Indigenous Knowledge & Environmental Sustainability Certificate
Environmental Studies is always on the cutting edge of the intersection of community and academics. This past year the University of Montana encouraged departments to add new ways to credential students and community members. I developed the Indigenous Knowledge & Environmental Sustainability 12-credit certificate—the first of its kind in the nation (see the Missoulian article, “University of Montana program focuses on sustainability techniques of Indigenous people”.
The certificate is designed to prepare students to work within Indigenous communities and/or on Indigenous issues with nonprofits and government agencies—utilizing ancient wisdom to help solve 21st century problems. To complete the certificate, students will take our course on “Traditional Ecological Knowledge of Indigenous Peoples” and our internship on “Native Plant Stewardship and Ethnobotany” (or a related environmental science internship), which will bring together academic skills with practical experiences, plus two electives that focus on environmental sustainability or Indigenous issues.
We are fortunate that Environmental Studies faculty have worked closely with Indigenous communities over the years and incorporate important Indigenous stories into our curriculum. Because of this our students strengthen their knowledge and learn how Indigenous peoples are moving toward revitalizing their communities, restoring Native landscapes, returning to traditional food systems, reestablishing long held sustainable practices, and strengthening traditional ecological knowledge.
In the coming year I will be on sabbatical working on two different but related research and writing projects. One is studying Native American relationships to the natural world, gender, and ethnobotanical knowledge. I hope this becomes my third book tentatively titled "Plants That Purify." I also plan to connect this narrative with my work on contemporary environmental Indigenous activism and women’s religious practice while serving as a Fellow with the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Program in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs.
By Rosalyn LaPier
Photo: Rosalyn LaPier, on left, Robin Kimmerer, on right, at the March for Science, 2017.