The narrow road down to Rainbow Bend was lined with cars. This was the largest turnout with 20% tribal and 80% community citizens. The sturgeon rearing trailer was open for the public to view the small 3-4" fry prior to the release.
Staff encouraged the visitors to hold a small sturgeon in the rearing tank which carried Manistee River water to implant the fish. The many families attending were helped to learn more about this remarkable fish.
The eggs and/or fry are netted from the river and then incubated in the rearing trailer until they are 5-6 months old.
The link below tells more of the sturgeon story.
A number of children's activities were provided to help the children feel part of this special day. They made stamped neckerchiefs, drew pictures, and held fish in their hands.
Larry Romanelli, chief or ogema of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, welcomed the large crowd and explained Indian beliefs about nature and helping to restore nature as it was in the past. Sturgeon helped to feed the early Indians but the logging, dams, and over-fishing diminished the number of sturgeon now found in the rivers. The Little River band worked closely with the Michigan DNR, U.S. Forest Service, Great Lakes Fishery Trust, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to provide this special project.
The drum band of the tribe played tribal music to call the crowd together. A peace pipe symbolic presentation offered blessings to the people, the fish and the land.
The crowd was then instructed to get a tin pail that contained one sturgeon and go down to the release site along the river. Families and children carried the pail down and gently put the fish in their hand for a second and then slowing lowered the tiny sturgeon into the river.
The sturgeon just settled down and acclimated for a few seconds before slowly swimming off into the river. Two divers with video cameras were filming the underwater release.
This was an educational, inspirational, and personal moment for me. It was wonderful to know that the sturgeon released that day will outlive me. The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians have given back to nature and society a small part of the life that use to be. So far, 800 sturgeon have been released to swim out to the Great Lakes and mature and then return 15-20 years later to spawn in the river where they were released.
This is a Youtube video from 2011 that shows more of the sturgeon release.
Here is another film trailer of the event.