Wisconsin land-grant colleges begin project to support Native American students’ educational pathways.

Wisconsin’s three land-grant colleges are UW-Madison, La Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College and College of Menominee Nation. Photo courtesy of College of Menominee Nations’ Instagram @cmnkenesha.

Author: Jessica Gregory

The United States Department of Agriculture announced Monday that they will grant funds to UW-Madison, La Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College and the College of Menominee Nation so collaborative efforts can be made to uplift Indigenous knowledge for Native American students at all educational levels.

Titling the project Wisconsin Land-Grant System Partnership for Advancing Native Education Pathways, the three land-grant institutions engage college instructors and Tribal nations to interweave Traditional Ecological Knowledge into science and technology based curriculum. 

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) encompasses practices and beliefs that are transmitted through generations dynamically, relating to Indigenous relationships with their culture and lands.

Systemic efforts will be made by the three institutions to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and techniques into the STEM fields to ensure academic success and engagement for Native American students. 

Aaron Bird Bear, the Tribal Relations Director for UW-Madison, emphasizes the necessity for partnerships between institutions.

“Culturally responsive instruction that includes Indigenous knowledge is critically important for Native American student success,” Aaron Bird Bear said.

Native American students of all ages will be assisted by the grant. The project has outlined four target goals:

  1. Create a seamless pathway between K-12 schooling into STEM careers through input from Tribal educators and school systems and land-grant professionals.
  2. Emphasize Indigenous scientific experiences and methodology that is proven to be successful in Native American students’ academic learning.
  3. Provide Native American students with professional opportunities that lead to college pathways by strengthening the collaborative efforts between Tribal communities and school districts to encourage a trust and relationship between the two.
  4. Ensure Native American students’ post-secondary success in STEM fields by holding the land-grant schools accountable to these students’ college admission and retention.

UW-Madison’s announcement of the grant provides a more detailed account of their goals for the project. Their participation in this project augments the Wisconsin Idea, the University’s philosophy that they need to engage themselves in initiatives that work to improve the quality of life for others.

Project leaders at UW-Madison are a part of three different departments: Earth Partnership Indigenous Arts and Sciences, the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College and College of Menominee Nations are Wisconsin’s two Tribal community colleges. Both colleges have set long-term goals for the project.

Brian Kowalkowski, Dean of Continuing Education at College of Menominee Nation, said this first collaboration between the three land-grant colleges will benefit Native American students in Tribes across the state.

“The College of Menominee Nation and Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College are uniquely prepared to share and teach other institutions about the history and culture of their people, which will lead to a better understanding and more successful students, both Native and non-native,” Kowalkowski said.