The College of Menominee Nation, Sustainable Development Institute, hosted a National Workshop to share Indigenous Ways of Teaching and Learning in Sustainable Sciences on July 7-9. The workshop provided a unique opportunity to collaborate with leaders from throughout the higher education community who share the commitment to support the development of the next generation of tribal scientists and management professionals.
The workshop engaged participants in a reflective process that brought different knowledge and experiences together to identify reciprocal methods of teaching and learning relative to sustainability sciences.
Attending the sessions were college students, academic faculty and staff, friends of education, and community members interested in designing, developing, and facilitating learning experiences that honor and integrate indigenous ways of knowing as an essential component to the tools of western science. A total of fifty-six people attended.
The workshop opened with an invocation and song, followed by a welcome by CMN’s founding president, Dr. Verna Fowler. Dr. Fowler, spoke on the importance of the relationship between the land and Menominee people. Dr. Robin Kimmerer provided an overview of past and current models that represented Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and Scientific Ecological Knowledge (SEK). Dr. Kimmerer is affiliated with the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-EFS) in Syracuse, NY.
The attendees then moved to Woodhenge, an outside classroom, where Dr. Hedi Baxter Lauffer, UW-Madison (POSOH Project), led a session using story cards to identify perspectives and models that participants brought to the workshop.
Afternoon and evening activities included a tour of the Menominee Historic Preservation and Logging Museum. The participants learned about the Menominee, a Woodland People that have adapted to changes from pre-contact to present day. A traditional dinner was served, and after the meal participants learned about traditional dance styles, songs, and drumming through observation, interaction and participation. The Doud family relayed the importance of understanding and knowing place and the significance of family as teachers.
Day two began with a briefing of safety and forest restrictions. Next, participants boarded a bus that departed for community site visits where they learned the significance of each location. The stops included: Keshena Falls, a culturally significant site; an Oak Wilt Gap to learn about Scientific and Traditional Ways of knowing and understanding; Smokey Falls, where Robin Kimmerer lead a species biography exercise; and Neopit where everyone learned about the economic role and history of Menominee Tribal Enterprises.
To gather information learned from the workshop, an Appreciative Inquiry Process was conducted on the third day. The participants were separated into 5 groups where they were asked to consider the following models of learning:
- Opening Story
- Learning From the Land, on the Land
- Species Biography
- Card Sort
- Other Models
Recognition: This project was generously funded through the following United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) programs:
- “Learning from the Land: A Cross-Cultural Project in Forest Stewardship Education for Climate Change Adaptation”.
- “Place–based Opportunities for Sustainable Outcomes and High-hopes (POSOH)”. Agriculture and Food Research.
- State University of New York (SUNY), College of Environmental Science and Forestry
- University of Wisconsin Madison and Wisconsin Fast Plants Program under the POSOH Project
- Menominee Tribal Enterprise (MTE)
- College of Menominee Nation (CMN)
- Sustainable Development Institute (SDI)
- Center for First American Forestland (CFAF)
Thank you to the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin for taking care of the forest so that we can learn from such and extraordinary place.