Projects and Professional Development

In May 2016, the Provosts of UW-Madison, University of Wisconsin Colleges, and University of Wisconsin Extension collectively authorized a new initiative: the Native Nations_UW (NN_UW) Working Group.

The NN_UW Working Group was convened to partner with the Native Nations in Wisconsin on efforts to improve health services, preserve the environment, develop local economies, strengthen families, and expand educational opportunities. NN_UW acknowledges and supports the overall goal of strengthening Tribal sovereignty.

With that in mind, the Native Nations and communities in Wisconsin and the NN_UW Working Group created the NN_UW Strategic Plan to work towards more respectful and reciprocal partnerships. The goal of the plan is to work with Wisconsin Native Nations to conduct research and educational networks with Tribes.

Native Nations Projects

People across the UW-Madison campus are engaged with Native Nations through a wide range of research on human health, the environment and natural resources, and other fields. The following list represents projects from the first phase of the Native Nations-UW initiative.

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Relationship Building

Echoing similar action on the federal level, Wisconsin Executive Order #39, enacted in 2004, recognizes Tribal sovereignty and provides guidance for consulting and collaborating with federally recognized Native Nations of Wisconsin. Furthermore, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 addresses the rights of Native Nations and requires consultation between Native Nations and the University in our stewardship of cultural resources.

Research that advances institutional acknowledgement of Tribal nations as sovereign governments based on their legal treaty rights and government-to-government relationship with the state has the ancillary benefit of fostering greater Native American student enrollment, persistence, and graduation rates.

Education Pathways

This priority focuses on building on and expanding culturally sensitive pre-college preparation and recruitment programs and extending support services to families and students to support their enrollment in higher education. Although the emphasis may be on supporting Native students from Wisconsin, as a global research university, UW-Madison has a special responsibility to attract indigenous students nationally.

Bad River Youth Outdoors

Bad River Youth Outdoors (BRYO) is a watershed education program that combines outdoor education with teachings about Ojibwe culture and water.

Earth Partnership for Schools (EP/IAS) — Indigenous Arts and Sciences Program

(EP/IAS) is an integrated effort between tribal communities and collaborators that shares a common vision of engaging youth in science and the natural world through service learning projects emphasizing ecological restoration and traditional Ojibwe values of the Lake Superior region.

Native youth are encouraged to explore STEM careers to meet future workforce needs for managing tribal resources and to become knowledgeable scientific citizens capable of critical thinking and analysis of STEM-related issues in their communities.

POSOH — Place-Based Opportunities for Sustainable Outcomes and High Hopes

POSOH is a partnership between the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences with the Menominee and Oneida Nations to develop community-wide and cross-institutional collaborations that co-construct approaches to formal and informal science education. It values and infuses indigenous contributions to scientific knowledge and culturally diverse ways of knowing into science teaching and learning.

Tribal Youth Media

Tribal teens learn to make environmental movies that matter to their community.

Tribal Technology Institute, Information Technology Academy

In alignment with the UW-Madison’s 2014 Diversity Framework, the Information Technology Academy (ITA) is an innovative pre-college initiative for diverse students in the state of Wisconsin. With programs in Madison, Lac du Flambeau, and Oneida, ITA’s goal is to increase the enrollment rates of diverse students at the university.

Native Campus Culture

This priority focuses on a range of ways to make the experience of Native students in the UW system and the Madison campus a culturally supportive and meaningful experience, by expanding and improving general awareness and providing specific culturally responsive and supportive services. The improved retention and graduation rates will undoubtedly enhance further recruitment as many of these students return home and share their passions with family and friends.

Research Partnerships

The University of Wisconsin and Cooperative Extension have a long history of collaborative research with Wisconsin Native Nations. Expanding such research can bring benefits to all parties with sufficient administrative support for UW faculty and staff efforts.

Successful relationships will be promoted by increasing opportunities for faculty and staff to learn about collaborative research models and best practices for working with Native Nations. When individuals can learn and share perspectives from other worldviews, growth and understanding is enhanced.

Environment and Natural Resources

Wisconsin Native Nations are protecting, preserving and restoring their land bases. They are particularly interested in climate change projects, help with remediating contaminated areas, and strategies to promote respect for the environment. This includes research and outreach that allows them to share their land ethics with neighbors whose activities affect their land, water, and air.

Agricultural Research with the Ho-Chunk Nation

UW-Madison professor Erin Silva is working on two projects; one involves reviving a large block of agricultural land, Whirling Thunder, to produce organic row crops, vegetables and livestock. A second project involves the creation of a community garden in a subsidized housing unit.

Chronic Wasting Disease

CWD investigation through the detection of the disease agents (prions) from soil and tissues of infected animals. This project includes investigation of an oxidant for use as a potential remediation tool for prion-contaminated soils.

Documenting the History of Menominee Indian Agriculture and Land-Use in Northeastern Wisconsin

In partnership with David Overstreet (College of the Menominee Nation), this project engages Menominee high school and college students on a project documenting the history of Menominee Indian agriculture and land-use in northeastern Wisconsin. The size and spatial organization of the native agricultural communities have major implications for the cultural and ecological history of the region.

Forest Regeneration Resurveys of Long-Term Change in Wisconsin Forest Communities

Land surveys demonstrate far better regeneration and retention of native biodiversity on tribal lands than nearby public lands, therefore suggesting that Native Nations are excellent land stewards with results superior to state parks and county, state, and national forests.

Gikinoo’wizhiwe Onji Waaban (Guiding for Tomorrow) Changing Climate, Changing Culture or “G-WOW” Initiative

The “G-WOW” Initiative demonstrates a new model of culturally relevant climate literacy by integrating traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and place-based evidence of how climate change is affecting the traditional “lifeways” of the Lake Superior Ojibwe, with western science. The G-WOW model is transferrable to all cultures and locations and promotes community based action to address changing climate. G-WOW features a web-based service learning curriculum, professional development institutes, school programs, and an interactive learning center at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland, Wisconsin.

G-WOW is a partnership among UW-Extension; the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission representing Ojibwe Tribes in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan; U.S. Forest Service; and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore-National Park Service.

Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve

This the most recent addition to the National Estuarine Reserve System, and is one of 28 areas across the country designated for long-term research on coastal resources and the human populations those resources support. NERR works with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Minnesota) and other partners in education, research and major NERR initiatives.

Ma’iingan (Wolf) Policy

From 2009 to 2011, we collaborated with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to survey tribal attitudes to wolf policy in Wisconsin, and collaborated with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in Michigan to evaluate the effect of state interventions to prevent livestock losses caused by wolves.

From 2018 to 2020, we contributed to the Bad River Natural Resources Department winning a Bureau of Indian Affairs grant to promote coexistence between native carnivores such as wolves, bears, coyotes, and others with tribal members and neighboring landowners. Led by Abi Fergus, a 2020 graduate of the Nelson Institute’s environment and resources MS program, and Lacey Hill Kasten, fieldwork involved a randomized, controlled experiment to evaluate the effectiveness of non-lethal fladry and light deterrents to protect domestic animals from native carnivores.

POSOH: Place-Based Opportunities for Sustainable Outcomes and High Hopes

Developed in partnership with Oneida and Menominee communities, POSOH helps prepare Native American students for bioenergy and sustainability-related studies and careers. POSOH aims to achieve that by offering science education that is both place-based and culturally relevant, attributes that have been shown to improve learning.

Research on Cumulative Land Cover and Water Quality Impacts of Large-Scale Metals Mining in the Lake Superior Ojibwe Treaty-Ceded Territories

This research is coordinated with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC). For Wisconsin, this work mainly involves assessing the effects of old metals mining.

Seasons of the Anishinaabe: Ethnobiology and Ethnohistory of the Bad River Watershed

This is a capstone course that gave students a diverse perspective on ethnobotany, ethnobiology, stewardship practices, and lifeways of the Lake Superior Ojibwe. Students worked at four different field sites on the Bad River Indian Reservation and had multiple opportunities to hear from tribal leadership and natural resource employees throughout the Ojibwe Ceded Territories. The course offered a unique opportunity to study ecology and environmental justice from an indigenous perspective.

Tracking Change

Tracking Change is a research initiative funded by the Social Sciences Humanities Research Council of Canada and led by the University of Alberta, the Traditional Knowledge Steering Committee of the Mackenzie River Basin Board, the Government of the Northwest Territories and more.

From 2015 to 2022, the project will fund local and traditional knowledge research activities in the Mackenzie River basin and sister projects in the Lower Amazon and Lower Mekong River Basins, with the long-term goal of strengthening the voices of subsistence fishers and Indigenous communities in the governance of major fresh water ecosystems.

WI Tribal and University Partnership for Climate Change Online Trainings

This group is working to develop online trainings, a resource list of online educational opportunities, and to coordinate with Wisconsin state agencies to prioritize Traditional Ecological Knowledge and state Tribal expertise on climate impacts. The partner tribes are Red Cliff, Oneida, and Ho-Chunk.

Wolf Harvest Issues in Ceded Territories

This research includes the development of a spatially explicit model that incorporates tribal boundaries, the ceded territory and tribal wolf management goals.

Language and Culture

UW students have few opportunities to develop an appreciation of Native cultures and the efforts of Native Nations to maintain those cultures in the face of colonization and globalization. Faculty, staff, and students will benefit from more opportunities (through classes, research, and outreach) to learn about the pressures that Native people face, especially with regard to their languages.

UW-Madison, Colleges and Extension should offer resources and expertise to support language revitalization where requested. Shared knowledge from differing worldviews enhances deep understanding and generates innovative solutions to contemporary issues.


Bad River Global Health/Tribal Youth Program

This is a field course in the Undergraduate Certificate in Global Health (UCGH). It connects UW-Madison with people in programs on the Bad River Reservation in northern Wisconsin. The program is designed to provide UW students in the UCGH program opportunities to learn about Native American health issues and both traditional and current holistic projects aimed at addressing health issues on the reservation.

This holistic approach has students engaging with tribal elders and others on the reservation in activities designed to demonstrate the Native American connection to the land and how this connection is a vital point in addressing the health and well-being of native peoples on the reservation and beyond.

Collaborative Center for Health Equity

CCHE is part of the NIH-funded UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. CCHE works to promote underserved, minority, and immigrant health; to increase health equity and improve health outcomes; and to assist in the development of health-care providers’ and researchers’ skills in intercultural communication. The center has relationships with tribal, urban, and rural partners throughout Wisconsin, in addition to state and local government collaborations.

Healthy Aging: Creating Trust and Partnership with Native American Communities

Wesley Martin, chairperson on the Oneida National Commission on Aging, and President of the Great Lakes Native American Elder Association presented at the Geriatrics Didactic Series on May 2, 2017 on healthy aging and trust among Native American communities. He is an advocate for Alzheimer’s disease research in partnership with Native American communities.

Although enrolled at Oneida, Mr. Martin is of Menominee and Chippewa heritage as well, and has seen firsthand the immense value in inter-Tribal and Tribal/non-Tribal partnerships. He is prized for his knowledge of tribal program development, policy and procedure and grant writing. As a veteran, Mr. Martin is also proud to contribute to veteran-focused support programming in Indian country.

Healthy Children, Strong Families

HCSF is a community-based, multimodal, early childhood intervention that addresses childhood obesity. HCSF directly involves parents and primary caregivers of preschool-age American Indian children in making family-based healthy lifestyle changes. An initial trial showed promise in reducing adult and child BMIs in overweight/obese children, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, decreasing screen time, and increasing adult self-efficacy for healthy behavior change.

Increasing Culturally Congruent Nursing Care for American Indians in Wisconsin

This group in partnership with the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council (GLITC), seeks to improve the quality of nursing care for American Indian patients by promoting culturally congruent nursing practice. GLITC staff and UW-Madison academic partners scheduled talking circles at each of the four project sites: Lac du Flambeau reservation, Bad River reservation, St. Croix tribal community, and Milwaukee.

Members of the talking circles were encouraged to share their beliefs, views, concerns, experiences, and stories about the health care system in an atmosphere of open communication. The second objective is to attract middle and high school students to careers in health care.

Indigenous Health and Wellness Day (IHWD)

IHWD is a three day event held at Madison College and on the UW-Madison campus. The event reflects an 11-year partnership between the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council (GLITC).

The IHWD program has provided hundreds of Wisconsin’s American Indian/Alaskan Native high school and junior high students exposure to college and careers in health and science. The program has evolved over the years in response to increasing numbers of participants, new program sponsorship and attendee evaluations.

Milwaukee UW-Extension

Educational programming for Milwaukee’s Native American communities is provided by a Native American Outreach Coordinator, educators and staff from Milwaukee County UW-Extension.

  • Agriculture: Native Wellness Garden restoration and support provided as part of the urban agricultural program.
  • Nutrition: EFNEP programs at Indian Community School and senior center.
  • Youth: Advisory committee and intern are identifying youth program opportunities

Native American Center for Health Professions (NACHP)

NACHP seeks to improve the health and wellness of American Indian people by:

  • Enhancing recruitment of Native students to UW health professional schools and programs
  • Improving the Native health professional student experience
  • Establishing and enhancing Native health education opportunities
  • Recruiting, retaining and developing Native faculty
  • Growing Native health academic programs, in both research and education, with tribal communities

NACHP works with prospective students, current students and health professionals to serve as a central location within the UW School of Medicine and Public Health for opportunities of growth, professional development, mentorship, research and support. We offer innovative ways to continue to enhance our pathways of Native health professional students, as well as keep students connected to Native health and wellness issues.

Oneida Nation UW-Extension Educational Programming

Educational programming in the Oneida Nation is supported by UW-Extension educators from Brown and Outagamie counties.

  • Youth Development: Programming is focused on capacity-building and organizational development support for youth and adult volunteers. The 4-H Club on the reservation has a focus on agriculture. Members of Wise Youth are active in leading the Youth as Partners in Civic Leadership Conference and presenting about their work in supporting healthy dating relationships. There is also a summer 4-H Library program.
  • Agriculture: Educators provide technical support in horticulture technical to Tsyunhéhkwa, a certified organic agricultural community located on the Oneida Nation; the fish emulsion project, the white corn project, and technical assistance on food preservation for the Oneida Cannery.
  • Family Living: Educational programs for early head start parents and staff include “Eat Smart Be Active,” “Money for Food Program,” and the Head Start Book Worms project. UW-Extension educators also provide training for developing a logic model and conducting evaluations, and provide professional development for staff in the Commodity Distribution Center.
  • Nutrition: Programs include “Nutrition in the Grocery Store,” a four week Teen Parent program through Social Services, a Farmer’s Market EBT program which is part of Brown County’s EBT incentive initiative, and monthly nutrition programs for TANF, W-2, housing & utility recipients.

Spirit of EAGLES

This group works in a multi-state region to strengthen existing partnerships with Native and non-Native organizations to reduce cancer burden; and increase access to beneficial interventions among American Indian/Alaska Native urban and rural communities.

St. Croix Tribal Health Center Head Start Physicals

This was started by Dr. Murray Katcher and continued by Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, this annual two day trip to the St. Croix Band of Chippewa’s Tribal Health Center helps screen children entering the Head Start program as well as provide valuable pediatric expertise to the staff at the Center. Pediatric residents and medical students are an integral part of the trip and gain experience in working with populations facing a variety of challenges as well as learning aspects of Native American culture.

The Healthy Start Initiative

The broad objectives of the Healthy Start Initiative are to reduce infant mortality and improve the health and well-bring of women, infants, children, and their families. The Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council Healthy Start program achieves these goals by serving American Indian families through outreach, case management, health education, interconceptional care, screening and referral, and coalition-building in five Wisconsin Tribal communities.

The Healthy Start evaluation assesses program implementation and outcomes and works with partners to develop and implement quality improvement and collective impact processes and projects.

Wisconsin Environmental Health Network (WEHN)

(WEHN) works in communities in western Wisconsin whose health is negatively affected by frac sand mining (including land owned by the Ho-Chunk Nation). WEHN seeks to work with health care providers who serve Wisconsin’s tribal communities to educate them on environmental health risks from mining and other industrial activities (including coal-fired power plants).

UW/Native Nations Summit on Environment and Health

This summit provided an opportunity for Wisconsin tribal and community leaders to join with UW researchers and educators to participate in focused conversations that:

  • Explored our shared capacities and concerns about environment and health
  • Discussed issues related to environment, conservation, and all facets of health (physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, cultural, community and environmental)
  • Expanded the cooperating community that links tribal governments and university researchers in the areas of environment and health
  • Began to develop realistic, practical action plans for projects that unite tribal and university resources

Professional Development

Native Nations_Nelson Cultural Responsiveness Training 2023


  • Jessie Conaway, Native Nations Partnerships, Nelson Institute
  • Marlon WhiteEagle, president, Ho-Chunk Nation
  • Darren Brinegar, housing committee, Ho-Chunk Nation

Toward University-Tribal Partnerships that Uphold Sovereignty, Contribute to Communal Thriving, and Transform the University

  • Megan Bang, professor, Northwestern University

Tribal Cultural Perspectives Toward Educational Collaboration

  • Bill Quackenbush, Ho-Chunk Nation tribal historic preservation officer

Earth Partnership Indigenous Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Education

  • Maria Moreno, associate for experiential education, Global Health Institute UW-Madison

2022 Native Nations_Nelson Institute Fall Conservation Virtual Workshop: Mayom~Manoomin~Wild Rice Stewardship and Governance


  • Jessie Conaway, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies


  • Dennis Kenote, Menominee Language and Culture Committee
  • Jeff Mears, executive director, Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Advisory Council
  • Anthony Kuchma, wetland program coordinator, Oneida Nation
  • Tracy Hames, executive director, Wisconsin Wetlands Association
  • Jason Fleener, wetland habitat specialist, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Native Nations Fall Workshop 2017: Groundwater Management and Conservation


  • Kevin Masarik, groundwater education specialist, UW-Extension, UW-Stevens Point
  • George Kraft, director, Center for Watershed Science, UW-Stevens Point
  • Roy Irving, hazards assessment section chief, Wisconsin Department of Health Services
  • Megan Haserodt, hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey
  • Charles Dunning, vice president of business development, Welintel
  • Dani Santry, water resource specialist, Calumet County Groundwater Guardians

Native Ways for Climate Adaptation

This work brings Tribes/Nations and the University of Wisconsin-Madison together to engage Tribal professionals with climate change science in the context of their traditions, work, and communities. There is a focus on traditional harvests and community health.

Globally, Indigenous people demonstrate leadership in addressing and adapting to climate change. Although the contemporary carbon emissions scenario was not created by Tribal lifestyles, climate change will have disproportionate effects on Tribal life because of limited land base and reliance on subsistence lifestyles.