White Earth Land Recovery Project: La Garda Township, MN

Dates: March 21st - 28th, 2016
Group Size: 2 student leaders, 8 participants
Cost: $450

Quick Facts:

The group will spend most of their time in the “sugar bush,” taking part in the age-old tradition of maple sap collection and traditional lumber harvesting.The group will work alongside local people to collect the raw sap from the forest’s maple trees and split wood to fire the large cookers that boil the sap down to delicious maple syrup.The group will be able to spend time reading stories and playing games with the children of the reservation at Pine Point tribal school.

Host Community:

The White Earth Indian Reservation is located in the heart of what used to be the vast woods of northern Minnesota. The reservation is home to the Anishinaabe people. Like many Native people, the Anishinaabe have experienced great difficulty and hardship as their way of life has been confined and trampled on throughout the history of the settlement of the United States. The White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP), started by White Earth native Winona LaDuke, works to regain land taken from the tribe over time and protect this land from environmental degradation by restoring more traditional Anishinaabe practices.

Justice Issues:

Traditional Agriculture Practices— Work in traditional farming is about the process of restoring traditional agriculture and nutrition systems. The White Earth Land Recovery Project is one of the largest Anishinaabe food producers on the continent, producing both for sale (Native Harvest) and for local consumption (Mino-Miijim) for the purpose of addressing health and poverty related issues with regards to access to traditional, indigenous foods.

Forest Stewardship— Harvest of maple sugar sap can enhance the overall forest ecosystem. Still, harvest of non-timber forest products can be destructive if poor technique or shoddy equipment is used or if there is disregard for a plant’s long-term survival, such as by removal to obtain fruit or bark. Use of harvest techniques tailored to maple sugar trees can insure long-term sugar maple population viability.

Alternative Energy— The Anishinaabe are fully aware of the impact of coal-fired power plants on native lakes. Almost every lake on the reservation already has a fish consumption advisory on it, largely from mercury and heavy metals. The largest point of origin for these pollutants are coal fired power plants and incinerators. Similarly, the environmental injustices of both nuclear power and huge dam projects is a constant concern. The relatives both to the south and north are already devastated by these bad energy choices. On the other side are the alternatives: wind and solar energy.

Cultural Opportunities:

The group will have chance to learn about Anishinaabe culture and history by doing traditional sap collection alongside the local people, speaking with local spiritual leaders and environmental activist and author Winona LaDuke, and taking side trips around the beautiful woods of northern Minnesota

Food, Lodging, and Travel:

The group will drive a 15-passenger van to northern Minnesota and stay at Ice Cracking Lodge, a simple knotty-pine cabin near the WELRP headquarters. Ice Cracking Lodge offers close but comfortable quarters and a small kitchen, where the group will cook its own meals.


The trip fee of $450 includes van rental, site transportation, lodging, work materials for the site, meals, and programmed group activities. Students should be prepared for additional expenses not included in the program fee, which include: spending money (as determined by the group agreement), and food en route to site (~$50).

For more information, visit: http://welrp.org/