Three Fires take up recycling

You would think that Anishinaabe communities and their institutions would have gone green long ago. After all, the Anishinaabe are the original environmentalists. But the reality is that recycling, alternative waste diversion, clean energyand environmental technologies are quite expensive and out of reach for most communities.

This week, the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge have begun to walk the talk with respect to the environment and recycling.  Beginning at this week’s mid-winter ceremonies near Bad River, Wisconsin, recycling stations have been installed throughout the Three Fires Midewiwin School facility and throughout the length of the Lodge.

Midewiwin leaders Roxanne Delille and Wes Whetung each spoke about the importance of environmental responsibility and the Anishinaabe role as stewards of Mother Earth. “As indigenous people, this is an important part of our responsibility,” said Roxanne, food chief for the Lodge who is from Fond du Lac reservation in Minnesota. “We have to be mindful of the spirits around us and do our part in looking after our Mother.”

“I think recycling is a great thing and it’s long overdue,” said Wes, second chief oshkawbewis for the Three Fires Lodge from Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario. “We need to get people more educated and create an understanding how important this is.  Let’s get it happening and get it to become the normal thing.”

“We need to be very dilligent about it. This responsibility has to be front of mind,” added Roxanne.

Both leaders encouraged the Mide and visitors to the Lodge to think first, separate their waste and deposit recyclables like plastic bottles and cans into the clear bags located throughout the school.

Through the leadership of Roxanne, Lodge feasts are now planned and prepared for in a thoughtful and deliberate way. This has resulted in better, healthier food, as well as safe and efficient food preparation and serving methods. It also has greatly reduced waste.

“We have been able to reduce food waste, eliminate styrofoam, and help people by providing them reusable dishware for their bundles and reduce our overall use of paper products,” said Roxanne.

She would like to see the recycling effort expanded to the whole range of materials.

“We need to have more bins,” said Roxanne. “Right now we have three: for waste, cans and plastic. But we need to have bins for paper, cans, glass. Bins for every single thing.”

Both Roxanne and Wes would like to establish green composting bins to accompany the materials recycling in the Lodge.

“Lets take it a step further and perhaps get into composting,” added the oshkawbewis.

Although feast food that has been spoken for has to be eaten or buried through ceremony, there is still some additional food waste.

“I’d like to see if we can establish a compost pile, where gardners can come to use it and we can bring our food waste,” said Roxanne.

The recycling effort is possible through a partnership with the Bad River Chippewa Band who will be taking the waste following the four day ceremonies which conclude on Sunday.



  1. Glenna says:

    Aanin. yes, recycling the modern way is expensive and beyond our reach for now, but there is still so much we can do on a daily basis such as cloth diapers instead of disposable, nursing babies instead of plastic bottles, bring water from home in a steel water bottle instead of poluuting with all of those plastic bottle, using a clothes line instead of a dryer, at least in warm weather. There is alot we can all do. Another thing we need to consider is transplating medicine plants from construction areas. I am guessing the other thing we don’t have besides money, is time to do these things. Alot of committment is needed. We’ve adopted the habits of another society.

  2. Vicki Monague says:

    Great article Bob.

    It’s so beautiful to see the wonderful efforts being made.

    When picking up alot of the trash, the big contributors to garbage was plastic plates, cups and other plastic items. Second to plastic was paper items, napkins, and plates, which if they contain food waste, can be composted, and the biggest offender, tonnes of paper cups, dixie cups. Composting should be the next steps in the lodge, as well as the immediate composting. I dream for the days that we can utilize some of the land for gardening to grow our own food for the spirit, with the compost of the kitcken waste.

    What also must be done is to no longer participate in funding the entire bottled drink industry. This not only contributes to alot of our recycling, it also heavily contributes to draining of pure water resources, which take so long to renew. The Great Lakes we are already seeing mass change with the dropping of water levels being caused by a variety of sources, and these resources are only naturally renewed at 1 % per year. Recycling efforts also use alot of water, fresh water. We need to be concious of our water footprint in everything we do as well.

    I will admit, that I drank cans of pop over the week, but at home, my children and I drink nothing but water and milk, occasionally a can of concentrated juice. I continue to work towards raising my children in that good way, without the influence of drinks. I applaud the efforts of the Lodge in this way and also just want to note too that myself, in my unconciousness, can sometimes be an environmental offender, but I keep trying, I hope everyone else will too.

    • Vicki Monague says:

      Opps, ha ha ha…excuse the typos and the loss of flow. I think most readers will get my drift.