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Camp Onji-Akiing Connects Native American Youth with Past, Present and Future

MILWAUKEE – The Forest Service and Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission staff, as well as representatives from local colleges and universities facilitated educational programs July 17-21 at the Ottawa National Forest’s Camp Nesbit for the ninth annual Camp Onji-Akiing, which means “from the earth”.

The Camp’s mission is to develop the potential of Native American youth to become natural resource conservation leaders by providing educational programs in environmental sciences, natural resource careers, Native American traditions and treaty rights, and problem-solving in an outdoor residential camp experience. More than 60 tribal youth and counselors from 11 tribes gathered at the Camp throughout the week. Tribal youth explored the world of water, learned how humans impact water resources, and investigated aquatic invasive plants. They created natural plant dyes to decorate t-shirts, went fishing with handmade traditional fish decoys, took archery lessons, completed high and low ropes courses, developed native language skills and made cultural connections with the Earth.

The participants also gained firsthand knowledge about natural resource professions thanks to a career fair co-hosted by GLIFWC and the Ottawa National Forest. The young women and men showed appreciation for all they learned by completing a service project to give back to Camp Nesbit. Camp Onji-Akiing has been a collaborative effort between GLIFWC and the Ottawa National Forest since 2009. 

Forest Service employee Gayle Sironen provides direction to Onji Akiing camper on how to navigate in the woods using a compass. GPS doesn’t always work in some of our remote areas!

Onji Akiing campers learn about local area wildlife from Forest Service employee Joe Panci. Campers examined wildlife pelts and skeletons during a 2016 session.