public trust podcast

Episode 3: Testing the Waters

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How has PFAS contamination impacted Tribal members? Have PFAS been found in maple sap, wild rice, fish and other harvestable goods? These are some of the questions the Voigt Intertribal Task Force asked Wisconsin Sea Grant scientist Gavin Dehnert. In this episode, Public Trust producer Bonnie tells Richelle about her trip to the Lac Courte Oreille reservation to join tribal members in harvesting maple sap. The two also discuss the beginnings of a three-year tribally-driven research project testing the waters of the ceded territories of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan for PFAS. 

Our tribal communities, we really depend on the maple syrup. That’s one of the first medicines that really awakens from our longtime winter… Of course there’s gonna be great concern with PFAS because you don’t know how it’s gonna impact the maple sap,” said Kathleen Smith of the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC). 

Smith, whose job title is Manoomin Ganawandang (she who takes care of the wild rice), is an avid harvester and gatherer. Smith hopes this research project will help educate tribal communities about PFAS without coming across as alarmist. “We want [our people] to continue to exercise their hunting, fishing and gathering rights.

The project, which is funded by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), will run through 2026.