Extension grant focuses on culturally responsive leadership skills for tribal communities

Researchers, faculty, and staff from the UW-Madison Division of Extension will use a new grant to facilitate and develop a tribal-focused leadership skills program built on indigenous teachings and informed by tribal communities. The Tribes Lead! program, which recently was named as an Extension Innovative Funding awardee, will develop leadership programs in the Lac du Flambeau, Lac Courte Oreilles, and Menominee Nation communities and bring lessons learned to the UW-Madison Campus.

Through UW-Madison’s Native Nations_UW Working Group – as well as Extension community engagement, outreach from the Nelson Institute, and direct requests from tribes – a need emerged for culturally relevant leadership training for tribal communities. The new program will create decolonized leadership programming by integrating indigenous leadership perspectives and traditional knowledge with “western” Euro-centric leadership concepts. Topics will cover economic development, sovereignty, culture and language, health and food sovereignty, youth engagement, and more.

“For Indian people, cultural teachings and indigenous knowledge provide an interconnected pathway for systems of governance, combating social and economic inequities, and addressing critical issues,” said Dr. Annie Jones, Extension Organization Development and Tribal Nations Specialist. “This is aimed at skill development for roles in tribes and within families.”

Tribes Lead participants

Participants of a pilot program for Extension’s Tribes Lead! initiative gather to discuss best practices in leadership development.

The new program builds off a 2018 grant from the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development to engage tribal elders in identifying teachings relevant to leadership development.

Jones is working on the project with Extension faculty and staff including Brian Gauthier, Lac du Flambeau Community Resource Educator; Cathy Techtmann, Environmental Outreach Specialist; Jennifer Gauthier, Menominee County Community Resource Educator; Ariga Grigoryan, Sawyer County/ Lac Courte Oreilles Community Resource Educator, and Aaron Bird Bear, Director of Tribal Relations. Partners include the UW-Madison Extension Native American Task Force, the Native Nations_UW Working Group, Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Community College, College of Menominee Nation, and Michigan State Extension.

The Great Lakes area is Indian country, with 35 federally recognized tribes. Leadership programs often center around European ideals and can avoid specific cultural issues. The Tribes Lead! program will create an advisory council of tribal leaders, elders, and youth from the Lac du Flambeau, Lac Courte Oreilles, and Menominee Nation communities to provide consultation on program development and implementation. Leadership development will result in Great Lakes Tribal Nations having increased leadership capacity to address strategic issues impacting their communities.

The Tribes Lead! work will also inform tribal outreach on the UW-Madison Campus, with an eye toward leadership research in conjunction with tribal nations and other higher education institutions.

The Tribes Lead! initiative is part of Extension’s competitive Innovation Funding series to implement projects that reach new audiences, support cross-topic work, and advance the division’s priorities. More than $200,000 is committed to 19 projects that span all of Wisconsin or individual counties. You can read about all of the projects here.