Zaagkii Project

The Zaagkii Project shares their research and information on their project at the  

Learning from the Earth website.  Follow this link to learn more about this project. 

Zaagkii project works with local youth volunteers

By Levi Tadgerson

In Anishinaabemowin, zaagkii means “that which comes from the earth.” Over the course of the summer a dozen or so youth volunteers spent time doing pollinator protection work throughout the Marquette area working with the Zaagkii Initiative, otherwise known as the Wings and Seeds Project. The main objective is to bring awareness to the importance of our natural pollinators, establish the endangerment they’re in, and to do community work to preserve their presence in Marquette.

Importance of Pollination

In today’s technologically advanced society, we seem to easily forget how important the little things really are to us. Without everyday things like butterflies and bees we would not be able to supply ourselves with something as simple as fruit and vegetables which make it possible to sustain our way of life. Without the pollinators the world’s edible vegetation would disappear in a mere four years.

Jon Magnuson, Director of the Cedar Tree Institute, told the volunteers a story about a picture he ran across of a Chinese woman in an apple orchard standing on a ladder pollinating the apple blossoms with a paintbrush. Her official job was to touch each flower on the tree with the paintbrush, then move the ladder to another tree and continue this process until each tree in the orchard was pollinated. If we don’t take a look into protecting our pollinators, jobs like this could easily be a necessity across North America.

Our Pollinators

One job the youth had during the Zaagkii project was to learn about and be able to teach things about native pollinators. Each of the facts that follow are things that I was taught by one or more of the youth volunteers:

There are two kinds of pollination, mechanical and biological. An example of mechanical being the wind, while biological would be bees or butterflies.

There are 4,000 different kinds of bees in the world, and many of the bees in are our area are either non-native or are encroached upon by non-native species. Monarch butterflies are a huge pollinator in North America. They make a 2,000-mile yearly trip from Northern America/Canada to Angangueo, Mexico. They ride the thermal winds and can fly 2000’ in the air or 18” off the ground. They lay their eggs on the milkweed plant, which caterpillars eat to make themselves toxic to predators. Milkweed is the only plant on which they will lay their eggs.

They went and visited two beekeepers. A few of the youth walked next to the beehives and were surrounded by thousands of honeybees. Some of the volunteers were courageous enough to hold some drones from the hive. Nobody was stung!

Youth volunteers went to Dancing Crane Farm and saw the product of pollination. They toured the local farm to see how an organic farm works and learned why they are more environmentally friendly than their larger counterparts.

To end their day at Dancing Crane, the youth, spent an hour weeding the gardens. It was a great learning experience and team-building activity for them.

The youth visited Laughing Whitefish Falls and took a guided tour of the local plant life from an Ojibwe perspective. Each volunteer learned the names for different native plants along with the edible and or medicinal uses for each. Each one had to take a plant back to town and teach everyone else what they learned about their plant of choice.

The youth also built bee houses from scratch. The bee houses are designed to attract and house mason bees, a native bee of the area. They had a carpenter come in and spend the afternoon helping the kids build the houses. The next two days two artists came in and helped the kids paint their houses whichever way they chose. There were 36 unique bee houses made in all. More about the Bee House Project below.

On July 14 the Cedar Tree Institute had its annual celebration at the Presque Isle pavilion, with Zaagkii being the main component. There was live music, dinner, speeches, and prayer in Finnish, Ojibwe, Lutheran and Buddhist. Bee houses were raffled off to guests attending the dinner. One of the houses along with one of last year’s butterfly houses will be sent to Washington, D.C., while another will be sent to the Forest Service in Milwaukee. Channel 10 News did a special on the activities that took place here.

On July 24 the volunteers attended the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community powwow in Baraga for the day.

On August 3, Levi and Leora Tadgerson presented on the Zaagkii Project to the U.S. Forest Service department heads in Milwaukee, Wis. Many of the Forest Service employees were very impressed with the project and with these NMU students as presenters.

Native Greenhouse

Another aspect of the Zaagkii Project is working with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in building an all-native plant greenhouse. To our knowledge, this will be the only all-native plant green house on a reservation in North America .

Jon Magnuson brought two interns, Leora Tadgerson and Levi Tadgerson, to Baraga to assist in the creation of the greenhouse. The Taderson siblings have taken Aimee Cree Dunn’s Kinomaage class — the teaching Ojibwe uses of native plants, and hope to be able to pass some of that knowledge on through this project.  Future projects may include planting native plants gardens at the UP offices of the U.S. Forest Service with signage of Anishinaabe names of plants.

Chi miigwech (Great thanks) to the Partners of Zaagkii

*The Cedar Tree Institute

* The U.P. Childrens Museum

* Marquette County Courthouse

* NMUs Center for Native American Studies

*The United States Forest Service

For Information click here

The Bee House Project

   Aamoo-Gamikong! Bee Houses!

  This past October NMU students had volunteered their time and efforts towards the building and painting of bee houses along side local Marquette youth. These houses were specially designed for Mason Bees. Mason bees get their name from their habit of making compartments of mud in their nests, which are made in hallow reeds or holes in wood made by woodboring insects, such as termites, and birds such as woodpeckers.

 Pollinator depletion is a huge ongoing problem and continues to grow at an alarming rate, not just across the country, but around the world as well. Through easy and fun projects such as making Mason Bee houses, we can all do our part to help protect our natural pollinators.

The Mason Bee is just one out of 40,000 different species of bees. To learn more about all of our natural pollinators visit the US Forest Services website, Celebrating Wildflowers, at

Zaagkii Project Gallery

Picture Gallery

Wings and Seeds Website