Global Indigenous Connections Enrich the CMN Experience

Feb 19th, 2015 | By | Category: 26-3: Global Indigenous Higher Education, Tribal College News

As part of a workshop on global climate change, CMN faculty visited a remote Garo village in northern Bangladesh. Photo courtesy of Kohima Daring

“We never know when another delegation from abroad will find its way to us in Wisconsin,” says College of Menominee Nation (CMN) president Verna Fowler. “In the same way, international travel opportunities continue to surface with great regularity for our faculty and students.”

Both visitors and invitations to travel are gladly received at CMN’s Keshena and Green Bay campuses. “When a student has never been far beyond the state, or beyond the reservation,” Fowler observes, “the educational enrichment and world perspective gained from meeting Indigenous people from elsewhere is incalculable. It truly opens their eyes.” CMN has had Indigenous guests from countries as distant as Cameroon, Bolivia, and Oman, where the Indigenous people trace their tribal origins to biblical tribes. The reasons for these global connections are as varied as the locations involved.

“What draws people to the college is our ability to share knowledge on the gamut of topics,” Fowler says. “Some are interested in forest management and our focus on sustainable development. Others want to know how the Menominee have managed to remain on a portion of their ancestral lands. Many have questions about the tribe’s or the college’s governance structure. Those developing educational institutions for their own tribes may come to study the college’s program array or learn about our funding sources.”

In exchange, CMN faculty and staff have answered invitations to travel to locations as varied as Brazil, Belize, Turkey, and Rwanda. Most recent among the college’s global travelers was faculty member William Van Lopik, who led a workshop on climate change in Bangladesh last July. His presentation for representatives from 15 national nonprofit organizations was under the auspices of World Renew, a non-governmental organization working in Bangladesh. For his talk, Dr. Van Lopik used the Menominee Nation’s model for sustainable development to frame how climate change is affecting the land, environment, culture, economy, and institutions.

In northern Bangladesh, beyond the cities of Dhaka and Netrokona, Van Lopik visited several villages of the Indigenous Garo tribe, where the subsistence agricultural system based on rice and fishing is being severely impacted by climate change. “It was humbling for me,” Van Lopik relates, “to see people addressing issues of climate change in a very serious way, even though it is a problem brought on by the rich consumer nations of the world.” In the spirit of shared concerns and CMN’s open door to global visitors, he adds, “I can easily foresee a time in the future when CMN will be hosting a guest visitor from Bangladesh.”

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