Nebi: Wetlands

For thousands of years, marshes were valued as vital resources for daily life in N’Dakinna. Marshes are navigable by canoe, providing protective cover for travelers and aiding in the transportation of heavy loads. Marshes also protect against flooding, buffering the impact of stormwater. Wetland plants provide habitat for animals such as beavers, muskrats, herons, ducks, geese, frogs, and fish. Cattail tubers provide valuable food, and flag root is a source of medicine. Cattails, bulrushes, sedges, and reeds provide plant fibers used in crafting textiles for fish nets, baskets, mats, carrying bags, and garments.

Vera Sheehan Harvesting Rushes. Photo: Vermont Abenaki Artists Association

Today, marshes are often considered wastelands, and their survival is threatened. As cities and suburbs expand, more land is required for homes, causing habitat loss. Excessive runoff of synthetic chemicals such as fertilizers or pesticides contaminates the water, leading to deformities and death in vulnerable amphibians. 

In addition to absorbing flood waters, marshes act as buffer zones, thanks to the ability of some plant species and soils to filter contaminants that might otherwise wash into streams after rainstorms. Preserving wetland areas while reducing our usage of such chemicals can help the animals and plants that live in marshes and can help to keep the waterways of the Lake Champlain Basin clean as well.