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The Maajii-akii-gikenjigewin Field Crew’s First Year!

By Hillary Olsen, Maajii-akii-gikenjigewin Crew Field Coordinator

Article originally published in the January 2024 edition of Nagaajiwanaang • Dibaajimowinan. 


 

group photo by a mural
[Image Description] Five people posing in a group next to a mural depicting someone wearing earrings, a bandana over their face, and floral garb with silver bells.
The Maajii-akii-gikenjigewin field crew is a program that was started in 2023 in partnership with FDL Resource Management and Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa. The goal of the program is to provide opportunities for Indigenous young adults to (re)connect with the land and cultural traditions while gaining skills and experience in natural resource management practices by assisting FDL Resource Management with their current conservation and restoration projects.

The crew this year consisted of three crew members (Gabe Hudson, Devin Lintgen, and Raymond Greyhair IV), a crew leader (Lyssa Lawrence-Northrup) and a field coordinator (Hillary Olsen). The crew started their term in early April and ended in late September. The first two weeks of their term focused on specific training related to their project work. This included gaining knowledge in areas such as chainsaw operation and maintenance, risk management, invasive species identification, FDL Treaty Rights, interpersonal skill building, and many other areas. Upon completion of learning these skills they went straight into working with FDL Resource Management staff. 

During their 6-month term, the crew got the opportunity to be involved with many cool projects at FDL Resource Management! A few highlights were helping FDL Resource Management’s wildlife biologist monitor and track wolves on and near the FDL Reservation, reseeding manoomin in the St. Louis estuary, planting more than 3,000 trees on the FDL Reservation, helping with electroshocking and cleaning of nets during Treaty Fishing on Lake Mille Lacs, and assisting FDL community members with the care of their garden plots at Gitigaaning. Additionally, the crew had the opportunity to take part in important community events such as the Sandy Lake Memorial, the Healing Circle Run, Gitigaan Wiikondiwag, and the Taking Care of Things Gathering, as part of their work.

Member chainsawing a log.
A person in chainsaw safety gear and a CCMI shirt uses a chainsaw on a downed log.

Although the first year of the program was certainly full of unforeseen challenges and the projects were often physically and mentally demanding, the crew had a really successful first year and learned A LOT! Not only did the crew learn new technical and project-related skills in the natural resources field through mentorship provided by FDL Resource Management staff, but they also gained leadership skills, opportunities to connect with their community and culture, a greater connection and knowledge of the land, increased physical and mental stamina, more confidence, and lifelong friendships. There were many adventures and tons of laughs along the way as well!

Finally, the crew would like to say chi-miigwech to all the staff at FDL Resource Management for taking a chance on a new program, providing programmatic and planning support, and taking the time to teach and mentor the crew in a caring and helpful way.

If you are interested in hearing more about the crew or have any ideas or feedback for the program, please reach out to Hillary Olsen at hillary.olsen@conservationcorps.org or call/text at 218-221-5759. You can also reach out to FDL Resource Management’s Environmental Outreach Coordinator, Anthony Mazzini, at anthonymazzini@fdlrez.com or call 218-878-7112.