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College of Education > News and Publications > News: April - June 2011 > ICIK Teams with American Indian Leadership Program for Spring Retreat

ICIK Teams with American Indian Leadership Program for Spring Retreat

Spring retreat on indigenous knowledge features distinguished speakers.

by Nancy Stiger (May 2011)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A spring retreat sponsored by the Interinstitutional Consortium for Indigenous Knowledge (ICIK) brought ten distinguished speakers from across the country to University Park on April 15, both in person and via Skype, to address retreat attendees from around the world.

ICIK, located in Penn State’s College of Education, is a collaboration with the College of Agricultural Sciences and the University Libraries. It is part of a global network comprised of more than 20 indigenous knowledge resource centers in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. ICIK is the only global indigenous knowledge resource center located in the United States.

This year the ICIK partnered with the American Indian Leadership Program (AILP) to focus on the traditional ecological knowledge of Native Americans. AILP, also housed in the College of Education, is directed by Susan Faircloth, associate professor of education. It is the longest-running program of its type in the nation, carrying a mission to prepare American Indians/Alaska Natives for leadership positions in educational organizations.

Two AILP members, Eryka Charley and Connie Filesteel, attended the retreat, updating the AILP’s Twitter account with tweets throughout the day.

Other retreat co-sponsors included the College of Agricultural Sciences, the Eberly College of Science’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the College of Engineering’s Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship Program, Penn State University Libraries, the Palmer Museum of Art, and two additional entities of the College of Education—the Department of Curriculum and Instruction’s (C&I) science education emphasis area, and the Education Technology Center.

The day started in 236 Chambers Building with a presentation by Melissa Nelson, professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University and president of The Cultural Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that helps Native people maintain their culture and traditions. Nelson participated from another conference in New Orleans via Skype, giving an introduction to traditional ecological knowledge to the group.

Following Nelson, two other speakers addressed the group using Skype—Melba Martin, student services director for Chinle (Arizona) Unified School District, and Ron Sutcliffe, an archeoastronomer and author of Moon Tracks.

ICIK co-director Audrey Maretzki says this year is a first for an ICIK retreat to use Skype technology.

“Using Skype was (C&I graduate student) Steve Krajeski's idea and I thought it was quite successful,” Maretzki said. “There were a few technical glitches, but I think the information was successfully transmitted.”

Concluding the morning session was a group discussion led by Chris Palma, a faculty member in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State. The informal lunch that followed provided an opportunity for retreat participants to learn more about each other’s interest in indigenous knowledge.

The afternoon sessions were held in 116 Chambers building, beginning with Janice Straley, assistant professor of marine biology at the University of Alaska’s Sitka campus. Straley spoke on engaging Alaskan and Hawaiian students in marine ecology by using ocean pathways and animal migrations to merge traditional and western science.

Other speakers were Jason Sanders, National Science Foundation project manager and assistant to the academic dean at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College; and Bruce Martin, course manager and facilitator of the award-winning Penn State course on “Exploring Indigenous Ways of Knowing of the Anishinaabe.” Sanders spoke to the group about the development of a curriculum based on traditional Ojibwe knowledge, while Martin described the cultural-immersion Anishinaabe course that takes place annually on the Red Lake, Leech Lake and White Earth reservations in Minnesota.

Krajeski also spoke, providing a student’s perspective on the course (CIED/AG 497A). The course is sponsored by ICIK, cross-listed by the colleges of Education and Agricultural Sciences, and offered through Continuing Education.

A presentation by Kevin Slivka, doctoral student in art education, highlighted the work of contemporary Native American artists. The retreat concluded at the Palmer Museum of Art with a gallery talk on ancient Andean pottery by Dana Kletchka. Joining the group at the museum was Barbara Palmer. She and her late husband, James Palmer, established an endowment that led to an expansion of the museum, which now bears their name.

Maretzki said this year’s retreat was one of ICIK’s most successful events.

“I was particularly pleased to have both the American Indian Leadership Program and the Science Education Program in the College of Education, as well as the Astronomy and Astrophysics Department, the Penn State Libraries and the Palmer Museum of Art as co-sponsors for this retreat,” Maretzki said. “I also thought it was awesome to have speakers whose work involving indigenous knowledge was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.”