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Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

Reducing Flood Risk to Protect Natural Resources

Challenge

For the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, also known as the Grand Portage Ojibwe, natural resource protection, cultural resource protection and hazard mitigation are closely related. For instance, their cultural and sacred sites include natural resource areas where people conduct traditional activities like harvesting wild rice. The Ojibwe people have harvested wild rice for thousands of years as a food, cultural, and economic resource. In fact, wild rice (known as manoomin) is a prominent aspect in Ojibwe mythology. However, long-term gradual shifts from climate change and short-term acute hazards such as floods impact the tribe’s wild rice and other important resources.

Solution

The Grand Portage Ojibwe have worked with other tribes and Cook County, Minnesota over the years on several planning efforts to help protect their natural resources from hazards and climate change. A variety of funding sources and programs have supported the efforts.

In 2016, the Grand Portage Ojibwe worked with the Bois Porte and Fond du Lac bands and other partners to develop the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan for the 1854 Ceded Territory. This plan examines risks due to climate change and provides adaptation strategies to protect natural resources, including wild rice. A grant from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Tribal Climate Change Adaptation Grant Program funded the plan. Several tribes collaborated (including the Grand Portage Ojibwe) to create the 2018 Tribal Wild Rice Task Force Report. This report discusses the risks to wild rice from pollution, climate change, flooding and other sources.

Wild rice is typically planted in shallow waters and can be uprooted during heavy rains. In order to further address the risk of plant damage from flooding events and climate change, the Grand Portage Ojibwe worked with Cook County on the 2019 Cook County Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan. The tribe and county were able to integrate their planning efforts by creating an annex to the county plan. This annex builds upon the existing climate plan and takes a closer look at critical infrastructure, natural resources and hazards faced on the reservation. More recently, the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa developed a Wetland Program Plan which helps ensure that wetlands will be able to provide food and habitat, improve water quality, protect against flood and reduce shoreline erosion. It was funded through an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wetland Program Development Grant.

Key Takeaways

The Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa have always gone to great efforts to protect their wild rice lakes, but climate change has increased the risk to these low lying areas. Realizing this increased threat, the tribe chose to coordinate with the county and other neighboring tribes to integrate planning efforts and apply for joint mitigation project funding.

  1. Use multiple plans to assess risk and develop flood hazard mitigation goals: The Grand Portage Band used each planning process to review and advance other plans’ goals.
  2. Rely on a variety of funding sources and develop relationships with many partners: The Grand Portage Ojibwe worked with other tribes, the county and other partners in their planning processes. They also received funding from many sources, including the EPA and BIA.
  3. Natural and cultural resource protection is a critical component of hazard mitigation: Wetlands provide important resources, including food and cultural resources. They also protect the rest of the landscape against flood. There are many other examples of the ways protecting natural resources in steady state provides protection during a hazard.

Related Documents and Links

In addition, a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan is required for certain kinds of non-emergency disaster funding. To learn more about funding eligible projects, review the Flood Mitigation Assistance Program, Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and the new pre-disaster mitigation program, Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities.

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Last updated November 5, 2021