During a time when many American Indian nations were being forced off their lands by the United States government, Chief Oshkosh worked to negotiate treaties that would allow the Menominee to stay in their homeland. Oshkosh also promoted his people’s traditional forest management practices, which are known today as sustainable forestry.
Wisconsin developed around their reservation for generations, but Menominee forest conservation has yielded a thriving ecosystem for almost 160 years. This PBS Wisconsin Education animation explains that “you can see their healthy green forest from space.”
Watch Chief Oshkosh: Leader in Troubled Times from their Wisconsin Biographies series. The video introduces the tribe’s history, cultural values, and some additional teaching resources. More from American Forests magazine:
The Menominee view themselves as the forest’s stewards, never taking more resources than are produced within natural cycles so that the forest’s biodiversity can be sustained. They also believe that rewards can’t be measured in financial terms alone, but in environmental, cultural and spiritual values. As a result, the forest managers allow some trees to reach full maturity before being harvested, while permitting others to age indefinitely to protect thriving stands of old-growth white pine and sugar maple. Using this principle, the Menominee have harvested a half-billion board feet of lumber since the mid-1800s — yet, today, they have more standing timber than 150 years ago
Today, Menominee Forest has incredible stands of old-growth trees. In the northern part of the forest, no trails exist, so one has to wade through ferns and other undergrowth to reach ancient white pines at least 15 feet in circumference and soaring 200 feet into the sky. Thanks to the Menominee nation’s wisdom and foresight, one can walk into the past and stand in awe of the majesty of those trees.
• Chief Oshkosh: Leader in Troubled Times, a PBS Wisconsin Educator’s Guide Google doc.
• Chief Oshkosh: Leader in Troubled Times, Google slides with audio.
• Nations in Wisconsin: Menominee Culture from the Milwaukee Public Museum.
• The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.
• PBS Wisconsin Biographies Educator Resources
Related videos about forests, trees, sustainability, and conservation include these gems:
• How Can Farms and Forests Coexist?
• How can nature be used as a tool to restore ecosystems?
• Ecosystem Engineers: How do beavers build dams?
• What happens if you cut down all of a city’s trees?
• Growing 500 edible plants in a forest