“Indigeneity” is not a term often heard in the Menominee community. But, on March 18th and 19th, College of Menominee Nation’s (CMN) Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) welcomed visitors from Southeast Asia who were participating in a workshop about indigeneity. The workshop was hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies. It was led by Ian Baird a Professor of Geography at UW-Madison and included professors and doctoral students from Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Bangladesh. The UW workshop looked to explore the overarching question of how do different peoples, social movements, organizations and governments conceptualize indigeneity?
The visit to Menominee was arranged to offer the workshop participants a different indigenous perspective as they worked on this question. CMN SDI arranged for community members from around Menominee to come and share their perspectives based on their community experiences in areas of economics, governmental affairs, forest management, and traditional knowledge. The visitors also had an opportunity to visit the maple sugar camp being coordinated through College of Menominee Nation, UW-Extension Menominee County/Nation, Mawaw Ceseniyah, and MITW Language and Culture Commission.
The visitors and Menominee participants shared their perspectives on indigeneity from their own experiences. Although there were regional and localized differences for each story that was shared, there were also similarities due to the nature of colonization, whether it occurred in the Southeast Asia region or the Midwest region of the North American continent. Discussion also focused on the impact that indigenous peoples around the word could offer in regards to climate change, based on unique perspectives of land relationships and responsibilities.
In parting, each visitor was given a small wooden box made by CMN Trades students, from board ends from the Menominee Tribal Enterprises. Inside the boxes were small gifts and also tobacco ties made by SDI staff and interns. The boxes demonstrated some of the relationships that were discussed by the participants over the course of the two-day visit and provided the visitors with a memento from Menominee to take home and share with their communities.
This CMN SDI event was sponsored through our work with the NSF-sponsored research network for Sustainable Climate Risk Management (SCRiM).