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Center for Native Peoples and the Environment
Learning from the Land

A Cross-cultural Project in Forest Stewardship Education for Climate Change Adaptation

U S D A Learning from the land A cross-cultural partnership in forest stewardship education for climate change adaptation

Climate change poses a significant threat to ecosystems and human well-being across the Northern Forest and in many regions of the world, requiring new approaches to stewardship that sustain both ecosystems and human communities together. In this project, we are exploring models of forest stewardship that brings together traditional and scientific knowledge in pursuit of ecologically and culturally sustainable landscapes.

Our first step is to build a multifaceted higher education program to prepare Native American students to pursue higher education in environmental and forest sciences so that they can address climate change and other complex challenges. At the same time, the program greatly enriches the knowledge and expands the cross-cultural capabilities of non-native students by increasing their experience with Indigenous environmental philosophy and practice. In close partnership with the College of Menominee Nation (Keshena, WI) and Menominee Tribal Enterprises (MTE), we have created a Forest Ecology Summer Institute and Research Exchange Program. The exchange is designed to build capacity at CMN for developing forest ecology and stewardship curriculum. The summer institute and research exchange program link the Menominee Forest - an internationally recognized beacon of forest sustainability based on traditional knowledge - and ESF's Huntington Wildlife Forest - home of over 75 years of research on the silviculture, wildlife, and ecosystem dynamics of Adirondack forests. The program links the two landscapes, Menominee and Huntington, as "sister forests." The team consists of undergraduate CMN and ESF students, mentored by Native American graduate students, faculty members, and forest managers, all of whom build their research skills and cross-cultural capabilities in the process. The partnership exposes students and faculty to the need and opportunity for scientific training that respects and incorporates Indigenous knowledge and cultures. The program also aspires to generate new educational and forest stewardship approaches, and build a 'bridge to the baccalaureate' for Native American students to ESF and other four-year and graduate institutions. The project is under the direction of PI's Dr. Robin Kimmerer and Dr. Colin Beier from ESF; Christopher Caldwell, Sustainable Development Institute; and Robert VanLopik, College of Menominee Nation.