College of Menominee Nation Partnership

On December 5, 2016 in Keshena, WI, members of the UW academic community and the Menominee Nation came together for the final meeting of a sustainable development and indigeneity seminar that ran last fall. The seminar was presented by the College of Menominee Nation (CMN) and the Sustainable Development Institute in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was coordinated by doctoral candidate and IRIS Project Assistant Reynaldo Morales. In this final session, participants and members of different tribal communities in northeast Wisconsin celebrated the completion of the seminar, and shared their thoughts on the importance of this collaboration and its potential impact on future sustainable development achievements.

Supported in part by Department of Education Title VI funded regional centers of the Institute for Regional and International Studies, the seminar was part of these centers’ commitment to expand its collaboration with minority serving institutions to internationalize their curriculum. Beginning in 2014, several of the regional studies centers worked with the College of Menominee Nation to increase its connections with the Global Indigenous Movement. Prior successes of this collaboration include the participation of College of Menominee Nation faculty and administrators in the Workshop on Indigeneity in Southeast Asia at the UW, and sending a joint College of Menominee Nation delegation to the 15th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2016. The seminar in the fall was the next step in what all parties hope to be continued collaboration on sustainable development and indigeneity.

The focus of the 14-week seminar was on sharing sustainable development research and practices between the UW community and the Menominee Nation. Alberto Vargas, Associate Director of Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies at the University of Wisconsin and one of the organizers of the seminar, stressed the value of this sharing of ideas. “[T]his is a two-way collaboration and we at UW have a lot to learn from the wisdom and accumulated knowledge about sustainability from the Menominee Nation and in general from all the First Nations in the state.” The content of the seminar used the framework of the Menominee Model of Sustainable Development consisting of six interrelated components: land and sovereignty, environment, institutions, technology, economics, and human behavior/perception.

The seminar and the collaboration between the University and the Menominee Nation was so fruitful that it has been transformed into a for-credit course at UW-Madison this spring. Environmental Studies 402, Global Indigeneity and Sustainability, is being offered through the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies as a one-credit seminar course. Students of the College of Menominee Nation and of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College in Hayward, Wisconsin will also be taking the course, joining by Skype each week.

The format of the spring 2017 seminar will be similar to the seminar this past fall, with academics and researchers from multiple disciplines presenting on their projects related to indigenous communities. In addition to sustainable development, presentations will focus on Indigenous Knowledge Systems in the context of environmental science, global health, geography and international law, among others. Environmental Studies 402 is scheduled for Fridays from noon to 1:55 pm, in room L150 Education Building.