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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.

Jessica Conaway
Environment & Natural Resources Lead
Faculty Associate Wisconsin Native Nations Partnerships Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

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.

Erin Silva, UW Plant Pathology

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.

Alexandra Chesney, Ph.D. Student, Department of Soil Science

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.

William Gartner, Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography

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.

Donald Waller, Professor, Botany and Nelson Institute

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, WI. G-WOW is a partnership between 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.

Cathy Techtmann, Professor, Environmental Outreach Specialist, UW-Extension, Environmental Resources Center

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.

Erika Washburn, Lake Superior NERR

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.

Hedi Lauffer, Researcher, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and Co-Project Director

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.

Scott Cardiff, Ph.D. Student, Nelson Institute
Steve Ventura, Professor, Soils and Nelson Institute

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.

Joe Rose, Bad River Ojibwe elder, member of the Midewiwin Lodge, and retired Northland College faculty
Jessie Conaway, lecturer and Nelson Institute Native Nations Outreach Specialist

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 2015-2022, 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.

Ian Baird, Professor, Geography

WI Tribal & 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.

Jessie Conaway, Nelson Institute Native Nations Outreach Specialist

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.

Tim Van Deelen, Forest and Wildlife Ecology

Wolf policy

This is a collaboration with Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to survey tribal attitudes to wolf policy in Wisconsin, and collaboration with Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in Michigan to evaluate the effect of state interventions to prevent livestock losses caused by wolves.

Adrian Treves, Associate Professor, Nelson Institute