LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Hundreds of years ago Native Americans came to the Lac du Flambeau area because of the abundance of food on the water.
Tribal President Joseph Wildcat Sr. said wild rice has been a mainstay in their diet and culture ever since. But a changing climate threatens the Ojibwe's traditional reliance on wild rice. Increased rates of flooding have already diminished wild rice habitat.
"We've seen a very steep decline in that and that's a triggering point. [It] tells that there's something going on with the environment," said Wildcat Sr.
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D - Wisconsin) wrote a letter to tribal leaders a month ago asking how climate change has affected their livelihood.
Wednesday, Lac du Flambeau tribal members met with Sen. Baldwin.
"The habitat for growing has clearly shrunk, has clearly been threatened over time and climate change is a big contributor to that," said Sen. Baldwin.
Sen. Baldwin said talking with tribal leaders is vital to proposing future climate legislation.
"The actions at the federal level absolutely need to be informed by what's happening here on the ground," said Sen. Baldwin. "We're at the beginning stages [of new climate change legislation] and that's when we want to start to communicate."
The visit on Wednesday is just the beginning of the conversation. Sen. Baldwin and her team said they would be consulting with tribes in anticipation of new climate change legislation.
Joseph Wildcat Sr. said his tribe welcomes the inclusion.
"We're not done by no means," said Wildcat Sr. "We're working at this and we have a ways to go, but we're just showing what community members can achieve."
The Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe created a plan to deal with a changing environment. It includes protecting waterways against severe weather and doing its part to limit greenhouse gases.