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Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Social Studies

Resource Type

  • Videos, 11 minutes, 19 seconds, CC, Subtitles

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Midwest, Wisconsin, Lake Michigan & Fox/Wolf Watershed (CESA 6, 7, 8)


YouTube Video

Saving Buffalo Reef

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  • In this video, students learn about the stamp sands from copper mining that have made their way into Buffalo Reef and are affecting the habitat there.
  • Students learn a brief history of copper mining in this area, the importance of copper to the Indigenous people of the area, and the effects that mass mining of copper in this area has had on the surrounding environment.
Teaching Tips


  • This video is not only educational, but many of the choices made in production make it a very artistic and emotional piece of media.
  • Interviews with many different people allow students to see a few different perspectives on the issue.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Some students may need the terms stamp sands, cede, deposits, basalt, prevalent, sustainable, treaty, dredging, and others defined prior to watching the video.
  • Students may want to look into the tribal make-up of this region and do more in-depth research on those tribes either prior to watching the video as a way to build background knowledge or after watching the video as a means of extending learning.


  • Students can create a cause and effect web, beginning with copper deposits being found along the peninsula, and ending with the effects brought on by a loss of the fish.
  • After watching this video, students can research other habitats that are threatened by human activity and compare and contrast them to Buffalo Reef.
  • Students can discuss the impact that the treaty with nature held by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community has on their commitment to protecting nature and discuss how this may or may not differ from other people's outlooks.
  • Geography classes can look at a map of the area and map the migration of the stamp sands to Buffalo Reef.
  • English language learners can use the "Auto-translate" function on the video, or slow the video playback speed.
Scientist Notes
The short (~11.5 minute) video from The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) describes the historical significance of a place where copper was once abundantly mined on the surface, specifically on the Tiahuanaco Peninsula jutting into Lake Superior. The video discusses how copper was an essential part of the community's life, used for trade along the Mississippi, leading to a copper land rush in 1842. The mining process involved crushing basalt rocks to extract copper, resulting in massive deposits of stamped waste. Over time, these stamped deposits started covering the shoreline and underwater reefs, negatively impacting fish habitats and spawning areas. The video emphasizes the importance of preserving the fishery and reef for the community's cultural and economic well-being, and it calls for responsible stewardship of the environment to protect and restore the natural balance. This video is well-researched and would be a great addition to a classroom discussion on the human impacts on the environment.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Science
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-4. Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
      • HS-LS2-6. Evaluate claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
  • English Language Arts
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • SL.PE.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with peers on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
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