Holistic ways of knowing can lead to satisfying environment

By: 
Ryan Winn
Columnist

According to Dr. Anne Jones, the Menominee word anāmaehkatih translates to “Happy New Year.”

She shared: “I just learned that phrase from Monica Macaulay who is a linguistics professor at UW-Madison. It was provided by an elder in the 1980s. It quite likely comes from the verb anāmaehkatowak, ‘They greet each other, say goodbye to each other, shake hands,’ because one of the words for January is anāmaehkatwan-kēsoq— shaking hands moon.”

Jones spoke at the College of Menominee Nation’s employee convocation last week to help kick off the new semester. At the invitation of CMN President Christopher Caldwell, she facilitated a conversation titled: “Spirit, heart, mind and body: Holistic ways of knowing can lead to a satisfying environment for learning and working well with one another.”

“Menominee and Indigenous ways of knowing, like language and cultural teachings, are vitally important to our people and our ability to thrive well into the future,” Jones said. “We know that the Menominee and Wisconsin’s Tribal Nations were deeply and profoundly impacted by colonization, forced removals, termination and the boarding school era. Native people have cultural teachings, ways of being and knowing that have sustained us since time immemorial and it’s extremely important that we honor our ancestors and our children of the future by leading from our culture.”

Jones, who describes her professional background as being “in community development,” is a professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension.

“I have worked for Extension for 25 years serving in a variety of capacities including associate dean, special assistant to the dean for strategic directions and as a community development educator in Kenosha County,” Jones said. “As a specialist, I use Indigenous methodologies like the medicine wheel and cultural teachings to help people, organizations and communities achieve their goals.

“The least important thing about me is my educational background and the most important thing is that I’m a Menominee. Sure, I’m proud that I went to school and earned a Ph.D., but I am even more proud of my family. My grandmother was Mary Blumreich, who was among the many leaders who fought for restoration, and my mom is Joan Lord who lives in Keshena. Their hard work and perseverance created the circumstances that got me to where I am today.

“I was born in Oconto Falls and grew up in Kenosha. I’m proud of my Swedish grandmother too. I come from a long line of strong women.”

Jones’ conversation with CMN’s staff and faculty was not her first interaction with the school. She enthused, “I learn so much when I visit and I feel like I am at home and comfortable with just being who I am. I’ve been at CMN to help with a ‘Tribes Lead!’ program, to help moderate a panel discussion and am also helping with some program evaluation.”

Still, her conversation was the first time she addressed all of CMN’s employees.

“I hope that faculty and staff see ways to incorporate cultural teachings into their work and that faculty in particular feel comfortable with exploring ways to indigenize their curriculum and learning outcomes,” Jones said

Jones began by noting that while the Badger State is only 175 years old, archeological findings show that Menominee people have lived here, in the place now called Wisconsin, for at least 14,000 years.

“Indigenous ways of knowing are more important than academic ways of knowing, at times, but we need both,” Jones said.

While all CMN employees are trained in part in the Western world, Jones focused their attention on what she called the “Grandparent Teachings.” Calling them “how to be in the world,” Jones explained that humans have spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical gifts that make up the four quadrants of the medicine wheel.

“We need to use all of our gifts,” she said. “Sometimes we find comfort in our own personal strengths or abilities, but the lesson of the Medicine Wheel is to use all four of the components.”

After CMN employees self-divided into the quadrant they felt was their strength, each group reflected on their value and when their gift became overdeveloped and caused shadowing — going from a strength to a deterrent — that stifled both personal and collaborative growth for the school.

Ultimately, CMN was asked to look to a higher power and ask “how is spirit calling your name to create a more holistic learning and working environment?” Jones said. “I hope that everyone knows that they are valued and important to the success of CMN and to its students.”

Judging by the stories shared aloud both in small groups and larger discussions, Jones achieved her goal. To put it another way, her visit went a long way in ensuring a reflective, anāmaehkatowak for CMN and the students it serves.

Ryan Winn teaches courses in communication, English, history, and theater at College of Menominee Nation. For more information about the school, visit www.menominee.edu.

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