Sustainable Development Institute's Spheres of Influence: Education, Research, Outreach, Practice, and Indigenous Wisdom
SDI is part of College of Menominee Nation (CMN) and exists to conduct research, share ideas, and strengthen the Menominee values and approach to sustainable development. This blog was created to share what is learned, known, and valued of the Menominee approach to sustainability to those who wish to share this knowledge and wisdom.
Yesterday, I accompanied my Mentor for a field trip with the
Ashwaubenon High School class. It was a warm, pleasant day and the forest was
in its fall regalia. The leaves were colors of red and gold. We began our
morning with a walk on the learning path here at CMN. Dean Fellman, Center for
First American Forestlands Director, talked with the class about the forest
management and sustainability practices of the Menominee Nation. The class had
questions about the age and number of the tree species in the forest. Some of
the White Pine are at least one hundred years old.
Our next stop was Keshena Falls, then we moved on to the
Wolf River Dells. We were honored to have as our guide Jeff Grignon, a forester
with the Menominee Nation. Jeff talked about two aspen clear cuts on the way so
the students were able to see the amount of growth and diversity in each plot.
At the Dells we hiked a half mile trail to a spot on the rocks overlooking the
Wolf River. After lunch, Jeff spoke to the class about the relationship of the
trees to the environment around them. He emphasized how each mother tree took
care of all the plants surrounding her. Jeff compared the trees to humans and
how we each are a part of a community. The students then had time to explore
their surroundings and learn from the forest. The last stop of our trip was to the beautiful Woodland Bowl of the Menominee. At the beginning of the trip staff was given a list of questions the students had. On the list were several questions about a Powwow. Jeff and I spoke about what goes on at a powwow,the reason for dancing in a circle and how the being outdoors was special to Native people. I invited the students to join us for the Powwow in August and explained that everyone is welcome to come learn from us and experience the dancing styles and contests. I spoke on the importance of diversity of people to learn from each other. It was a wonderful day out in the woods on a splendid fall day.
After attending the Global Indigeneity and Sustainability Seminar, Monday, October 10, 2016 many understandings came to light. The purpose of the seminar series is to promote opportunities for students, community, and faculty to learn about other Indigenous peoples around the world. The seminar has certainly been a learning experience for me and I hope to motivate others to attend the upcoming sessions. Attendees will learn of the wonderful diversity of the world such as, the Sami Indigenous people, who I was informed of on Monday.
Thomas DuBois, a presenter from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, talked in length about the culture of the Sami people. The Sami people live in four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The Sami are reindeer herders as well as hunter/gatherers. Reindeer husbandry is divided into groups. The bigger herds are allowed to graze on the Scandinavian landscape. Sami use these for meat, fur and antler. Smaller herds, contained on farms, are used for dairy products like milk and cheese. Historically, Sami people moved with the herds of reindeer, practicing a sustainable existence with the animals and land. Families still practice this today coming out of the cities to herd the reindeer for seasonal grazing.
Thomas DuBois talked about the Sami people’s authority on issues concerning culture, cultural heritage, reindeer farming and education. Land use by the Sami belongs to the “crown”(government) and farmers own their lands. Reindeer migration has been disrupted by changing landscape. Governments have built dams and changed borders. The government realizes that having Sami people at the table when decisions are made is better for everyone. Sami people want the government to respect their traditional rights to land and water.
The next speaker Tim Frandy was from Northland College in Ashland, WI. Traditionally Sami relationship with the natural environment is traditional. This relationship was expressed when Tim Frandy related this in a story about “The Winter Moth”.
In 1967, the northern tundra was visited by a moth which ate the bark of the birch tree and soon many of the trees died out. Scientists were alarmed and scrambled to come up with a way to get rid of the moth. When a member of the community was asked about the dilemma he advised that nature would deal with the moth. Scientist predicted the moth would take away a food source for reindeer and result in weight loss. The results were as the traditionalist thought. The reindeer did not lose anything in fact there were fat reindeer! Reindeer eat many types of plants, not just birch and the tree loss gave other vegetation a chance to grow. Moth droppings fertilized the soil and more grass remained good and green under the snow. Sami people used their knowledge gained through traditional and modern practices to adapt to changes in nature while being sustainable.
As we go about our days on Mother Earth, we often hear issues in the news about the environment and the ecosystems we live in. Be mindful; respect and love are the key elements of our world. Celebrate the diversity of our world. The seminars have brought this important lesson to the forefront for me. It amazed me that a people on the other side of the world in Scandinavian countries share attributes that resemble those of natives in Wisconsin. There are many more Global Indigeneity and Sustainability seminars every Monday in the Library Classroom at College of Menominee Nation.