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.