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University of Minnesota Extension

We are related: a relationship with water

Leech Lake Reservation

Cool, sparkling water, harvesting manoomin, fishing, swimming, and the sound of loons — Leech Lake Reservation’s many lakes provide food, recreation, and beauty beyond measure.


Leech Lake Reservation is blessed with over 270 named fishable lakes and over 13,000 acres of natural wild rice stands. Lakes provide food, recreation, and beauty to our lives. This explains why lakes are such a highly valued resource and emphasizes the importance of preventing their degradation.

A lake is an ecosystem, a unique community of interactions among animals, plants, microorganisms, and the chemical and physical environment in which they live. A complex interdependence has evolved among the living organisms in a lake community.

Everyone lives in a watershed

You don’t have to live on a lake or a river to have an impact on water quality. We all live in a watershed and our collective actions on the land will determine the future quality of our water. A watershed is an area of land that drains to a river, lake, or wetland. How we use the land within a watershed affects the type and amount of sediments, nutrients, and other pollution that can wash into a water body.

Because everything in a watershed is interconnected, small acts in one area of a watershed can have a profound impact on the entire watershed. Construction of a road, clearing lakeshore property, or failing septic systems can all affect lake water quality and disrupt the delicate balance of a lake ecosystem.

A combination of individual actions are called cumulative impacts and can easily place lakes at risk. However, positive actions that reduce impacts to lakes can collectively create a cumulative impact to reduce the risks and minimize impacts.

What can happen?

Eutrophication is a process by which a lake is fertilized by nutrients. Nutrients are chemicals such as phosphorus and nitrogen that are absorbed by plants for growth. Eutrophication is a natural aging process for lakes that can take centuries, much like young forests transition into old growth forests over time. However, human activities can accelerate the process resulting in more algae, weeds, and even change the species of fish and amounts of manoomin available.

What can you do?

We asked over 100 Native youth between the ages of 12 and 21 this very question. They had some very profound answers:

  • knowledge is love
  • respect it
  • love it
  • learn about it with families
  • sing water songs
  • renew our relationship with water
  • use less and don’t waste water
  • be careful with it
  • stop buying bottled water
  • recycle more
  • encourage education
  • fix leaky faucets and pump septic tanks
  • do it together
  • it belongs to everyone

These are the voices of our youth, our future, and we have a responsibility to take collective action now to ensure there is something left for them.

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