The Electa Quinney Institute for American Indian Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has a new leader.
Mark Freeland comes to UWM from South Dakota State University. He is a member of the Bahweting Anishinaabe nation, federally recognized as the Sault Saint Marie Chippewa.
Freeland takes over as director of EQI from Margaret Noodin, who led the institute beginning in 2014. Freeland says Noodin created a strong foundation, particularly when it comes to Indigenous languages.
“There’s so much interest in language revitalization right now that there are very good partnerships to be made with local and regional communities who are looking to us for that kind of leadership in teaching,” Freeland says. “And that’s what Margaret very specifically has been doing and what her expertise is.”
Freeland says UWM is adding Potawatomi to its Indigenous language offerings in the fall. UWM already offers Ojibwe, Oneida and Menominee.
In addition to language revitalization, EQI focuses on supporting American Indian students at UWM, and training American Indians to enter K-12 education as teachers and administrators.
“Starting with the problems of boarding schools, having our children stolen away from us and effectively brutalized, and having ethnic cleansing within these boarding schools, has created generational problems, particularly around education,” Freeland explains. “And one of the strategies is to get more American Indian people trained as teachers and administrators. So that is one of the primary missions [of EQI.]”
Freeland also wants to incorporate more traditional knowledge into coursework at UWM. He gives the example of processing maple syrup.
“It’s one thing to talk in a classroom about Sugarbush, it’s another thing to actually process the sap into maple sugar and syrup, and for students to get a hands-on appeal to those processes,” he shares.
Freeland points to EQI’s Elder-in-Residence Vernon Altiman as someone who can lead these activities. With a new $3 million grant from Bader Philanthropies to support EQI’s work, Freeland says they can keep someone like Altiman on long-term.
“Now our elder-in-residence, we can make sure we have stable funding for him over the next five-plus years. So we can make some plans outside of ‘What are we doing next semester?'”
The press release announcing the $3 million grant from Bader Philanthropies references eroded state funding adversely impacting EQI. Freeland says at universities with limited funding, humanities aren’t always a priority. The Bader Philanthropies funding “takes the pressure off.”
“We can focus on the mission and goals we’re trying to accomplish and really dream big,” says Freeland. “Rather than trying to work on what’s our next funding stream going to be.”