The University of Wisconsin welcomed Dan Cornelius, member of the Oneida Nation and technical assistance specialist for the Intertribal Agricultural Council, to speak at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery Monday.
Cornelius said in combining traditional and modern aspects of agriculture, his organization hopes to create a deeper impact and a raise in tribal natural resources capacity.
Part of the reason he wanted to give his lecture, Cornelius said, was to try to encourage people to be more mindful of the impacts for the larger food system and the local food system in Madison.
“A lot of the issues that tribes are facing are issues that larger society faces as well,” Cornelius said.
Madison has been a capital city for a long time and holds a lot of tribal significance, Cornelius sad.
According to Cornelius, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Madison used to be a capital city. Important to consider in a larger context is that there used to be wild rice beds through the lakes in Madison and fields of corn, bean and squash across the area, he added.
“[Madison] has been a nice place to live now,” Cornelius said. “It has been a nice place to live for a long time.”
All tribes are different and have different histories and resources, according to Cornelius. Though there was diversity, he said there are common elements across the continent.
The “three sisters” of corn, bean and squash or the “milpa system”, cultivated across almost the whole continent, game and fish and a deep ecological knowledge are some of these common elements. He said this knowledge is something he feels safe to call a pan-Indian characteristic.
Another project Cornelius is working on is the Oneida’s project titled “Tsyunhehkwa,” meaning “It sustains us.” It is an operation with the goal of expanding the production of white corn. White corn, he said, is a traditional product, but they have to deal with the challenges of growing it at a high and sustainable level.
The Oneida Nation Farm, to address approaching food issues and innovative things in tribal agriculture, and the Mobile Farmers Market, designed to increase the availability of fresh, healthy and traditional food, are other projects Cornelius mentioned.
John Lemmon, UW sophomore and environmental science major, attended the event and said he thought Cornelius gave a very informative lecture.
“I am involved with sustainable agriculture,” Lemmon said. “Seeing how that relates with Native Americans and seeing their programs was interesting.”