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NAM RES Lake sturgeon restoration Nam Culturally important to the Ojibwe people Articles By Sue Erickson Staff Writer Valued by theAnishinaabeg as a food source and a spiritual symboln nam or lake sturgeon continues to be cared for and protected by the Ojibwe people today and plays an important cultural role. Nam belongs to the Ojibwe clan system which assigns different roles for people within the tribal communities. Giigoo doodem fish clan members are known as the wise people teachers and scholars within thecommun-ity.Theyworkwithyouthsolveinter-clan disputes and are problem-solvers. AccordingtooneOjibweelderfromCanadanam is considered a sacred Water Being to be taken and used only with appropriate spiritual ceremony and every single part of the fish must be used. Stories about nam in the Ojibwe oral tradition relate the relationship that Anishinaabeg have had with gete giigoonh ancient fish. These fish among others give themselves uptimeandtimeagainforthesurvivalandsustenanceof the people. This act of selflessness relates the uncondi- tional love that comes from nimama aki mother earth and all of the orders of creation. There are many biboon aadizokanag wintertime stories in which many figures play a key role in the survival of the Ojibwe people. Nam is one of those characters that reached out to original man. One Ojibwe story relates that nam swallowed the kind son-in-law of the wicked Mishos to protect him and return him to his loved ones. AnotherLCOelderrecallsbeingtoldofpastadven- tures riding the backs of large sturgeon in the spring time when the ice is first out. At that time those large fish lived in the Namekagon and Flambeau Rivers and migrated in great numbers upriver. Tribes join in the effort to restore nam GLIFWC data spans 21 years Wisconsins Bad River system supports one of two self-sustaining lake stur- geon populations in the US waters of Lake Superior. The Great Lakes Indian Fish Wildlife Commission the Bad River Tribe and the US Fish and Wildlife Service perform cooperative standardized assessments of juvenile lake sturgeon off the mouth of the Bad River and adult assessments in both the Bad and White Rivers tributaries to Lake Superior. Annual assessment of the Bad River sturgeon fishery involves three to six sets of bottom-set gillnets each year June-August. Several sizes of mesh are used to capture both juvenile and adult sturgeon. Data including length weight and girth measurements are collected on each captured fish and each is tagged. Data are shared and are part of a basin-wide lake sturgeon database. A lake-wide assessment effort begun in 2011 also standardized assessment gear used across the basin. To date two lake sturgeon tagged as juveniles age 6-8 in the Bad River system have been identified on spawning grounds. Since sturgeon do not spawn until they are 15-25 years old this is right on target and a good thing What happened to nam Overharvest during the mid-1900s seriously depleted the lake sturgeon fishery in the Great Lakes region. Photo credit West Nipissing Library The lake sturgeon belongs to a prehistoric family of fishes that were in the water when dinosaurs roamed the earth. However in the early 1800s commercial fishermen considered these large ancient fish as nuisance fish. They were killed and tossed on shore as worthless. In the late 1800s sturgeon eggs were sought after as highly-valued caviar. Nam became a target species leading to over exploitation. By the early 1900s few were left to catch. Over exploitation was accompanied by habitat loss and degradation. Dams blocked lake sturgeon from reaching spawning grounds some which became silted over and polluted with run-off from onshore. The ancient namwag sturgeons were disappearing. Of Special Concern in the 21st Century Lake sturgeon are listed as Endangered Threatened or of Special Concern in 19 of 20 states throughout its range. In Minnesota and Wisconsin they are listed as species of Special Concern. Restoration efforts are underway however the spawning cycle of lake sturgeon every 4-9 years and late sexual maturity makes restoration efforts difficult requir- ing monitoring and reinforcement through stocking. Historically lake sturgeon were found throughout the Mississippi River and its tributaries all of the Great Lakes and most of the St. Lawrence Seaway the Red River from Minnesota to Hudson Bay and many tributaries of Hudson Bay. Tribes are working to help them return to native waters. Mike Plucinski GLIFWC fisheries technician holds a lake sturgeon from near the mouth of the Bad River. Photo by Charlie Otto Rasmussen MAZINAIGAN PAGE 12