GIDAAZHOGANIKEMIN "WE MAKE A BRIDGE"
The Cloquet Forestry Center (CFC) staff has been engaged with the Fond Du Lac Band of Ojibwa (FDL) for the past few years in developing plans for a bridge and trail connection at Cloquet Forestry Center to link to the elementary school at the Fond Du Lac Reservation. The bridge would be a practical link for elementary school students and other band members to have better access to the forestry center property and it's environmental education programs. The band members will also have greater access to the property for which the band has rights for collecting plants. There is a shared vision that the trail and bridge connection would foster opportunities for enhanced FDL/CFC communication and cooperation. Currently a join working group of the two organizations has engaged local expertise for an engineering analysis for the structural aspects of the bridge, but are in need of a design process with a substantial grant request. I was asked to have my 1st year graduate students in Landscape Architecture participate in the spring of 2016 in helping to develop a vision for the project by working with Band members and the CFC staff. This is a unique opportunity, to bring U of MN students with limited exposure to Native American cultures, together with tribal members on their homelands to work jointly to help realize a long-term vision. A vision, which includes not only building a practical connection between two neighbors, both interested in the protection and enhancement of the natural world, but also includes the dream of increased collaboration and mutual respect between the tribe and the CFC-to build a bridge, both literally and metaphorically between two cultures.
I will be leading an 8-10 week design and analysis effort, beginning with preparatory seminars and associated readings about Native American issues. From there, two multi-day visits to the CFC and Fond Du Lac facilities are planned. Students will meet with tribal members, including FDL elders, FDL staff, FDL students, and CFC staff in a workshop format. The intent of the first workshop is to gather information from the FDL community and CFC staff about their goals and aspirations for the project specifically and to learn about their management plans and visions for the broader site in general. In doing so we will see a fantastic opportunity to continue to educate students on both Ojibwa culture and natural resource management and research so these may both be incorporated into their design projects. The second of the meetings will be to present preliminary analysis findings and conceptual design ideas in order to gather additional input from the FDL members and CFC staff. A final presentation of the design ideas will be scheduled at the end of the term for which we will need video conferencing between north and south participants.
The work of the students will be documented and made available to the FDL and CFC in hard copy and electronic formats to help secure additional funding for the actual final design and building of the bridge and trail. Additionally the project will be disseminated for a broader impact to the greater U of MN community and tribal bands throughout the State via a Word Press website that documents the process and presents the results. This website will be hosted by U of MN units. The results of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) in the Fall of 2016 by student participants and myself. Additionally, this process may be incorporated as a case study by participant Kaitlyn Flick for her dissertation related to place, ecology, and community.