SMSC Department of Land and Natural Resources: www.smscland.org
Being a good neighbor also extends to being stewards of the earth. Unci Maka, the Dakota expression for earth, translates as "Grandmother Earth." This indicates a kinship relationship between the Dakota and the earth; so as a relative, the Dakota people are dedicated to protecting and preserving earth's environment. The Dakota way is to plan for the Seventh Generation, to make sure that resources will be available in the future to sustain life for seven generations to come. Conserving and protecting the earth today ensures that there will be food, trees, natural areas, traditional wild foods and medicines, cultural resources, and open spaces in the environment for coming generations to not only survive but also to thrive. A staff of biologists, water resource specialists, technicians, managers, and others in the Land and Natural Resources, Public Works, and Cultural Resources Departments fulfill that mission.
For five years SMSC biologists gathered data for a Faunal Atlas of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which is now being written. The atlas will contain illustrations and descriptions of birds and animals that make their home on Community lands. Staff have conducted surveys to monitor the breeding birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles yielding much valuable information. Six different types of frogs; 107 types of breeding birds; and 31 species of breeding mammals call the Community home.
Staff also erect and monitor bluebird and duck houses. The SMSC Land and Natural Resources Department currently maintains 100 bluebird-nesting boxes that are home to more than 60 bluebird chicks which are born and successfully leave the nest each year. Sixteen wood duck houses are home to hooded mergansers and wood ducks.
A similar floral survey is currently underway to document all the flora which flourish on Community lands.
More than 2 million honeybees in 45 hives maintained by the SMSC produced nearly 250 gallons of excess honey each year. The 40,000-60,000 honeybees in each hive feed on clover, New England Asters, dandelions, willow, and other plants and flowers in native prairie areas of the Community.
In 2002 the SMSC Land and Natural Resources Department started the honeybee program with four hives. The success of those hives resulted in the creation of new hives from splitting the existing hives and acquiring new ones available commercially.
Each year staff bottle honey which is then available for sale commercially at several locations in Prior Lake: the Shakopee Dakota Convenience Stores, the Mystic Lake Gift Shop, and Dakotah Meadows RV Park on the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and at Village Market. SMSC Honey is also available at the Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis and Linden Hills Coop both in Minnesota.
The SMSC makes maple syrup using sap from Community trees. In 2008 staff placed and monitored 300 taps on 200 trees on the two Sugar Bush sites on Community land. The term “Sugar Bush” refers to the entire process of making maple syrup: from tapping trees to gathering sap to boiling it to bottling it. Drills were used to make the holes where the taps were placed; then empty milk jugs were attached using rubber tubing. The jugs were emptied daily by staff, totaling 4,000 gallons of sap which were collected by hand. With each gallon weighing slightly more than eight pounds, staff hauled over 32,000 pounds of sap from the forest.
The sap was boiled over approximately 275 hours, much of it non-stop for several days at a time. The wood stove was continuously monitored by staff including round the clock shifts when needed. The SMSC stove processed the sap at about 15 gallons per hour. Approximately four cords of firewood were used to heat the stove to boil the sap to create the syrup. After boiling to the appropriate temperature, the sap, now syrup, was filtered and then bottled.
The spring 2008 Sugar Bush was a great success, yielding about 75 gallons of finished, filtered, and bottled syrup. Using both 12 and eight ounce containers, 460 12-ounce and 500 eight-ounce bottles were yielded. This compares to 2006 when only six gallons of syrup were produced.
The Community maintains the habitat for wild foods which are found on the reservation. Morel mushrooms, puffball mushrooms, blackberries, raspberries, chokecherries, wild plums, currants, and cattails grow abundantly. Plum trees and chokeberry bushes, cultivated species of two traditional Dakota foods, have also been planted in areas of the Community.
More than 1,700 pounds of wild rice has been hand sowed in Communitywetlands. The wild rice will be used for food, for cultural purposes, and as a food supply for wildlife, like ducks and other aquaticbirds.
SMSC staff conduct a number of educational activities throughout the year. The Community honors the earth with a weeklong celebration of Earth Day each year, which includes a variety of activities including education, handouts, organic snacks, prizes, and contests; papermaking using recycled shredded paper; candle making using wax from Community bee hives; a talk about Native garden plants and rain gardens; a tour of the green roof on the Water Reclamation Facility; and a clean up at the Maka Yusota sacred site. Community youth participated in tree and prairie plantings, in animal surveys, in harvesting maple syrup, and in other activities.
As a steward of the earth, the Communityencourages the reduction, reuse, and recycling of materials to lessen solid waste in landfills and has even produced a booklet on the subject. The Recycling and Waste Disposal Guide is filled with information about recycling, reducing, reusing, and safely disposing of hazardous waste and household materials.
Collecting brush and leaves is something the Community has done for years. Only in 2008, though, has the Community become active in the composting process and is now generating usable product from the collected organic materials. In a unique collaboration, the Community compost site is open for joint use with residents of the City of Prior Lake in exchange for use of the City’s tree range to grow tree saplings for planting on the reservation. A second phase of this project will be selling compost for commercial use in the fall of 2008. A third phase will be when the Community begins collecting food waste from Community restaurants to add to the compost site. By composting yard and food waste, the SMSC is not creating methane, a greenhouse gas, which is created when these wastes are hauled away and buried.
The SMSC practices environmental stewardship not just in its undeveloped areas but also in its enterprises. The Meadows at Mystic Lake, which contains more than six acres of prairie and 18 different species of native plants, is a testament to land stewardship. Native prairie plantings fill “the rough” with acres of traditional grasses and wildflowers. More than 500 acres of wetlands which lie adjacent to the course provide habitat for wildlife. An inventory of the 1,400 trees on the golf course is maintained to better manage the health and well-being of each tree.