PAGE 13 MAZINA’IGAN ad River, Red Cliff youth se treaty rights at Lake Namekagon An exciting yet anxious feeling loomed over many of the first timers. Talk- ing about spear fishing is one thing, and actually spearing is another. As the boats approached the shallow waters where ogaa (walleye) swim, youth were instructed to stand up at the front of the boat and arm themselves with a 12-foot spear-equipped pole. Instructors were on standby, closely attending to each kid and helping to spot the notorious set of eyes that glow through pure darkness, like stars shining beneath the water. On Lake Namekagon, the walleyes’ eyes glow a few yards ahead of the boat. Judging by the speed of those eyes, one can get a better handle on how to prepare. Many spearers will start with their spears in the water and establish their footing for optimal harvesting capacity. Once the eyes are spotted, it’s up to the spearer and the boat driver to effectively communicate direction and speed. Much like harvesting wild rice, your partner and this relationship are crucial. The spearer will also watch for rocks and other hazards that the driver cannot see. With the spear in the water to help counter refraction, the harvester will aim for the eyes or just behind the eyes. In one quick jab, a fish is on the other end and is brought up and placed in a harvest tub. The process continues until the fishermen have filled their permits, or until conditions permit. After a couple missed fish and a few spears collided with rocks, one Bad River youth pulled up his first ogaa in a boat manned by Bad River tribal members and experienced fishermen Russ Denomie and Dylan Jennings. In a nearby boat, a Red Cliff youth pulled up another beautiful ogaa at nearly the same time. A shimmer of headlamps shone all around the lake, signifying that Anishinaabe were being blessed in many ways. Our Ojibwe young people were becoming providers for themselves, for their families, and for their communities. Ogaa stories Over the course of the night, Bad River and Red Cliff youth speared 96 wall- eye between them. Red Cliff spearers brought in 59 ogaa and Bad River spearers brought in 37. Red Cliff Youth Services Director Misty Nordin remarked, “I had three boys who went out for their first time and absolutely loved it! They wanted to go back out for more!” Ethan Gordon, 12, was one of those boys. Gordon went out twice, but only got to spear one of those times because it started raining and the boat had to return to shore for safety. Even so, Gordon caught two ogaa in his freshman endeavor, which he chalked up to the strategy he used. “I decided not to go first when trying it,” he said. “I went second so I could watch how it was done and listen to the directions.” Dayton Milligan, 13, was another first time spearer. He said that his dad goes out spearing and that he’s always wanted to go but had to wait until he got a little older.“Iactuallyfeltprettyconfidentaboutmyself,”hesaidaboutbeingonthewater. “And the guy I was with must have thought I was pretty good too because I got the first fish I went for! I speared two fish within the first five minutes!” The experience also left an impression on Bad River youth. Nine-year old Betty Matus said it was “cool to see so many kids, friends, and elders gathered together.” And though she didn’t spear any fish (“There were so many that I almost had,” she said), that won’t deter her from going out again. “I hope to teach my brother how to do it someday,” she declared. The evening’s significance was a little different for everyone. For some youth, it was learning how to use asemaa for the first time, for others it was looking into the eyes of their first ogaa. But for the treaty tribes, the significance of youth spear- ing night was much more. Marvin Defoe articulated it well when he said, “What we practiced, yes, is treaty rights, but it is also something more profound. Bad River and Red Cliff, together, we practiced our future.” Bad River and Red Cliff hope to make youth spearing night an annual intertribal tradition. —Dylan Jennings contributed to this article. Chi-Miigwech Many people and programs helped make intertribal youth spearing night a success in 2017. A heartfelt miigwech goes out to all Bad River and Red Cliff tribal programs and staff, all the harvesters that devoted their time and teaching, Mike Tribble for his willingness to continue sharing his story, and GLIFWC staff for their assistance. Scott Babineau assists Jada Buckholtz with a spear at the front of the boat while Layla Boyd, Emily Pierre, and Red Cliff Conservation Warden Mark Duffy keep an eye on the water. (Amanda Plucinski photo) After bringing in their catch, youth spearers learn how to properly clean ogaa. (Amanda Plucinski photo) Many tribal fishermen practice subsistence harvesting. This means that they spear to collect food to feed their families and communities, not for sport. Sharing food is an important part of an Ojibwe harvest, and speared fish are often shared with others in the community who cannot harvest or during ceremonies. After creel team members collected fish data from boats coming into shore, youth learned how to honor the ogaa that gave their lives to feed them by learning how to prepare and cook them. (Paula Maday photo) ARFISHING •