The North Central Region Water Network, The First American Land-Grant Consortium (FALCON), and partners across the North Central Region hosted The Climate, Water, Equity, and Opportunity Workshop in October 2023 in Denver, Colorado. This event brought out nearly 70 professionals from land-grant institutions committed to integration, inclusion, and interconnection to explore strategy-based solutions to address climate-related vulnerabilities and inequities in marginalized communities.
The objective of this event was to increase trust and communication among 1862, 1890, and 1994 institutions and draft actionable suggestions that will expand our knowledge to provide climate and water programming to historically underserved social strata with a focus on Black, Indigenous, and Latin communities. The two-day workshop included four panelists and six lightning talks, who shared their pivotal approach to connecting with the agents of change to reinforce economic, social, and environmental resilience.
As our scientists shared their expertise on cultural mosaic and climate change adaption strategies developed in different contexts, it was clear that they all underlined that the leading factor to have a successful and long-lasting relationship with agents of change was the importance of investing time and showing up. To illustrate this assertion Alton Thompson, Executive Director at the Association of 1890 Research Directors, highlighted the famous quote of the former president, Theodore Roosevelt; “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care”.
Furthermore, to reflect on the takeaways and valuable lessons from the discussion, the participants collaborated on working sessions led by our facilitator, Jennifer Gauthier. The central concept of these sessions was the Medicinal Wheel, which is a Native American mandala symbol that serves as an illustration of integration and was later developed by Anna Jones, 2014 as a tool to Facilitate the Implementation of a Strategic Plan at the University of Wisconsin-Extension.
Even though there are multiple variations of a medicinal wheel, the one implemented at the conference included “self” at the center, spirit, heart, mind, and body as the other quadrants (Jones, 2014). This tool made our professionals reflect on their role as inherent members of a complex and collective society. As a result, the room was full of rich and dynamic discussions as our attendees shared their genuine answers to these thoughtful and self-reflecting questions.
To further deepen our understanding, Dr. Daniel Wildcat, Author and Professor at Haskell Indian Nations University, invited us to change our perception and relationship with our surroundings. Moreover, he puts a different focus on nature’s significance being more profound than the means of our sustenance or a resource; it is an energy, symbol, and vibrancy that allows us to express our culture and religion. Therefore, he introduces the term “natural relatives”, emphasizing that we should treat our soil, trees, wildlife, and water like our human relatives comprehending their rights lovingly and respectfully.
Written by Jeimy Bobadilla Suero