Melvin Gasper: Getting Back to the Land

by Nick Vander Puy
Reserve, Wisconsin (LCOTV)

Melvin "Trapper" Gasper from the Lac Courte Oreilles Reserve doesn't hold a regular job, but he's working all the time. Hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering, Gasper is usually out in the woods or on the lakes and rivers exercising treaty rights.

With the downturn in the economy he's surprised more Anishinaabe aren't following his example and scavenging.

On a blustery day in late March Gasper uses a shears to harvest birch bark limbs in the ceded territory. The site is being cleared for construction, but Gaspar salvages some birch limbs for sale to the craft trade.

After an hour or two of gathering he fills up his four wheel drive pickup, drops off the limbs in Hayward, and receives a day's pay for a day's work. 

In a few weeks he'll go netting walleye on Mille Lacs in Minnesota. Then he'll harvest wild onions as spring takes hold.

"I'm surprized more people don't do this."

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