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Relating To Each Other And To The Land

Conversations: Creating Space, Faith and Action

Tell us about yourself!

Emily Worman: I recently graduated with a degree in Environmental Geography and Spanish. During my time at UMN, I was engaged in a variety of positions related to sustainability, including climatology research, air quality monitoring, and interning in the non-profit sector to develop an environmental education program.

Christina Lundgren: I also recently graduated with a BA in Literature with minors in Sustainability and Product Design. Fall of 2017, I went on exchange in Hilo, Hawai‘i, learning about sustainability through equity, indigenous practices, and oceanography. When I came back to Minnesota, I became activated to learn more about indigenous communities here. Currently I am working with IonE, to help strengthen the University’s Environmental Justice education and community-engaged learning.

What’s the backstory of this video?

EW: This video grew out of a group project for a Grand Challenge Course: Sustainability in the Anthropocene: Living the Good Life at the End of the World. We planned to conduct interviews, research environmental justice issues and the communities impacted by them, and develop a video that could be used as an educational tool for people being introduced to the concept of environmental justice and how indigenous cultures are connected to the land we are on. 

CL: We began our video with insights from local indigenous voices for our class, connecting with Carter Meland, Francis Bettelyoun, and Tufawon. They shared great insights and it energized us to want to include even more perspectives and identities.

What was the inspiration for this project?

CL: In an American Indian Studies course at the end of my junior year taught by Carter Meland, I learned we are on Dakota land. I was amazed and upset that I hadn’t learned this until now, especially considering I was a student focusing on multicultural studies in the college of liberal arts. Many of my peers were also unaware. 

EW: Like Christina, my majors were interdisciplinary but environmental justice topics were often glossed over. It was through internships and opportunities off-campus that I learned more about local organizations working to address injustices, but it can be easy for many students to stay in the campus bubble. This project was a way to make more students and faculty aware of the environmental and social inequalities that affect people near campus, because it needs to be recognized and talked about more

What was really important for you as you developed this project?

CL: In many sustainability classes we learn about trees, wild animals, pollution, etc. and less about the people who unduly bear the burdens of climate change and excessive consumption. We wanted to connect with people in the surrounding community who could share their stories. We also wanted to celebrate indigenous perspectives, both in acknowledgement to the land our country is on, as well as to share their cultural insights and alternative worldviews to our current levels of consumption.

What was challenging about this project?

CL: After conducting all the interviews, we had nearly four hours of footage. Editing to a short video was very challenging to say the least. We know our short video does not do justice to the ideas and wisdom that was shared, but are grateful for the archive that we have, and are well aware that this archive is in itself just the tip of the iceberg.

How do you feel you have changed or grown as part of this year’s IonE Undergrad Leaders cohort?

EW: Through this working on this project as a part of this cohort, I was able to develop my project management skills, learn how to conduct informational interviews, and gain video editing skills. 


CL: This project, even within our course, was very open ended. The Undergrad Leaders Program helped us continue to ideate and how to organize our time around the deadlines and components we felt we needed and were able to address.

What was your favorite part of being part of the IonE Undergraduate Leaders?

EW: I really enjoyed connecting with other students who were also passionate about environmental issues and wanted to get engaged with the community on campus. I also liked hearing from professionals in the sustainability field, which helped me shape some of my own career goals. 

CL: Echoing Emily, meeting fellow peers motivated us to work together on sustainability challenges and having mentors through IonE to help us shape our ideas into actions.

What do you hope viewers will do after seeing this video?

We hope that viewers will be encouraged to educate themselves about the issues surrounding indigenous rights and land sovereignty in Minnesota. There are many resources where you can learn about the history of the Dakota land and the important work that indigenous communities are doing to preserve their culture and land. 

We also want to connect people who are interested in learning about and working on these issues with organizations, because donating and volunteering are the best ways to support the work already being done in environmental justice communities. 

Thank you for watching and reading! We hope you take what you have learned and use it to begin conversations and get involved in whatever capacity you are able to.

Interested in working on a project of your own?


Apply to be an Undergraduate Leader here today!

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