Skip to main content

Photo gallery UW’s Indigenous community reflects on the healing power of humor during Native November

December 6, 2023

For the past 10 years, Native November has been an important month-long community-building program for Indigenous students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. This year’s theme, “Laughter is Medicine,” highlights the role humor has played in Indigenous identity — from the physical and spiritual benefits of laughter to the connectedness that can emerge from a single joke.   

Members of the Indigenous Student Center Coalition led programming efforts for this year’s events. The ISCC is made up of seven student organizations housed within the Indigenous Student Center: Wunk Sheek; American Indian Science & Engineering Society; Alpha Pi Omega Sorority, Inc. – Lambda Chapter; Twin Tails; Indigenous Law Student Association; Tribal Libraries, Archives and Museums; and the Indigenous Graduate Students.

Related: Native November: Q&A With Indigenous Student Services Coordinator Laura Hiebing

A student sits at a sewing machine and holds up a piece of fabric and matching ribbon.

Native November programming kicked off on Nov. 3 with the Wunk Sheek Ribbon Workshop. During the two-day event, participants learned how to make a ribbon skirt or shirt traditionally, although not always, worn during ceremonial events. Bella Begay shows her strip of test fabric before working on her skirt. Photo by Bobbi Skenandore

A woman laughs with a colleague while standing in a food line.

Laughter was on display at the Native November Elder-in-Residence Welcome Feast on Sunday, Nov. 5. Dancing and drumming filled the room after 2023 Elder-in-Residence Karen Washinawatok spoke to the group of students, faculty and staff. Photo by Robert San Juan

An older woman sits quiet at a table with arms folded while listening to a speaker.

As the 2023 Elder in Residence, Karen Washinawatok, also known as Omāēqnomenēw Metāēmoh, offered her resources and mentorship to Indigenous students at UW–Madison. The program seeks to provide students with access to crucial cultural resources, strengthen partnerships between Tribal Nations and the university, and improve the campus experience and retention of Native students. Photo by Robert San Juan

A young woman sits at a table smiling while organizing red-dyed quills for a craft project.

On Nov. 8, the Indigenous Student Center hosted a Crafternoon with Paige Skenandore, citizen of Oneida Nation and research coordinator for the Indigenous EcoWell Initiative within the UW School of Human Ecology. Skenandore led the workshop on quillwork, where participants learned how to make a bracelet, keychain or earrings from dyed quills. Kayla Maki (right), an L&S senior majoring in Psychology with a certificate in American Indian & Indigenous Studies and member of the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe tribe, aligns red quills in preparation for her project. Photo by Bobbi Skenandore

A close up of a young woman listening to someone speak at the head of a room.

The Tribal Libraries, Archives and Museums student group hosted a discussion on Nov. 9 around Native representation and storytelling in Hollywood through the lens of Reservation Dogs. Indigenous Student Center programming intern McKaylin Peters listens to the conversation around the popular, highly acclaimed show starring the 2023 Native November keynote speaker Dallas Goldtooth. Photo by Bobbi Skenandore

A group of students gather around a table learning about herbs used for medicine.

Remembering Your Medicines, held on Nov. 16, was a time for Indigenous students to find healing and community while learning about traditional medicines. The event welcomed Serena Cisneros, Anishinaabe from the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation and UHS mental health provider, to talk about peoples’ stories and experiences with traditional medicines. UW senior and Wunk Sheek environmental chair Melina Dennis, member of the Lac Courte Oreilles and Oneida tribes, co-facilitated the event. Photo by Bobbi Skenandore

A group of UW alumni pose together in two rows.

Current Indigenous students and alumni reflected on the theme of “laugher is medicine” during the annual Alumni Social on Nov. 18. Attendees created beaded design projects and the student group Twin Tails provided music through song and drum. UW–Madison alumni pose for a group photo during the Indigenous Alumni Social. Photo by: Althea Dotzour

A young woman sits at a table and threads beads on a string as she begins a beading project.

Sophia Grigsby, undergraduate student majoring in history and Spanish, citizen of the Meskwaki Nation and member of Wunk Sheek, uses a needle and thread to start a circular beading pattern during the Indigenous Alumni Social. During the event, Grigsby noted, “the theme means that our community is still here and that we’re resilient, but also that we’re healing and we’ve built a community for ourselves, amongst each other that is positive.” Photo by: Althea Dotzour

Three people sit on a stage laughing while taking questions from an audience.

The final event of Native November featured writer, actor, film producer and comedian Dallas Goldtooth. On Nov. 30 he spoke with Michael Williams (left), citizen of the Oneida Nation, UW law student and member of the Indigenous Student Coalition; and Serena Cisneros, Anishinaabe from the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation and UHS mental health provider, about topics from decolonization to radical imagination. Goldtooth wove comedy into his storytelling throughout his 60-minute speech and spent time answering questions submitted by attendees. Photo by Robert San Juan

A young woman laughs at a joke from the man standing next to her.

Before the keynote address, Goldtooth met with members of the Indigenous Student Center and UW–Madison staff. Here, he joins Lauren Cornelius, Native American Center for Health Professions academic program specialist, for a laugh. Photo by Robert San Juan

A small group poses together.

During his visit, Goldtooth joined members of the Indigenous Student Center Coalition for a special lunch. He took a moment to capture a photo with the students after the meal. Photo by Bobbi Skenandore

Five people pose for a photo behind a large Tribal drum.

Goldtooth poses with members of Twin Tails during a tour of the Indigenous Student Center on the UW–Madison campus. Photo by Bobbi Skenandore

See more photo stories