Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Connecting with Recreationalists and Natural History Aficionados on the St. Joseph River

An image of the St. Joseph River. While today it is mostly used
for recreational purposes such as fishing and kayaking, it was an
important French trading route. The river cuts through numerous
ecological zones that contain an abundance of rich plant and animal life
For our Anthropology in the Community class at Western Michigan University, my partner, Kyle Sicotte and I, Chris Carpenter, are collaborating in order to learn more about the natural history of the St. Joseph River and how it is used today. We are very excited to begin exploring the Niles community, and plan to meet individuals and groups with interest and knowledge about the natural world. Our goal is to learn more about the interactions between the Niles community and the natural world that surrounds them, and how that relationship has changed over time. We plan to connect with members of the community at the Fernwood and Sarett Nature Centers, as well as representatives of the nature enthusiast community in the area, which will include members that frequent the river for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and possibly even bird watching (a great blue heron that lives near the Fort St. Joseph site can often be seen during the summer field season). We have already been in contact with a few members of the community who share this interest and hope that these relations will lead to further dialogue with others on the subject. We plan to visit Niles soon to get the lay of the land, at the very least, and forge contacts with locals. While doing so we will visit the river itself, Sarett and Fernwood, and the Fort St. Joseph Museum.

Great blue heron near Fort St. Joseph
Photo by Catherine Davis
In the course of our first visit we hope to learn about the history of the river from the perspective of local historians. What do the Niles citizens know about the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project? How can we, as anthropologists from WMU, benefit the local population? What can we learn about recreational use and natural history of the St. Joseph River in Niles from the local population? On top of visiting the museum we hope to speak with employees from Sarett and Fernwood as well as recreational users of the St. Joseph River. Through this project, we hope to not only gain more information about this natural resource but also form new contacts and strengthen WMU’s current relationships with the City of Niles.