The Red Cliff reservation (population 1,353), known as Miskwaabekaang, and its tribal membership continue to face many unique challenges to healthy living and physical and mental wellness, in part because of the reservation’s economically isolated location (northern-most tip of Wisconsin), and also due to historic and contemporary hardships that have significantly eroded the traditional Anishinaabe culture and spirituality that was once so vibrant. Despite these impacts, the Tribe has persisted in its efforts to foster a reintroduction of the traditional lifestyles and culture that play such vital roles in the preservation of its native identity and resiliency. The strategies proposed in this application will help support and expand these initiatives so that a strong, positive momentum is achieved and sustained in all aspects of wellness across the Red Cliff community. A major part of this momentum is being achieved through the implementation of an officially adopted 5-Year Language and Culture Plan, or Miskwaabekaang Ojibwemodaa Endasso Giizhik, which serves as a comprehensive blueprint for language revitalization strategies and workplans designed to improve access to traditional language learning opportunities and increased traditional language fluency in all aspects of tribal operations and community life. Together with the annual Miskwaabekaang Anishinaabemowin Gabeshiwin (Language Camp), which provides 3-½ days of immersive language learning, storytelling, and cultural connectivity, and Sugar Bush and Fishing harvests throughout the seasons, these combined initiatives help reconnect the Red Cliff community to a traditional Anishinaabe way of life. Red Cliff data shows indigenous language and culture is integral to one’s sense of physical and emotional wellbeing, and is especially critical for Indian youth, where these benefits are reflected in improved academic performance, self-esteem, and resilience against risky behaviors.
Other essential components in support of improved physical, mental, and cultural awareness and wellness at Red Cliff include a series of annual cultural events, camps, and educational partnerships held throughout the year, where participants of all age groups can learn and practice traditional skills in a variety of activities such as food harvesting, cooking, feasting, fishing, netting, spearing, hunting, basketmaking, sewing, weaving, and other common Anishinaabe cultural practices. Many of these activities promote rigorous physical activity and rewarding social collaboration which help to reduce risk factors associated with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, childhood obesity, mental illness, suicide, and addiction in the Red Cliff community, all of which are sadly over-represented. These events and their identified wellness strategies highlight the significance of the Red Cliff Band’s continued investment in Anishinaabe traditions and culture at Miskwaabekaang, expressed through a proud cultural heritage, and in honor of our community, our elders, and the Earth.