Reflections from the Ah­nish­i­nah­bæójib­way (We, the People)

June 8, 1988

WANTED: There is an urgent need for volunteers and donated equipment for the Anishinabe Maanashigan Project.  Ojibway Indians and persons from the Red Lake Area are especially encouraged to apply, although we are an equal opportunity employer.  The most important criteria for volunteers are plenty of enthusiasm and physical agility.  The Anishinabe Maanashigan Project needs donations of a large tank with oxygenator and temperature control, and a 3-ton truck capable of hauling the tank and equipment.  Also needed are a boat and motor, and a fish-trap and nets for handling fingerlings.

The goal of the Anishinabe Maanashigan Project is to share with less fortunate persons off of Red Lake Indian Reservation.  Due to the extensive stocking programs and efficient management of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Bureau, and the Army Corps of Engineers, we at Red Lake have been blessed with an overabundance of an introduced species, Solver Bass, colloquially known as “Sheephead.”

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has been using Red Lake spawn and the facilities of the Red Lake Hatchery to stock numerous Minnesota lakes with Red Lake Walleye, Red Lake Northern Pike and Red Lake Muskies for many years.  We do not want to discriminate against our neighbors, and in the Indian way will share our good fortune in Sheephead with White fishermen and tourists.  The Anishinabe Maanashigan Project will stock Minnesota lakes with ample Silver Bass.

These fish are delicious eating—we have included a few recipes below—but we must caution newcomers to this delicacy that Silver Bass are extremely susceptible to accumulations of PCB’s and Mercury.  We urge all Northern Minnesota Whites to contact your elected representatives and the Minnesota DNR to assure the purity of your lakes and groundwater, and to make sure that your area does not receive acid rain, which leeches mercury and other toxic materials into lake water.  The Red Lake Indian people are pleased with the opportunity to stock your lakes for you, but we will not be responsible for the consequences of the White man’s pollution.

We should also like to caution “sportsfishermen,” particularly “jocks” who like to “catch and release,” that the Silver Bass is not a fighting fish.  The Silver Bass is a gourmet fish who will eagerly follow your bait and jump into your boat.  If your frying pan is close enough to the water, he may even leap into the frying pan!

To our deep regret, Red Lake Indians cannot share our bounty of Silver Bass with off-reservation persons through normal commercial channels.  Under Title 25 of the United States Statutes, we cannot sell these excellent fish for any price off of the Reservation, nor can we even donate them to the needy.  Under present statutes, we are forced to either bury our bountiful catches of Silver Bass, return them to the lake, or upon occasion sell a gourmet delicacy for two cents a pound as animal food.  This is contrary to our Indian values but is forced on us by White legislators.  Although Title 25 Statues may change at any time due to bureaucratic whim, we would like to assure our friends and neighbors of a permanent and reliable supply of Silver Bass.  We will stock every lake in Minnesota that has ever received Red Lake spawn, minnows, or fingerlings—as well as any other lake that requests stocking—with sufficient Silver Bass to assure the same ratio of Silver Bass to all other fish that we are endowed with in Red Lake itself: fifteen pounds of Silver Bass to one pound of other fish.

We are including with this article a few recipes to introduce you to this delicacy.  A recipe booklet containing twenty-five delicious Silver Bass recipes can be bought at the address below for five dollars.  The Silver Bass is a very versatile fish, and can also be used in traditional European recipes, including Lutefisk.

Volunteers and donations of equipment, please also contact the address below.

May you rejoice, and enjoy your abundance of Sheephead!  Happy fishing and happy eating.

    The Anishinabe Maanashigan Committee
    Department S
    The Ojibway News
    P.O. Box 903
    Bemidji, MN 56601

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