<Ojibwe Lifeway: Fishing (“niibin”- summer)

Connect With Culture

Ojibwe Treaty Rights: Connections to Land & Water

Ojibwe Treaty Rights: Connections to Land & Water

Learn more about the importance of cold and coolwater fish species such as walleye to the Ojibwe people, both historically and today. Explore and evaluate Evidence that you can see, feel, or experience based on what you observe around you. place-based evidence of how climate change may be affecting the sustainability of fish species using the online Menu of Resources or through an experiential learning opportunity.

Use the Connect With Culture Activity Guide to guide your exploration.

Giigoonh (fish) are an important aspect of Ojibwe lifeways, both traditionally and today. Sport fishing in Wisconsin is a 2.3 billion dollar industry that supports more than 26,000 jobs and generates $75 million in state tax revenue.

Fish are an important clan totem. Within the Ojibwe culture there are several different fish clans including catfish, merman, sturgeon, pike, whitefish, and sucker clans. Because fishes are hidden behind rocks, live unseen in the dark depths, but remain steadfast in the swirling current, Ojibwe culture holds that people born into the fish clan are chosen to help teach and develop skills

In addition to the role as a clan totem, the Ojibwe diet has always relied heavily on fish throughout the year. They harvested walleye during the early spring season with nets and spears, in summer with hook and line much like today’s anglers, and in winter fishing through the ice using carved decoys. Fish is a central component to feasts at celebrations and ceremonies and is considered among the sacred foods.

Because of the importance of fish to the Ojibwe, some Ojibwe bands specifically reserved the right to fish within lands that they ceded (sold) to the U.S. government under treaties between their nations. Other rights which were reserved in these treaties included hunting and gathering. Treaty rights are important to understanding the cultural significance of fishing to the Ojibwe people. Consider how these rights may be threatened by climate change.

Just as they did historically, today each spring Lake Superior Ojibwe spear walleye at night using lights to reveal the fish. This catch is closely regulated to insure sustainability of fish populations.

Menu of Resources Learn more about the cultural importance of fishing to the Ojibwe and their treaty rights to fish, hunt and gather

Read the “Good Story.”

Read the “Good Story.”
Learn how the Ojibwe work to preserve their treaty rights and stewardship of their resources.

Learn more about the history of coaster brook trout.

Learn more about the history of coaster brook trout.
What’s being done re-establish this fish on Lake Superior coastal streams? Photo credit: The Greater Lake Superior Foundation.

Watch Traditional Ojibwe Winter Spearing

Watch Traditional Ojibwe Winter Spearing
See how Ojibwe people harvest fish according traditional and modern methods.

Design Your Own Place-based Experience

Interview a tribal, non-tribal fisher, or family member about their fishing experiences. Ask them to share their observations and perspectives of how a changing climate may be affecting their fishing.

Interview a tribal, federal, or state fisheries manager, biologist or researcher. Ask them to share any evidence they have observed of how a changing climate may be affect fish populations and their long-term sustainability. How could climate change affect their management of fish species?

Think about your favorite lake. What changes have you noticed in the water temperature, days when it is covered with ice, and its general water quality. What changes have you noticed in the fishing? Does this lake have a lake association? If so, ask the lake association members for their observations.