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Native Nations Significance to UW–Madison and Human Ecology

The First Nations of the United States, and those of Wisconsin, have demonstrated marked resilience over several decades but also face complex contemporary challenges in a
rapidly changing world. First nations in Wisconsin have identified and prioritized a number of community concerns, including environmental issues, language and cultural revitalization, and community, cultural and educational health. Unfortunately, in recent years, the struggle has only become more difficult as longstanding societal problems associated with chronic poverty and healthcare have been aggravated by a national epidemic of substance abuse, high levels of unemployment, and the environmental destruction brought on by climate change. More than ever, the tribal nations must work hard to preserve their unique cultural customs and traditions, their ecological knowledge, their special relationship to their ancestral lands, and their extended kinship networks and inter-generational ties, all of which are essential to addressing the problems confronting them.

In the state of Wisconsin, First Nation youth live in both large urban communities and in small sovereign tribal towns. Faculty in the department of Civil Society and Community Studies are working to focus effort on promoting youth development.

In terms of youth, family and community development in Native communities, we know that:

  • programming that builds upon community strengths and cultural assets can lead to improved educational and behavioral health outcomes for Native youth and adults.
  • Native youth benefit from community and social support of a cohort in school and from role models in positions of authority.
  • sustainable community development supportive of traditional cultural values, governance structures and sovereignty can support improved socioeconomic and community outcomes.

The School of Human Ecology has long demonstrated its commitment to making programs accessible, welcoming, and effective for all. As a result, human ecology enrolls the most Native students, as well as the most ethnic-minority students, of any unit on campus (the percentage of students of color has grown from 15.7% of the total enrollment in Fall 2013 to 19.1% in Fall 2016; comparable campus-wide enrollments during this same period rose from 15.2% to 16.4%.). The recruitment and retention of graduate students from underrepresented minority groups is the highest priority of human ecology’s graduate program (with percentages growing from 20% to 25% over the past three years as compared to campus levels of 12-13%). Over the past three years, the SoHE has been successful at meeting its recruiting goals due to new policies and practices put in place in the graduate program. The school continues to expand courses and research focused on Native American issues and thereby further increase the enrollment of Native American students at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

Source: Fall 2017 Cluster Hire proposal