The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) Midwest Region Branch of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks supports the Department of the Interior’s goal of fulfilling Indian trust responsibilities by enabling Tribes the meaningful exercise of their treaty fishing, hunting, and gathering rights while also assisting Tribes in the management, development, and protection of Indian trust land and natural resource assets. The Midwest Region’s Branch of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks provides funding and support to 36 federally recognized Indian Tribes and 3 Inter-Tribal treaty resource organizations for the management and protection of Indian trust lands and natural resources in the states of Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Tribes in the Midwest Region encompass and steward approximately 62 million acres including treaty ceded territories representing millions of acres of forests, lakes, streams, and wetlands.

The Branch of Fish, Wildlife & Parks administers funding for a broad range of natural resource programs, both recurring and non-recurring, including for fish hatcheries, endangered species, invasive species, rights protection, Tribal youth, conservation law enforcement, wetland/waterfowl enhancement, and Great Lakes restoration. Most of these programs are nationally coordinated while two are regionally led through the Midwest Region: Circle of Flight (wetland/waterfowl enhancement) and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Distinct Tribal Program. Through these programs, Tribes are supported in their sovereign stewardship roles alongside other governmental and non-governmental partners to monitor, protect, and restore native species and thousands of acres of fish and wildlife habitat; simultaneously supporting Tribal self-determination, traditional lifeways, cultural revitalization, and local food systems and economies.

BIA announces annual requests for Tribal funding proposals via notification letters to Tribal leaders and email notice to Tribal program directors and staff typically in November-December each year with funding proposals due in January-February. To sign up for BIA’s Tribal Natural Resources listserv to receive funding and other announcements, email

To learn more about the work Tribes have accomplished under the BIA Fish, Wildlife & Parks programs, please see the BIA Midwest Region’s 2022 Tribal Wildlife & Habitat Accomplishment Report.

Circle of Flight

The Circle of Flight program is the Midwest Region’s waterfowl, wetland, and wild rice enhancement program. Up to 39 federally recognized Tribal entities are eligible to participate in this program including the 1854 Treaty Authority, the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. Of the approximately 62 million acres of land base that Midwest Region Tribes steward, almost five million of these acres are wetland habitats.

The Circle of Flight program supports Tribal wetland rehabilitation, waterfowl habitat enhancement, and wild rice production projects on Indian Lands and ceded territories in the Midwest Region. Improved Tribal wetland habitats support local wildlife populations, increase habitat availability for tens of thousands of additional ducks and geese in spring and fall migrations, expand hunting opportunities for Tribal members and the general public, increase economic development possibilities for Tribes, and enhance wild rice gathering opportunities that are essential for maintaining Tribal life-ways. Wild rice is a cornerstone resource that strengthens Tribal culture and wildlife habitat. Tribes effectively manage over 200,000 acres of natural wild rice beds and, in the process, provide significant waterfowl feeding and nesting areas that are unique to the Midwest Region.

Funding for this program supports large-scale enhancement efforts across Tribal lands and builds strong working relationships among Tribes and Federal, State, and local natural resource management agencies. Tribal management activities under this program increase habitat availability and utility to waterfowl that often have immediate and quantifiable affects. Circle of Flight funding has been used to complete several important habitat enhancement projects that support large numbers of wetland dependent species used by Tribal members for culturally important activities.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) began in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world, the Laurentian Great Lakes. In an unprecedented interagency effort led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the GLRI is coordinated by sixteen Federal agencies, including the BIA, to address the most challenging ecosystem problems affecting the Great Lakes.

GLRI supports Tribal communities to participate in Area of Concern and Lake-wide Partnership planning processes; lead on-the-ground work and partnerships to prevent and control invasive species; reduce nutrient and phosphorous loadings into waterways; restore stream passage and riparian habitats for native fish populations; protect Great Lakes coastal wetlands; continue long-term steps necessary to restore several species important for subsistence and culture including wild rice, lake sturgeon and moose; and to educate the next generation of Tribal youth for long-term Great Lakes stewardship.

Since 2010, the BIA, with support from EPA, has provided GLRI funding to more than 30 Tribes and Tribal organizations in the Midwest and Eastern Regions for Great Lakes protection and restoration projects. BIA GLRI funding for Tribes has increased substantially since it began in 2010 as a $3 million dollar program. In Fiscal Year 2020, GLRI Federal agencies of the Great Lakes Regional Working Group initiated the first year of a GLRI Distinct Tribal Program (DTP). Administered by the BIA, the GLRI DTP provides $15 million annually to support Tribal priorities that are consistent with GLRI goals and objectives, while greatly enhancing flexibility and self-determination for Tribes. Additionally, the GLRI DTP provides many program efficiencies for BIA and Tribes and serves as a highly successful interagency Tribal program model.

As of April 2021, BIA has provided over $82 million in GLRI funding to Tribes to implement over 630 Tribally led restoration projects and capacity awards. These projects have so far protected and restored 190,000 acres of habitats and approximately 550 miles of Great Lakes tributaries and include over 65 distinct projects to protect and restore native species. GLRI has also been instrumental in building and enhancing the capacity of Tribes to participate in intergovernmental resource management for the Great Lakes alongside Federal, State, and other partners to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the Great Lakes.

The GLRI has been a significant source of funding for Tribes to implement projects that advance Great Lakes protection and restoration while simultaneously bolstering the protection and restoration of culturally important native species and treaty-reserved resources. In this way, the GLRI has been a catalyst for not only the restoration of the natural environment of the Great Lakes, but for strengthening and revitalizing Tribal cultures and traditions interconnected to the health of the Great Lakes and its ecosystems. Furthermore, Tribes provide unique expertise for Great Lakes resource protection, including serving as the premier experts in wild rice management. As the original caretakers of the Great Lakes, Tribes have critical place-based insight and traditional ecological perspectives for understanding and protecting the Great Lakes for generations to come.

More information about the GLRI is available at

To learn more about the work Tribes have accomplished under the GLRI, please see the BIA’s 2022 Tribal Great Lakes Restoration Report.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge & the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

There has been growing recognition how the collaboration of Indigenous knowledge with western science can deepen and improve our understanding of the interconnectedness of the natural world and better inform management and policy decisions. Under Annex 10 (Science) of the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (Agreement), a Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Task Team was established to facilitate and support opportunities for Indigenous knowledge to be incorporated into activities undertaken pursuant to the Agreement.

The U.S. Caucus of the Annex 10 TEK Task Team, currently led by the BIA Midwest Region Branch of Fish, Wildlife & Parks and comprised of Federal, Tribal, and affiliated academic partners, was established to provide an opportunity for both Indigenous and Western knowledges to contribute to science in support of the Agreement. The Task Team seeks to:

  • Identify opportunities to improve TEK literacy and increase awareness of TEK across the Agreement;
  • Compile a record of TEK related activities and share examples where TEK and Western knowledge are being collaboratively explored to promote cross-Annex dialogue;
  • Explore possible means of increasing participation of Indigenous people in TEK Task Team efforts; and
  • Define metrics of success with respect to increasing the awareness and presence of TEK in Agreement activities.

In February 2021, the U.S. Caucus of the Annex 10 TEK Task Team completed a “Guidance Document on Traditional Ecological Knowledge Pursuant to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.” The purpose of this Guidance Document is to provide a basic understanding of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and describe how TEK can be appropriately approached to inform, direct, and enhance Great Lakes science, research, and management activities. Example cases of successful collaboration with Tribes and TEK for Great Lakes research and management are also highlighted in the Guidance Document.

Guidance Document on TEK Pursuant to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement