The reciprocity of Indigenous knowledge

Ryan Winn

The Menominee word for book is masēnahekan. The masēnahekan at hand is “Re-Indigenizing Ecological Consciousness and the Interconnectedness to Indigenous Identities.” Edited by Haliwa Saponi tribal member Michelle Montgomery, an associate professor and chair within the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, Tacoma, the essays held within the collection “share the diversity and complexities of the Indigenous context of worldviews.”

Menominee tribal member Jasmine Neosh contributed a piece titled, “The World and the West.” Neosh matriculated at College of Menominee Nation, earning an associate degree in natural resources and a bachelor’s degree in public administration. She is currently working towards her Juris Doctorate at University of Michigan, expecting to graduate in 2025.

Neosh described CMN as “the best kept secret in higher education.”

She explained: “Now that I’m on the outside, I am consistently amazed at how well the classes I took there prepared me for the type of intense critical thinking, problem-solving and holistic systems-thinking the real-world demands. I don’t freak out over having to learn completely new things, even if I’m not good at them right away, because CMN not only taught me about the growth mindset but modeled it for me.”

Neosh is also a part of the Indigenous Speaker Series, which was started by Montgomery and her colleague, Ciarra Greene, who is a citizen of the Nez Perce tribe. The collective offered Neosh her first chance to deliver an academic presentation outside of CMN while working towards her undergraduate degrees. Neosh reported that her role has since evolved, adding, “for the past year, I have been one of two hosts of the series and have gotten to showcase other Native students that I have met along the way.”

The text is another showcase for Native scholars. Neosh noted, “The book came about through Michelle but also a larger community of Indigenous and non-Indigenous from all around the country working together on climate issues.”

The group has formed a bond, as revered Yuchi member of the Muscogee Nation professor Daniel R. Wildcat calls them, “the usual suspects.”

“It’s a very intergenerational group that mostly came about through the cross-cultural collaborations in climate and atmospheric sciences conferences known as Rising Voices,” Neosh said. “The intergenerational piece is a really big part of it — it’s rare that as an undergraduate, you’d be able to sit and work alongside people like Dr. Wildcat or Bill Thomas, who is a legend in the climate community, or even Ph.D. students and professors like some of the other folks in the book. But they’ve always been sure to include us and encourage us to step up and feel free to do our thing, and this book is a clear manifestation of that.”

The upshot is a collection of 11 essays that demonstrate that the reciprocity of Indigenous knowledge is inclusive and represents worldviews for regenerative solutions. Neosh’s piece is connected to the forest of the tribe, explaining how it contains stories rich with the potential of healing. She writes: “If you allow it to, it will teach you a lot about what it means to be human.”

I attended the virtual book launch event in December, which revealed a group that was both generous with their ideas and attuned to the connections among their work.

Neosh concurred, stating: “I was really pleased with the turnout and to hear the other authors interact with each other about our work together in real time. During the drafting and editing, we largely worked solo and didn’t interact a lot about the book project specifically, so it was nice to hear common themes emerging and see how cohesively it all came together without planning just by virtue of us being in this shared community.”

I asked Neosh what her goals entailed, and she responded, “My main long-term goal is to never be bored. I am planning to go into law as a litigator for a few years, focusing on environmental issues, but I’m probably never going to drop my other work. I am planning to get a master’s degree as well. My eventual plan, after many dragons have been slain, is to come back to the community and try to give younger generations of Menominee students the same care and guidance and support that was given to me.”

While the book with her first published essay is available at Barnes and Noble or directly from the publisher, Rowan and Littlefield, the masēnahekan that is Neosh’s life is still being written.

Ryan Winn teaches courses in communication, English, and theater at College of Menominee Nation. For more information about the school visit