Third Coast Conversations

In 2018 the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community was the recipient of a Third Coast Conversations (TCC) : Dialogues about Water in Michigan program under the Michigan Humanities Council.  The KBIC Natural Resources Department (NRD) created a project addressing the theme of Indigenous communities and water values and beliefs.  The goal of the project was to enhance Indigenous sovereignty, identity, and healing of water-rich homelands through open dialogue and various platforms of multimedia. NRD collaborated with partner organizations KBOCC and MTU to hold events to engage in dialogue and to exchange information within the community; learning more about priorities and in turn sharing information on the KBIC application to the EPA for Treatment in a Similar Manner as the State (TAS) for water quality standards and what it means for tribal sovereignty. Conversations provided opportunities for increasing understanding and receiving input that is important for the continuance of cultural values and beliefs being included in the preservation and protection of waters within the community. The target audience was members of the KBIC and surrounding non-tribal communities.  This project enhanced existing projects within NRD and fostered new dialogues at major events including; a Water walk, Lake Superior Day, Geo-Cultural Heritage Field Trip by Land and by Water, Youth Water, Wetlands Survey and Tribal Water Day Event. Community input was gathered in various forms including cultural participation, survey, dialogue, personal notes, art, and podcasts. 


Tribal Water Day

The KBIC is in the process of receiving approval for Treatment as a State (TAS), which grants federally recognized tribes the authority to set water quality standards through the Clean Water Act. Through TAS, the KBIC sets criteria for the protection of the waters located on the reservation and all within the watershed.  This community forum was an opportunity to come together and talk about what work is being done in the watershed; the state of reservation waters, wetland program developments, monitoring and research, fish consumption, honoring Lake Superior, and partnerships.  There was a media and art gallery that celebrated water, handouts and refreshments.  Podcasts were created from participants present on this day.  Students from the local high schools and colleges were invited to come for the day and invitations were personally extended to partners from Michigan Technological University, local environmental groups, and the State of Michigan DNR and Water Division. Over 100 participants, mostly adults, were present for this event. KBIC has received a lot of feedback from people about how much they learned that day, how much they enjoyed the event, and that they look forward to future Tribal Water Day events.


Guest speakers from Michigan Technological University, Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, Inter-Tribal Council, and Institute for Health and Equity presented during our event. Topics included results from the KBIC Fish Consumption Survey, Thirty Years of Monitoring Fish PCB’s, GLIFWC’s Mercury Maps for Safe Fish Consumption, and Opportunities for Tribal-Academic Partnerships in Water-Related Research. The four special guest speakers, were gifted with blankets and gift baskets filled with items from the community.  

Tribal Water Day Podcast 2019

Synopsis: This podcast is based on the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Tribal Water Day, which took place in March 2019. The KBIC Water Walkers have continued their work with a 17-miles summer water walk and 90-mile fall water walk. 

The structure of the podcast has an introductory episode, three episodes featuring several KBIC water walkers, and eight episodes highlighting speakers at Tribal Water day. 



Episode One: Introduction

Topic: Pulling in many voices, this episode introduces the importance of water and how KBIC members see their relationship with water. The technique called vox pop--”voice of the people”--uses many clips of many voices to complete one another’s thoughts, all answering the question, “What is the importance of water?”

People: participants at Tribal Water Day events

Episode Two: Water Talkers

Topic: The water walkers explain what a water walk is and why it matters.

People: water walkers Terri Denomie, Kathy Smith, Lisa Denomie, Doreen Blaker

Episode Three: Water Talkers

Topic: Each of the water walkers introduce themselves and share why they chose to become water walkers.

People: water walkers Terri Denomie, Kathy Smith, Lisa Denomie, Doreen Blaker

Episode Four: Water Talkers

Topic: Water walkers explain why the water walk matters to the community, why the water is sick, and what they hope to inspire in the youth.

People: water walkers Terri Denomie, Kathy Smith, Lisa Denomie, Doreen Blaker

Episode Five: Presenters

Topic: The water program at the KBIC Natural Resources Department covers many different projects.

People: Stephanie Cree, KBIC NRD Staff

Episode Six: Presenters

Topic: The NRD staff use many techniques in the water program.

People: Serene Gauthier, KBIC NRD Staff

Episode Seven: Presenters

Topic: Wetlands are an important part of the NRD water program.

People: Erin Johnston, KBIC NRD Staff

Episode Eight: Presenters

Topic: KBIC members asked “When can we eat the fish?” and engineers, social scientists, and ecologists looked into acceptable levels of mercury in fish.

People: Val Gagnon, Michigan Tech

Episode Nine: Presenters

Topic: PCBs in fish required extensive sampling across the Upper Peninsula.

People: Emily Shaw, Michigan Tech

Episode Ten: Presenters

Topic: The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission oversees programs about fish and water quality, connecting many tribal communities in the Great Lakes.

People: Sarah Moses, GLIFWC