.” As daylight faded away and asemaa made its way to the spirits, youth presented their tribal IDs to creel team workers and received their fishing permits. It was twi- light, and everyone headed to the water. Stars below nibi Lake Namekagon is an exceptionally clean lake, known for its dark root beer colored water. Many will say that if you can learn to spear in dark water, you can learn to spear anywhere. And on the evening of April 14, this seemed especially true. Clouds had moved in to cover the sky after sunset, and complete darkness sur- rounded those out on the boats. Spring spearing with Ba Next gen Ojibwe harvesters exercis Red Cliff elders Marvin Defoe and Richard Lafernier start youth spearing night in a good way with prayers, asemaa, and manoomin. (Paula Maday photo) The creel team at Lake Namekagon checks tribal IDs and issues permits to spearers. (Paula Maday photo) Bad River youth Sean Bressette lifts a freshly speared ogaa out of the water. (PM) What we practiced, yes, is treaty rights, but it is also something more profound. Bad River and Red Cliff, together, we practiced our future. —Marvin Defoe, Red Cliff elder • YOUTH SPEA