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Native Nations_UW–Madison Working Group embarks on Phase 2 of multi-year initiative

June 30, 2021 By Kristina LeVan

Since 2016, the Native Nations_UW (NN_UW) Initiative has been partnering with the Native Nations in Wisconsin to address issues around community well-being, health services, the environment, economic development, education and family well-being.

To advance the initiative, the NN_UW Working Group serves as a connection between the university, including the Division of Extension, and the 12 Native Nations of Wisconsin. Newly constituted with 12 key university administrators, faculty, staff and students, the NN_UW Working Group implementation team is looking ahead to Phase 2 of the historic initiative that grew out of the first-ever Native Nations_UW Summit in 2015.

The Working Group receives guidance from the NN_UW Tribal Advisory Council and NN_UW community of faculty, staff and students involved in research related to or projects with colleagues from Indigenous nations and communities.

After establishing the NN_UW Tribal Advisory Council and a strategic plan during Phase 1, the working group, along with new subcommittees, will continue to advance efforts in the following focus areas:

  • Indigenous student well-being
  • Indigenous language infusion and revitalization
  • Establishing a Great Lakes Indigenous Research and Education Center
  • Considering Indigenous perspectives on teaching, learning and research
  • Land acknowledgments and indigenous placemaking
  • Native education pathways

Leading Phase 2 is Aaron Bird Bear, director of tribal relations for UW–Madison; Annie Jones, professor and organization development and tribal nations specialist for the UW–Madison Division of Extension; and Omar Poler, Indigenous education coordinator in the School of Education and in the Office of the Provost.

Provost Karl Scholz says, “This is an important initiative for our institution. It represents a renewed and deeper commitment to working with the Native Nations of Wisconsin in the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea. I am grateful to all of those who are engaged in these Phase 2 efforts.”

“During the COVID pandemic, there was a tremendous effort by UW–Madison schools, colleges, divisions and departments to offer over 25 robust virtual programs specifically designed to educate faculty and staff of the 12,000-year human story of campus through professional development focused on the Ho-Chunk Nation and other Native Nations, and it is exciting for the NN_UW Working Group to take this momentum into the coming academic year,” says Bird Bear.

Phase 2, which will run through 2023, began with the NN_UW Tribal Leadership Summit on May 14. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary, addressed the attendees and discussed topics including water quality, wild rice, wolf populations, land into trust, and culturally relevant policies impacting Indigenous academic success, such as eagle feathers at K-12 and post-secondary graduation.

The NN_UW Working Group was established in 2016 to work toward more respectful and reciprocal partnerships with the Native Nations of Wisconsin. Listening sessions with the Native Nations of Wisconsin, UW–Madison Native American students, and the greater-Milwaukee Urban Indian Community culminated in a three-year NN_UW Strategic Plan and Initiative Phase 1 Evaluation Report with recommendations for new and continuing action areas.

More information on NN_UW partnerships, projects and programs, including the NN_UW Working Group initiative, can be found on the Native Nations_UW website.