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My connection to the Manitowish Waters area runs long and deep. My grandparents bought 33 acres of land on Rest Lake in Manitowish Waters, WI in 1933. Grandpa Harrys’ dream was to have a place that our family could always be together. He purchased the Lumber Trade Associations Exhibit House from the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago and in 1934 they dismantled it and shipped it by rail to Manitowish Waters where it was reassembled. Almost 100 years and 4 generations later, the family is still here. I moved to Manitowish Waters permanently in 1979 and married a local girl, whose teenage father helped reassemble that Worlds Fair house in the winter of 1935.

I attended UW-Madison where I received a BS in Wildlife Ecology and completed the coursework for a masters’ degree in Landscape Architecture, where I studied the design and development of Environmental Awareness Centers. I managed a local cranberry marsh for 22 years during which time we raised two children and several wonderful dogs. My wife taught three generations of 4 year olds at the local grade school in town. We bought our land on this lake in the early 1980’s and built our house in the winter of 1987-88. In the mid-1990’s I was instrumental in the creation of the North Lakeland Discovery Center in Manitowish Waters, whose mission at the time was to explore the regions natural, cultural and historic resources.

During this same period of time, I started the Intercultural Leadership Initiative (ILI) a program that brought Native and non-Native youth together to combat the rampant racism that was partly a result of the court decision that upheld Tribal hunting, fishing and gathering rights and partly from generations of treating Tribal people as second-class citizens. ILI became a beacon of light in the area, eventually serving more than 1000 children a year and garnering the prestigious Honoring Our Nations Award from Harvard.

I left my job on the cranberry marsh and spent the next 22 years serving tribal communities across Wisconsin raising more than $11 million for a variety of projects that focused on reducing the substance abuse, chronic health issues and racism that disproportionately affects tribal communities. I helped start a number of non-profits including ILI, Northwoods Restorative Justice, North Lakeland Education Foundation and also helped start several projects to foster healing in the community including the HOPE Consortium and the Zagiibigaa Healing to Wellness Court, a partnership court between Vilas County and the Lac du Flambeau Tribe.

My regional sense of place has been carved out of these myriad experiences-diving deep into the needs of local people and the land upon which they exist. My photography is heavily influenced by these experiences, big and small, wild and human.

I “retired” from the lions’ share of this work in 2019 but continue to be a strong advocate for protecting and promoting regional health for all inhabitants of the region. I built a cozy gallery on our lakeside property in 2019 which will be open when I am not out in the great outside taking photos, paddling, cycling, birding, roller skiing, x-country skiing, or exploring the deepest woods with our beautiful granddaughter.

“In the haunted house of life, art is the only stair that doesn’t creak” — TOM ROBBINS

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