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David J. Voelker Posts

The “4Rs” of First Nations Education

Since at least 2018, I have been using a course handout on the “4Rs” of First Nations Education with my students at UWGB to introduce them to widely shared indigenous values when we study First Nations history. After several iterations, I am now sharing the document publicly. I created this document based on many years of working with Dr. Rosemary Christensen and other colleagues in the First Nations Studies program at UWGB.

I’d like to draw attention to the acknowledgments included with this document. I am grateful for teachings that I have received from a number of First Nations elders, in addition to Rosemary Christensen (Mole Lake Band of Lake Superior Chippewa), over the years, including: Napos (David Turney, Menominee Nation) and Carol Cornelius (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican), as well as several elders who have walked on: Dorothy Davids (Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican), Loretta Metoxen (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin), David Courchene, Jr. (Sagkeeng Ojibwe First Nation, Manitoba, Canada), and Joe Rose, Sr. (Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa). Their teachings and perspectives have shaped and informed my views in many ways, though I do not claim that these elders would endorse all of my positions. Several colleagues in First Nations Studies at UWGB, including Professors Lisa Poupart, Forrest Brooks, and J P Leary, have been trusted advisors and friends for many years, as I worked (and continue to work) on integrating First Nations history, culture, and sovereignty into my courses.

I have also shared a personal Acknowledgment of Wisconsin’s First Nations People and Land.

I share this online teaching handout freely via a Creative Commons license, as noted on the document.

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PPM C02 Stamp

420.99 PPM (May 2022)

The memorial sign for the Ok glacier in Iceland, which was written by Andri Snær Magnason, includes a CO2 PPM stamp:

A letter to the future

Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as glacier. In the next 200 years all our main glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.

August 2019, 415 ppm CO2

According to an NOAA report from 4/7/21: “The atmospheric burden of CO2 [then at 412.5 PPM] is now comparable to where it was during the Mid-Pliocene Warm Period around 3.6 million years ago, when concentrations of carbon dioxide ranged from about 380 to 450 parts per million. During that time sea level was about 78 feet higher than today, the average temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in pre-industrial times, and studies indicate large forests occupied areas of the Arctic that are now tundra.”

As of May 2022, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reached 420.99 parts per million (PPM).

The concentration of CO2 has increased by almost 70 PPM since NASA scientist James Hansen testified before a U.S. congressional committee about the problem. The annual average concentration of CO2 has increased every year since direct measurements began in 1958. Since the beginning of industrialization in the 19th century, CO2 levels have increased by about 140 PPM, an increase of over fifty percent.

Notwithstanding the Paris climate agreement, emissions of CO2 and other climate warming gases (especially methane) have continued to rise, and current plans to reduce emissions are woefully inadequate.

As young climate activists have argued, climate change is both an emergency and a crisis, requiring both action at all levels of society and government. If ever there was a moment for human solidarity–with each other and with the larger community of life–this is it.

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Envisioning Sustainability through Teaching and Learning

On April 12, 2022, I was incredibly fortunate to have an opportunity to give a co-keynote address at the 2022 Saint Cloud State University’s Provost Summit on Excellence in Teaching and Learning entitled “Envisioning Sustainability through Teaching and Learning,” with my friend and former UWGB colleague Alison K. Staudinger. Alison and I met frequently throughout early 2022 to craft a talk in dialogue format, building on our collaboration for UWGB’s 2020 Common CAHSS conference on the theme of Beyond Sustainability.* We attempted to address the big question, “Can the university, through both teaching and research, help co-create an affirmative vision for the Anthropocene?” A video recording of the event is available, as are our sources. Thanks to Alison for the collaboration and to La Vonne Cornell-Swanson for making it possible!

* Here is a video recording of Alison’s Sept. 24, 2020, talk, “Making Good Choices: Thinking about Ethics beyond Sustainability.” And here are links to video and sources for my Nov. 30, 2020, talk, “Beyond Sustainability: Imagining an Ecological Future.”

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Three Practices for Facing Climate Disruption (Resources)

This list of sources and resources accompanies my talk titled “Three Practices for Facing Climate Disruption” for the Climate Change Teach-In at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay on April 18, 2022. I’d especially like to highlight the list of feelings and the list of needs from Bay NVC (Non-Violent Communication). Both of these lists are of course partial, but they can be helpful when trying to name feelings and needs for the honoring pain practice that I shared. For a brief description of the concept of “honoring our pain for the world,” see this discussion of the Spiral of the Work that Reconnects.

By “practices,” I mean an activity or way of being that you can intentionally engage with on a regular basis. This goes a bit deeper than a habit. You may have a habit of brushing your teeth, but you might do this without much intention or mindfulness. A practice requires a certain level of mindful engagement. Francis Weller, who is a psychotherapist, writer, and grief activist who graduated from UWGB, has explained that “A practice offers ballast, something to help us hold steady in difficult times.” He says “Any form will do–writing, drawing, meditation, prayer, dance, or something else–as long was we continue to show up and maintain our effort” (Wild Edge of Sorrow, p. 5).

I want to emphasize that I did not invent these practices! Many of these are “ways so old they’re new,” to use a felicitous phrase from poet and activist Lyla June Johnston, who has Diné, Cheyenne, and European ancestors. They are especially rooted in indigenous and South and East Asian wisdom traditions. I’m especially influenced by the Work that Reconnects, whose root teacher is Joanna Macy, who respectfully draws on these traditions. In fact, the first two practices come directly from the spiral of the Work that Reconnects.

I hope to share these practices more fully in the future, but here’s a short list:

  • Ground Yourself with Gratitude
  • Honor Your Pain for the World
  • Support Interconnectedness
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Infusing Sustainability into Courses across the Curriculum (Workshop)

On April 12, 2022, I had the great pleasure of facilitating a workshop titled “Infusing Sustainability into Courses across the Curriculum” as part of the Saint Cloud State University’s 2022 Provost’s Summit.

I have shared a list of resources on the following topics:

  • Land Acknowledgments
  • First Nations Perspectives
  • Sustainability & Unsustainability in Critical Perspective
  • Pedagogy & Teaching Resources

The list includes several teaching resources that I share freely through Creative Commons licenses:

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Acknowledgment of Wisconsin’s First Nations Peoples and Lands

Above: “Current Tribal Lands Map” from WISCONSINFIRSTNATIONS.ORG.

As a resident of the state of Wisconsin, I live, work, and find recreation on the traditional homelands of several First Nations, including the Menominee, Ho-Chunk, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi peoples. These Nations were the original human inhabitants of the place that we today call Wisconsin. They each have relationships with the land and waters of the region stretching back to time out of mind. While the achievements of the United States (established in 1776) are frequently extolled, it often goes unacknowledged that this nation was created from land that it unfairly took through a combination of deception, intimidation, and force. Such was the case here in Wisconsin.

Thus, in support of historical accuracy and out of respect for these peoples, I believe it is necessary and important for me as a historian, teacher, and citizen to acknowledge Wisconsin’s First Nations peoples and lands. I share and reflect here on some aspects of Wisconsin history that I believe are important for all Wisconsinites to know and consider but that are often neglected.

The Green Bay area, which is the site of my home and my employer, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, is located within the traditional homelands of the Menominee Nation and the Ho-Chunk Nation. The Menominee were forced to cede the vast majority of their homelands, and their nation exists today only because they fought for restoration after the U.S. government terminated the tribe. The Ho-Chunk were repeatedly expulsed from their homelands and have tribal lands in Wisconsin today only because of their incredible resilience and persistence.

On the west side of Green Bay, the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin has treaty lands that were unfairly taken away from them through the Dawes Allotment Act and other schemes. All told, the Oneida lost about 95% of their lands by the late twentieth century, when funds generated through tribal gaming operations gave them resources to start buying back land. In addition to the Oneida people, who came to Wisconsin from New York state, there are other First Nations in Wisconsin—including the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans and the Brothertown Indian Nation—who came here seeking refuge as they were pushed out of their eastern homelands. They placed their trust in the U.S. government, which, unfortunately, repeatedly betrayed the tribes’ confidence, as it did in so many similar cases.

As a settler whose European ancestors migrated to North America between the early seventeenth and the late nineteenth centuries, I recognize that I have benefited from the dispossession of Native people. Some of my ancestors, for example, had access to cheap land as a result of the federal policy of expulsing First Nations from eastern territories. I realize that I cannot undo this history, but I am committed to interrogating and interrupting the systemic injustices of colonization and contributing to a more just future for First Nations people through my actions as a teacher, scholar, citizen, and parent.

I express gratitude for the many First Nations elders, colleagues, students, and friends from whom I have learned so much; for the advocacy that First Nations people have done on behalf of their communities and the larger community of life; and for the resilience of First Nations people across Turtle Island.

David Voelker

Present-day Green Bay, Wisconsin

* For more information about the history referenced here, I highly recommend Patty Loew’s, Indian Nations of Wisconsin, 2nd edition (2019) and The Ways: Stories on Culture & Language from Native Communities around the Central Great Lakes at theways.org. For additional information about land acknowledgments, see this resource page that I co-created with Dr. Crystal Lepscier for a Feb. 2022 Lifelong Learning Institute course at UWGB.

Updated August 9, 2022

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Dialogue Principles

During the summer of 2020, as I was planning to teach my Fall 2020 courses at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay entirely online, I was eager to find new ways to support students as they developed their capacity to have meaningful discussions about U.S.-American history. To be honest, I also felt anxious, given that political polarization seemed worse than at any time in my teaching career. (Little did I know that the political climate of divisiveness and disinformation would grow even worse during the first several months of the academic year!) What could I do to help foster respectful dialogue? What tools could I provide to help students navigate difficult situations that might emerge, such as microaggressions or hate speech?

Perhaps I need not have worried, but given that an online discussion assignment that I called “Historical Conversations” was central to my courses, I decided that I needed a clear plan.

I thus created these Dialogue Principles, which became the topic of the first discussion in my online courses. I asked students to respond to these principles, to make suggestions for other principles, and to share their thoughts about the challenges of having meaningful dialogue during our time (which included the global COVID-19 pandemic, heated debates and protests over police violence, and the U.S. presidential election).

Across the academic year, I worked with about two hundred students in online courses, and across their thousands of discussion posts, I never once noticed a disrespectful remark. I occasionally observed respectful disagreement, which played an important role in the learning process, and scores of students commented on how much they learned from their classmates through these discussions, as they encountered new perspectives and information.

My students, of course, deserve all of the credit for their openminded and respectful engagement in these conversations, but I think that instructors also have an important role to play in creating the classroom community as a zone for respectful dialogue. I wasn’t aware of anything “going wrong” in these discussions, but if microaggressions or even hate speech became a problem, I wanted to have some principles to apply to address the situation.

I am sharing these principles freely through a Creative Commons license; see the end of the document for details. Feel free to modify or customize it for your own needs. I also share a number of resources on Reflective Dialogue, including other shareable handouts.

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“Infusing Sustainability” Workshop

On May 10-11, 2021, I had the great pleasure of facilitating part of a workshop on “Infusing Sustainability” for faculty at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. I would like to thank UWRF Sustainability Fellow Grace Coggio for inviting me to participate!

I have shared a list of resources on the following topics:

  • Land Acknowledgments
  • First Nations Perspectives
  • Sustainability & Unsustainability in Critical Perspective
  • Pedagogy & Teaching Resources

The list includes several teaching resources that I share freely through Creative Commons licenses:

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Guided Meditation on the Ecological Self

This meditation is inspired by the concept of the ecological self as described by Arne Naess, Joanna Macy, John Seed, and other participants in the Deep Ecology movement, which began in the early 1970s, and also by a guided meditation by Sharon Salzburg on gratitude and our interconnectedness with other people.

The ecological self honored here is the expansive, interconnected self, that lives in relationship with everything else that exists.

I am sharing this meditation freely through a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

If you prefer to download the audio file, you can access it here.

The script for the meditation is available here, in case you’d like to read the meditation yourself or make modifications.

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