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Brooks Big John

Ojibwe Fish Decoys
Lac du Flambeau, WI


Auger: (sounds like, AWE-grr) A tool that looks like a large corkscrew used to drill holes.
Boughs: (rhymes with, cows) Tree branches.
Chisel: A hand tool with a blade on the end to cut into something.
Decoy: An artificial animal used to lure game to a particular place.
Eye-screw: A small screw with a metal loop at the top.
Game: Wild animals hunted for sport or food.
(to) Illuminate: (sounds like, e-LOO-mi-nate) To brighten with light.
Insulation: (sounds like, in-sue-LAY-shun) Something that stops heat, sound, or electricity from moving from one place to another.
Jigged: Moved up and down.
Jigging stick: A small stick about a foot long that is tied to a fish decoy.
Lac du Flambeau area: North-central Wisconsin.
Lures: Like decoys but with hooks.
Melted lead: Lead that has been heated so that it liquid and can be poured.
Minnow: A small fish that bigger fish like to eat.
Muskellunge: (sounds like, MUSS-ka-lunge) The state fish of Wisconsin, also called muskie.
Prowling: Moving around secretly looking for prey.
Reservation: An area of land set aside for a particular group of people, like American Indians.
Shore lunch: A mid-day meal prepared on a shore with the freshly caught fish of that day.
Tight-grained: Wood with fibers that are very close together.
Rudder: A piece of metal or wood used to steer a boat.
Unwary: Easily surprised, not alert.

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Journal Questions

QuestionWhat is the land like where you live? Are there lots of tall buildings or do you live near woods? Can you see hills from your house or is the land near you flat? How do your surroundings affect the kinds of activities that you do? 

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Resources For Teachers

video2.gif (380 bytes)Traditional Ojibwe Fishing (WDSE-TV, Duluth) is a 30-minute video featuring spear fisher Ben Chosa of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Order by contacting WDSE TV, 1202 East University Circle, Duluth, MN 55811, (218) 724-8567 phone, (218) 724-4269 fax.

Spear Fishing in Context Winter spear fishing is one type of fishing in traditional Ojibwe culture. Help your students understand the context of winter spear fishing by understanding its history and cultural role.

Web ResourceThe Milwaukee Public Museum’s Indian Country: Wisconsin gives a good overview of Ojibwe fishing practices.

Web Resource Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission posts the regulations for spear fishing. Click on "Harvest Regulations" and then "Winter Spearing and Fishing" for ice fishing regulations or "Open Water Spearing" for warm weather spearing.

video2.gif (380 bytes)For a general video on Lac du Flambeau traditions and government, see the 60-minute video, Enduring Ways of the Lac du Flambeau People (Wisconsin Public Television).

Spear Fishing and Treaty Rights The struggle for Ojibwe bands to conduct off-reservation spring spear fishing is a recent illustration of the erosion and restoration of treaty rights. After being banned in 1908, Ojibwe bands regained their legal standing to spear fish off-reservation in 1983. Investigate this recent history with older students with the help of these resources.

Book Resource

Charlie Otto Rasmussen's Ojibwe Journeys: Treaties, Sandy Lake & the Waabanong Run (Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission Press, 2003) tells the history through words and photos of Ojibwe rights to harvest resources in the ceded territories of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the use of runners in the legal battle to regain those rights.

Book ResourceThe topic of off-reservation fishing rights is included in the Ojibwe chapter of Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal by Patty Loew (Wisconsin State Historical Society New Badger History, 2001).

Use the CD-ROM Maawanji’iding-Gathering Together: Ojibwe Histories and Narratives from Wisconsin (hup!multimedia, 1998) to hear from Ojibwe people about spear fishing and treaty rights. The on-line web quest, “The Right to Hunt, Fish and Gather,” provides a guide to the topic using the CD-ROM.

Book ResourceSee Wisconsin’s Past and Present: A Historical Atlas by The Wisconsin Cartographers’ Guild (University of Wisconsin Press, 1998) for more information about Native Land & Resource Conflicts.

Book ResourceUse Mapping Wisconsin History: Teacher Guide and Student Materials by the Wisconsin Cartographers’ Guild and Bobbie Malone (Wisconsin State Historical Society New Badger History, 2000), a valuable companion to the Atlas.

Web ResourceThe article, “Treaty Rights and Responding to Anti-Indian Activity” by geographer Zoltan Grossman fits the Wisconsin spear fishing controversy of the 1990s in national and historic contexts.

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Resources For Students

Web Resource Visit the Great Lakes Intertribal Council’s page on the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

Web ResourceLearn more about Ojibwe people, culture and history by exploring these websites: Indian Country Wisconsin: Ojibwe and The Ojibway Story.

Web ResourceMeet other Ojibwe role models.

Web ResourceFind out more about Native-American Ice Fishing in Wisconsin.

Kitaq Goes Ice Fishing tells the story of a Native Alaskan boy who goes ice fishing for the first time with his grandfather. Does Kitaq do things differently or the same as Brooks?

Web ResourceWant to learn about Wisconsin fish? Explore these Fish Profiles by UW’s Sea Grant Institute. 

Web ResourceLearn the difference between three similar fish: muskies, northern pike and tiger muskies with this guide from the Sea Grant Institute.

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Text written by Rick March, edited by Jamie Yuenger and Anne Pryor.

Sources consulted include fieldwork with Brooks Big John by Rick March (1997), Wisconsin Folks (1998), a video produced by Dave Erickson for Wisconsin Arts Board and Wisconsin Public Television, and Fish Decoys of the Lac du Flambeau Ojibway, by Art and Brad Kimball, Boulder Junction, WI: Aardvark Publications, Inc., 1988.


Wisconsin Folks

For Educators:

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