By Brett Larson
Commissioner of Natural Resources Bradley Harrington traveled to Peru in early December as part of a delegation from the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) to exchange ideas and knowledge with representatives of Indigenous tribes in the Amazon region.
GLIFWC was invited by CONAP, Confederacion de Nacionalidades Amazonicas del Peru, which is “like the GLIFWC of Peru,” Bradley said.
The trip began with three flights just to get to the Amazon re- gion, followed by shuttle bus rides, boat trips, and more flights into remote areas. It was a whirlwind of activity that included traditional ceremonies, meetings with biologists, and a visit to the Intercultural University of the Amazon, where 40 tribes representing 800 villages and 50 languages collaborate to educate their people in subjects like science and math, but also Indigenous knowledge, art, and language.
Bradley also learned about the tribes’ need to grow fish in corrals in the river in order to feed their people. “They’re in more dire straits than we are,” he said. “A lot of the water is contaminated, and the housing is like it used to be here. Seeing what they have is helping me determine which battles I choose to fight.”
Accompanying Bradley on the trip were Dylan Jennings of Bad River, Mic Isham and Jason Schlender of Lac Courte Oreilles, Melanie Montano of Red Cliff, Chris Caldwall and Greg Gauthier from the College of Menominee Nation, and three tribal members from an Indigenous natural resources organization in Panama.
Representatives of CONAP first came to North America in 2011 to meet with First Nations in Canada. The group has also partnered with the U.S. Forest Service. Last year, they came to the Menominee Reservation and also visited GLIFWC offices in Odanah, Wisconsin.
Bradley brought birch bark baskets as gifts as well as raw manoomin. Bradley said he gave a few grains to a child, who tasted it and ran to get his friends. “They felt the power from the manoomin,” he said.