Maple River – An Unbroken Connection to the Aanishinaabek

Jimmie Mitchell
Director Natural Resources (Ret)
Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
Director, Muskegon River Watershed Assembly

Editor’s Note
The Maple River area near Bridgeton represents a significant challenge and a compelling restoration opportunity for the MRWA, one we have been clearly aware of since our beginnings nearly twenty years ago. That may seem like a significant amount of time, until you consider that centuries before our existence the Anishnaabeck, a group of culturally related indigenous peoples in the Great Lakes region formed a lasting connection to Maple Island and the river that created it.

MRWA board member Jimmie Mitchell embodies that connection to this place and with the backing of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians supports our efforts to restore the Maple River to its original boundaries. We appreciate his willingness to share his thoughts below.

Many tributaries can be found along the 220 mile length of the Muskegon River and its Watershed; each unique in their individual respect. Yet despite the changes that have occurred throughout the State during the past 250 years, most of which were certainly not for the better, the Maple River continues to show the most potential for implementing restoration, reclamation and enhancement activities due to its remoteness, lower road density and biodiversity.

For the Aanishinaabek, understanding our connection to this area we’ve called home for millennia, requires an investigation into what was, what currently is, and, what can be brought back in ample abundance to help restore the harmonious balance between all life attempting to exist within this truly special place.

During my tenure on the MRWA Board, as a Tribal Citizen of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, I have remained thoroughly impressed with the work performed by the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly. The staff has always being mindful of the needs of all residents, including the first Peoples to this area. I have observed them as they strive to identify the results they are hoping to achieve within their scope of work. Most importantly, throughout the process, the MRWA has never failed to seek input from the Tribes to gain insight as to how proposed impacts may effect/affect Tribal Peoples now and into the future, maintaining a connection that is older than time.