The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater source on earth by surface and volume. Once referred to as the “Sweetwater Seas” by early European colonists, the Great Lakes have long provided humans with clean drinking water, productive fisheries and recreational beauty. The aquatic bounties of the Great Lakes system have attracted large settlements on its shores, which has turned the region into an economic center and transport hub for the United States and Canada. However, after over a century of heavy manufacturing, industrial development and urban growth, the Great Lakes ecosystem has deteriorated due to considerable resource and ecological stress.
First Nations have inhabited the shores of the Great Lakes and fished in its waters since time immemorial. Historically, the Great Lakes were the traditional territories of several large nations, including the Odawa, Ojibwe, Chippewa, Mississauga, Oji-Cree,
Potawatomi, Menominee, Ho-Chunk, Oneida, Seneca, Iroquois, Mohawk, Huron, among others. Currently, there are approximately 75 First Nation communities inhabiting the coasts of the Great Lakes, with many more living within the watershed. All First Nations occupying the Great Lakes region are engaged in fishing activities to varying degrees.