On September 12, 2014 freshmen from UW Madison along with their instructor Hedi Baxter Lauffer, graduate students Linda Orie, Amy Gauthier and Reynaldo Morales, and undergrad, Justin Gauthier visited the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), College of Menominee Nation (CMN) and the Menominee forest. The students are members of a newly developed First-Year Interest Group (FIG) course titled Native Science, Biodiversity, and Sustainability. The exciting new course serves as an outlet for the POSOH Project curriculum, particularly, the grade 7 unit. The layout for the course involves learning about the Menominee forest and how the indigenous ways of knowing are incorporated into the management practices.
As the Madison group arrived, they gathered in the Culture Building at CMN for a welcome and introduction from the SDI staff. The day’s agenda included a walking tour of the learning path and SDI, a tour of the forest and activities such as careful noticing in the forest. Students were allowed time to write in their journals while walking the trail leading to SDI. Jeff Grignon, a Menominee forester provided information along the walk about things that sparked students’ interest. He talked about biodiversity, plant communities and relationships between trees and the forest floor. Rebecca Edler, Sustainability Coordinator, informed the group about the history of the Turtle Garden and explained about each plot within. Following a very intriguing discussion about the medicine wheel in the heart of the garden, it was time for the forest tour.
Jeff Grignon, led the tour and introduced everyone to a special place in the forest. He told the group, “This place is a great example of how traditional knowledge and ways of knowing are connected to the work I do in the forest.” On the right side of the road was a dense old growth forest with big tall white pines. The other side was clearly different then the right. The group was curious why that was the case. Jeff described how management techniques differed on each side of the road. Students were then given instructions to go out into a spot in the forest and sit for ten minutes. Doing this allowed the students to quietly reflect on what they have learned throughout the day. Sitting alone for period of time also gave people a chance to carefully notice things around them. After taking in their surroundings with all senses, students came back ready to discuss what they experienced. While walking back, some students returned with garbage in hand. One student exclaimed, “I finally feel like I found people I belong with!”
Patrick Waukau, Outreach and MultiMedia Specialist for SDI also participated in the visit. Before the group left the forest he told the creation story of the Menominee tribe. The students listened as he talked about lessons he learned growing up on the Menominee Reservation. Being in the forest during this talk was a great way to end the tour. Jerilyn Grignon was another community member who was in attendance. Back at the Culture Building, Jerilyn read her story about careful noticing in the forest, an excerpt from the POSOH grade 7 unit.
The students involved in this Native Science and Sustainability course will be some of the most intuitive individuals on the UW-Madison campus. The POSOH team is a very influential group and will indeed guide these students in the right direction.