Indigenous Correspondents Program
Planet Forward and UArizona have partnered to launch the Ilíiaitchik: Indigenous Correspondents Program (ICP). The goal of the ICP is to empower the next generation of Indigenous scholars to share environmental stories and resilient solutions of relevance around the world.
Photo Credit: JarRette Werk
Planet Forward, an environmental storytelling initiative of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, collaborates with the University of Arizona’s AIR Education Initiatives and the Indigenous Resilience Center (IRes) as well as the Native FEWS Alliance to support greater participation by Indigenous students in a program that centers their voices and brings broader perspectives to the successful Planet Forward platform.
The Ilíiaitchik: Indigenous Correspondents Program (ICP) supports 10-12 Indigenous graduate and upper-division undergraduate students from across the United States through a 10-month communication skill-building, professional development, and community-building program led by Indigenous mentors in fields ranging from environmental journalism to podcast production. The program’s name - Ilíiaitchik (Phonetic spelling: "Ih-lia-it-chick") means "to speak good words" in Biiluuke/Crow. The program’s co-founder, JoRee LaFrance, comes from the Apsáalooke/Crow Nation and selected a word from her language that encompasses the program’s goal to amplify voices bringing about positive change. Students with an interest in environmental science and knowledge generation, resilient solutions, and effective storytelling in media spaces are encouraged to apply to participate in the Indigenous Correspondents Program. Program applications are open each April - June.
Reporting about science and the environment has not always been inclusive nor respectful of Indigenous communities and Indigenous knowledge systems. Much work remains to make journalism, environmental fields, and storytelling accessible and equitable for Native people. Although Native communities maintain strong storytelling traditions and were the first communicators across Turtle Island, today their perspectives and storytelling forms are far too often excluded from communication spaces.
Although Indigenous communities are disproportionately impacted by climate change and global biodiversity loss, only a very small percentage of scientists, professors, and science journalists at U.S. universities and news organizations are Indigenous. Additionally, despite modest increases in Indigenous representation among STEM professionals in recent years, recent research from the Institute for Scientific Information shows that between 2010 and 2020, there “was virtually no change in the representation of Black, Hispanic, and Native American researchers among authors of scientific publications” a symptom of structural inequality, including underfunding of BIPOC academics. This lack of resources and representation influences the coverage and perspective around issues ranging from environmental justice and climate adaptation to environmental policy, hindering efforts at creating a more equitable, habitable world for everyone.
As we work to identify and disseminate environmentally friendly solutions that “move the planet forward,” we need everyone, regardless of their background, to be part of the communication efforts. The Indigenous Correspondents Program aims to create a more equitable space for Indigenous voices and perspectives to be heard - on their own terms - amid this truly global effort. The long-term goals of the Indigenous Correspondents Program are to increase participation in Earth, environmental sciences, and climate change communication and related fields among Indigenous students and to increase the quality and quantity of Indigenous stories in media across the U.S.
Participants in Planet Forward and UArizona’s 10-month Indigenous Correspondents Program periodically meet with fellow members of their cohort (~10-12 students) and Indigenous activists, journalists, authors, photographers, podcasters, and scientists to advance their storytelling and communication skills while building their professional and community networks. Participants will also receive one-on-one mentorship and guidance by a program editor in creating and publishing a final environmental communication piece (e.g., essay/article, multimedia story, podcast, video documentary, etc.) and receive a $1,000 stipend for their involvement in the program. Throughout the ICP, participating students focus on four main goals:
- Personal growth (reclaiming your narratives and voice, telling personal stories, healing through creative expression, and connecting with the Land and communities)
- Skill building (effective science communication strategies and storytelling techniques, multimedia technical skills (as applicable), editing, publishing, and pitching content)
- Networking/community building (one-on-one connections with Indigenous speakers and Planet Forward editors, informal cohort gatherings, access to Native News Online, the Native American Journalists Association, Indian Country Today, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian, and other platforms and experts as applicable)
- Publishing (a final project will involve either a podcast, musical/oral story, exhibition, multimedia, or written storytelling piece showcasing the participants’ communication skills on an environmental-related issue of their choice)
- Monthly skill-building workshops: Program participants engage in seven two-hour long monthly workshops over the course of the program, between August through March. Workshops cover the following topic areas, among others: 1) Healing Through Storytelling, 2) The Art of the Interview, 3) Producing a Publication-ready Piece and Pitching story ideas, 4) Multimedia Communication, 5) Indigenous Knowledge in Science Communication, 6) Using software and technology, 7) Journalism in Indian Country Today.
- Planet Forward Summit: The Indigenous Correspondents Program will culminate with participants traveling to Washington, D.C. to attend the 2023 Planet Forward Summit, which brings together scientists, students, and storytellers from around the U.S. and the world to discuss and learn about effective environmental communication strategies. The Planet Forward Summit serves as an opportunity for Correspondents to connect with and learn from leading journalists, policymakers, and innovators across disciplines. *Note: Participants’ travel expenses are fully covered to ensure everyone can attend the summit if they choose to do so.
- Mentoring check-ins: In addition to providing participants with ample opportunities to hone their storytelling skills through workshops, Indigenous Correspondents will meet one-on-one throughout their story development process to discuss their current thoughts and progress on their story piece. Participants will meet the ICP Editor during program orientation and will coordinate with them directly to determine when to hold regular check-in meetings.
- Community-building events: To help create a sense of community, participants will also be invited to take-part in virtual and in-person community-building events, such as team trivia and story-sharing nights. These events will be announced in advance by the Program Coordinators.
Over the course of the Ilíiaitchik program, Indigenous Correspondents attend a series of seven monthly workshops led by Indigenous mentors. Workshop leaders represent a variety of communication fields, ranging from photojournalism and filmmaking to education and scientific research. These workshops provide Indigenous Correspondents with unique opportunities to ask questions of experts in the field, engage in dialogue about stories, learn new storytelling techniques and practices, and receive feedback on their work. Below is a synopsis of the 2022-23 Ilíiaitchik Indigenous Correspondents Program workshops, including a list of workshop leaders and learning objectives for each workshop:
Workshop leader: Cinnamon Kills First is a Northern Cheyenne artist, documentary filmmaker, speaker, educator, and author of Maria Tallchief: Woman of Two Worlds, Go Dance!, and a forthcoming book. Cinnamon owns and operates Northside Advocacy LLC and is currently working on several projects aimed at supporting Indigenous youth and mental/emotional wellbeing.
Learning goals/ objectives:
- Introduce meditation and mindful reading techniques to process academic stressors
- Learn how writing can be used as a tool to help heal ourselves and our communities
- Offer tips for self-care, self-love, and for building confidence in your storytelling voice
- Reclaiming narratives (focusing on body and heart in academia)
- Practice writing “six word stories” to convey and process emotions and our own stories
Workshop leaders: 1) Valerie Vande Panne is the Managing Editor of Native News Online - an Indigenous-focused news publication founded in 2011 by Levi Rickert, a tribal citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. Vande Panne’s award-winning stories have appeared in Bloomberg, Columbia Journalism Review, The Guardian, Harvard Law Today, Politico, and Salon, among many other publications. 2) Frank Sesno is a non-Indigenous political analyst, author, moderator, Emmy-award winning journalist, former CNN White House correspondent, and Director of Strategic Initiatives at the George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. Sesno also published the book Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change and teaches a university class on “The Art of the Interview.”
Learning goals/ objectives:
- Learn techniques for conducting a successful interview, including finding the "right" person/ people to speak with about your topic
- Learn how to craft/ ask compelling questions and create a comfortable environment for interviewees
- Learn note-taking techniques to better capture the essence of a conversation
- Discuss how to conduct respectful, reciprocal interviews when speaking with Indigenous elders, government officials, and knowledge-holders in ways that protect culturally sensitive knowledge
- Understand the differences between different interview types (i.e., celebratory interviews, investigative interviews, etc.) and how to prepare for them
- Learn techniques for accurately portraying an interviewee's voice and essence when writing a story
Workshop leaders: 1) Duncan McCue is an award-winning Anishinaabe television and radio journalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. McCue’s Decolonizing Journalism: A Guide to Reporting in Indigenous Communities is the only text in Canada that teaches aspiring journalists how to build respectful, reciprocal relationships with Indigenous communities when researching and sharing their stories. 2) Kalen Goodluck is a Diné, Mandan, Hidatsa and Tsimshian journalist and photographer currently based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His reporting has been in The New York Times, High Country News, Pulitzer Center, National Geographic - Travel, Mother Jones, WIRED, NBC News, KCET, Off Assignment, Bklyner, and Indian Country Today Media Network.
Learning goals/ objectives:
- Learn strategies for crafting a compelling narrative in journalism/ photojournalism
- Learn tips for contacting media platforms and pitching story ideas to editors/ media outlets
- Learn strategies for initial stages of story development, including identifying medium, plot, and key “characters”
- Practice writing and presenting an effective story pitch
Workshop leaders: 1) Chelsey Luger is a Lakota and Anishinaabe writer and wellness advocate, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, and a descendant of the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux Tribes. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism where she concentrated in broadcast and digital media, Luger’s writing and multimedia pieces have been published in the Atlantic, the Huffington Post, Well + Good, NowThis News, Indian Country Today, among other outlets. 2) Tanaya Winder is an enrolled member of the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe and an award-winning poet, writer, singer-songwriter, artist and educator. Winder co-founded the Sing Our Rivers Red traveling earring exhibit to raise awareness about murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, and her poems from “Love in a Time of Blood Quantum” were produced and performed by the Poetic Theater Productions Presents Company in NYC. Winder guest lectures and teaches creative writing workshops at high schools and universities internationally.
Learning goals/ objectives:
- Learn about the diverse ways Indigenous communicators tell stories about their communities and the land
- Experience different forms of storytelling - including poetry, song, and visual artwork
- Inspire students to use forms of communication beyond writing, or to integrate different mediums into their communication work
- Acquire a new multimedia technique and/or tool to help with storytelling
- Learn how to manage writer's block and how to begin a story through podcast, poem, etc. using drawing boards to map out a story
Workshop leader: Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, an American Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology, award-winning author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants and Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, and both the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. In October of 2022, Dr. Kimmerer was named a MacArthur fellow and a recipient of a MacArthur ‘genius grant’ in recognition of her groundbreaking work weaving Indigenous ways of knowing within her scientific work.
Learning goals/ objectives:
- Learn effective science communication techniques, including how to write an engaging science story that combines emotion and storytelling while maintaining scientific accuracy.
- Discuss how to center Indigenous knowledge and frameworks in science communication, including stories about climate change and environmental degradation.
- Learn techniques for writing about science and describing plants, animals, and ecosystems without reducing them to objects (as is often the case in Western science). In other words, learn how to write about plants, animals, and ecosystems as story subjects and not objects.
- Learn how to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into scientific writing in ways that don’t position science as “validating” Indigenous knowledge.
- Discuss techniques for centering storytelling in joy, as opposed to solely climate anxiety, in environmental writing
Workshop leader: Kirsten Nagel is a Senior Customer Success Manager at Adobe with over 7 years experience developing integrated digital media and helping university students tell compelling narratives. In this workshop, Kirsten taught participants how to create dynamic web pages, videos, and infographics using Adobe Express.
Learning goals/ objectives:
- Practice using new software programs to tell more engaging and impactful stories
- Learn techniques for incorporating different communication methods, including videos, images, audio, and writing into a cohesive story (i.e., using Adobe Express)
- Learn tips and tricks for producing visually-appealing videos, infographics, and websites
Workshop leaders: 1) Luella Brien is an Apsáalooke educator, journalist, and news editor who has worked with the Ravalli Republic, Billings Gazette and, most recently, the Big Horn County News. Brien received her Bachelor of Arts degree in print journalism at the University of Montana School of Journalism and is a graduate of the Freedom Forum’s American Indian Journalism Institute. Brien is the founder of Four Points Press, an independent digital media company serving the Crow Indian Reservation and surrounding area that is “ dedicated to giving the voice back to the people of the region and getting the story right. She has focused on increasing coverage of Crow Reservation news in ways it hasn’t been covered previously. 2) Laurel Sutherland began her journalism career in 2018 and currently works as a Staff Writer and Indigenous News Reporter for Mongabay, the world’s most popular rainforest information site and an international environmental journalism network. Prior to joining Mongabay, she worked for the Stabroek News, one of the leading print and digital news agencies in Guyana. She has provided news coverage on several beats at once, including on the environment, the extractive industry and Indigenous Peoples. Laurel has written widely about environmental rights issues affecting indigenous communities around the globe, from Maasai villages battling displacement in Tanzania to Gwich’in communities fighting to protect the Arctic from oil extraction.
Learning goals/ objectives:
- Discuss contemporary topics, trends, and journalism approaches across Indian country, including work being done both at local news outlets and larger, national media outlets
- Gain insights on local journalism as a career, including how stories are developed and published
- Learn techniques for telling compelling stories
- Discuss strategies for doing journalism in a less extractive manner & building rapport and maintaining trust within a community
- By December of each year, Indigenous Correspondents will have each shared one piece (e.g., a podcast episode, essay/article, documentary film, or multimedia piece, etc.) with members of their cohort and the ICP’s Editor-in-Residence for feedback and/or further refinement. Participants may choose whether they would like to publish this piece outside of the program.
- By the annual Planet Forward Summit (April) Indigenous Correspondents will have each published at least one storytelling piece (e.g., a podcast episode, essay/article, documentary film, multimedia piece, etc.) on Planet Forward’s website. Most correspondents submit their storytelling piece in January by the annual Storyfest contest deadline.
Graduate students and upper-division undergraduate students with an interest in environmental science and knowledge generation, resilient solutions, and effective storytelling in media spaces are encouraged to apply for the Indigenous Correspondents Program.
The application for the Fall 2023 - Spring 2024 cohort has been closed.
Applicants will be notified whether they have been selected for the cohort by the end of July.
The Ilíiaitchik: Indigenous Correspondents Program is open to all Indigenous graduate students and upper-division (i.e., those in their junior or senior year as of August/September) undergraduate students currently enrolled in universities and colleges - including tribal, community, and private colleges - across the United States, regardless of area of study. This includes but is not limited to American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians & Pacific Islanders, and members of Canadian First Nation and Métis communities currently attending colleges and universities in the United States. Preference will be given to applicants with an expressed interest in communication (writing, podcasting, music-composition, videography, photography, etc.) as well as sustainability, Native American Studies, environmental studies, earth systems, and resilience solutions.
Planet Forward does not act as an arbiter for determining Indigeneity. We rely on applicants’ good faith in self-representing connections to their Indigenous communities. To this end, please be prepared to provide documentation upon request or a statement of your Indigenous ancestry.
- When the application opens on our webpage, applicants should provide the requested information and submit their answers to four short-response (~90-120 words) questions via the form. These questions ask about students’ interests in communication work, their passions, their backgrounds, and prior experiences as storytellers.
Note: We recommend writing, editing, and saving your statements beforehand in a Word or Google Document before pasting and submitting them via the form.
- As a final step, you will be asked to upload a copy of your CV or Resume.
Note: Upon completion of the program, applicants will be asked to submit a single-page evaluation of their experience. This evaluation will provide organizers with valuable feedback to help in evaluating and modifying the program to improve future participants’ experiences.
Meet the Correspondents
Abigail Burgess (she/they) is a member of the Eskasoni Band of the Mi’kmaq First Nations community in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. She is a junior at Dartmouth College, studying Native American and Indigenous Studies and Psychology. At Dartmouth, she currently serves as Social Coordinator on the Native Americans at Dartmouth Executive Board, organizing events for the Indigenous community on campus. She spent the previous calendar year serving as Native American Council Representative, advocating for the needs of students to the administration. Abigail also runs a peer-led grief support group for students who have lost a parent, sibling, or family member. Outside of Dartmouth, she works as a teaching assistant at a day-care in Norwich with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. In her spare time, she loves to read, bead, paint, collage, and spend time outside.
Through the Indigenous Correspondents Program, Abigail aims to capture the historical and modern manifestations of her community’s term Netukulimk. Netukulimk navigates the Mi’kmaq peoples’ relationship with msit no’kmaq - all our relations, or our emotional, social, and spiritual relationship with the physical land, human beings, nature, and everything belonging to Wskitqamu (Mother Earth). Netukulimk incorporates the spirit, mind, heart, and body in relation with levels of interconnectedness: self, family, community, and environment. Through her work, Abigail seeks to investigate this complicated relationship of the revitalization of cultural concepts in a post-colonial era, especially Netukulimk.
Eric Trujillo (he/him) is an enrolled member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe of Wyoming and is a senior majoring in Journalism and minoring in Spanish at the University of Arizona. Growing up, he would visit his grandparents and family on the Wind River Indian Reservation every summer between school years. Getting the opportunity to live in Wyoming in high school gave him the base appreciation of what it is like to live near his people. After leaving home to go to college, Eric discovered his desire to help his people and others through forms of storytelling and volunteering with his fraternity, Omega Delta Phi. Outside of school and work, Eric enjoys spending time with family and friends, as well as watching plenty of sports, especially baseball.
Through the Indigenous Correspondents Program, Eric wants to grow as a journalist, storyteller, and make the most of the opportunity given to him. With the help of the program, he hopes to be able to better help those around him through storytelling and knowledge.
Emiliano McLane, Newe, comes from the Tosawihi clan of the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone and was raised on the South Fork Indian Reservation near Lee, Nevada. As a descendant of the Pomo, Wailaki, and Nomlaki tribes, he also spent time on his father’s Reservation known as Round Valley near Covelo, California. Emiliano received his Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Science, Communication, and Leadership from the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Currently, he is a second-year graduate student pursuing his degree in Agricultural and Extension Education. As his thesis topic emphasizes intercropping regional culturally valued crops under photovoltaic panels in an agrivoltaic system, his goal is to work with Tribal Nations to increase innovative Indigenous agricultural techniques throughout Turtle Island. Emiliano is enthusiastic about working with plants and enjoys gardening. During the summer breaks, Emiliano has typically participated in research internships to increase his knowledge in different science fields and team building.
Through the Indigenous Correspondents Program, Emiliano intends to bring cultural stories to life through technology so that they may be brought into the classroom and homes of tribal youth members to pique their interest in how our cultural stories and practices resonate throughout all time. He is excited to participate in the program to gain a wealth of hands-on knowledge that he will use during his graduate program and future career
Alyssa Noriega is a citizen of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She was also raised within the Oneida Nation community. After spending a year at the University of Wisconsin, she changed her major from Political Science to Liberal Arts as a transfer to Haskell Indian Nations University. With hopes of graduating with a communications degree from Haskell, she wants to pursue a journalism degree from the University of Kansas.
Alyssa is currently an anchor for a native student-led online news broadcast, Good Morning Indian Country. Aside from work and school she enjoys boxing and traveling. Before becoming an anchor, Alyssa has experience with being a part of programs such as the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute and the Native Storytelling Workshop. These experiences have helped Alyssa learn the importance of Indigenous journalists and storytelling.
Through the Indigenous Correspondents Program, she hopes to exchange knowledge and experience. A goal of hers is to show the significance of Indigenous cultural structures. She believes it starts with the environment Indigenous people live in. With the everlasting thought that it’s her job to help tell the stories of the ones who came before her and to set up structures for the ones after.
Mickki Garrity (Potawatomi) is an impassioned advocate for environmental healing, cultural sovereignty, and Native science. Enrolled in the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Mickki recently relocated to Minnesota from the West Coast. Her academic journey began with a degree in Native Environmental Science from Northwest Indian College, and this fall Garrity will begin graduate studies at the University of Minnesota, where she will research the ecocultural relationships between cultural keystone species of significance to the Nishnabek people, such as beaver and wild rice. As a first-generation, non-traditional scholar with a background in non-profit work, she embodies tenacity and approaches research with a distinctive perspective.
Mickki enjoys interweaving traditional narratives into the contemporary fabric of academia and literature. Her contributions to various publications, including the Tribal College Journal, demonstrate her capacity to bridge ancestral ecological knowledge with present-day environmental discourse. Her storytelling is deeply rooted in her Potawatomi heritage, a medium through which she aims to illuminate the profound interconnection between nature and humanity.
With fellowships in both the Society for Ecological Restoration and the Food and Agricultural Sciences National Needs Graduate and Postgraduate program, she is committed to amplifying Indigenous voices in ecological restoration and climate adaptation.
Embracing the responsibilities of new parenthood, Mickki bears the mantle of shaping an environmentally-conscious future, and hopes to participate in enriching global discourse by sharing resilient solutions and environmental narratives that honor the legacy of forebearers and inspire generations to come.
Yá’át’ééh (Hello). Nizhoni is a proud member of the Navajo Nation and grew up in Rough Rock, Arizona. After high school she attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and graduated with her B.S. in natural resources with an emphasis on outdoor recreation management. She recently graduated with her master’s in natural resources and is now in a Ph.D. program at the University of Arizona. Her master’s work focused on understanding interpretative signage throughout parks, national monuments and recreational areas in the Southwest region. She analyzed language usage in interpretive signage to see how these various outdoor locations were sharing Indigenous histories and stories.
Nizhoni spends most of her summers participating in internships and other development programs to enhance her skills and to gain knowledge she can use in her future career. She recently completed an internship as the water advocacy intern at the Grand Canyon Trust. Her interest grew in storytelling when she participated in an intensive Native American Film course through the University of Montana and saw the impact filmmaking can have when sharing important stories.
She looks forward to sharing authentic and compelling stories with others and to developing her skills in storytelling. She is excited to engage and learn from other cohort members, instructors and speakers throughout the program. Nizhoni enjoys being outside, traveling, and finding the nearest boba shop wherever she goes.
Alicia Glassman (she/her) is a descendant of the White Earth Band of Anishinaabe in what is now Northern Minnesota. Born and raised in Minneapolis, she has a lifelong passion for environmental preservation. This was in part driven by her unique experience as a Jewish and Native American woman, raised with the understanding of her role as a steward of the land and a reverence for tikkun olam (repairing and improving the world). This passion brought her to Washington, DC, where she is currently a senior studying Political Science and Geography at The George Washington University.
She believes in harnessing the latest technology, particularly geographic information systems, in order to learn more about our planet and create outputs to help inform decision making and popular conceptions around various environmental topics. She has spent the past year honing these technical skills through internships at places such as Ballotpedia and Esri, and hopes to translate this experience into a skillset in visual storytelling.
Through the Indigenous Correspondents Program, she hopes to utilize this interest to tell stories about the communities that lifted her to where she is. Outside of work and school, Alicia enjoys knitting, reading literary fiction, and trying to find the best bagel in DC.
Shannon Taylor, White Mountain Apache & Navajo, resides on the ancestral lands of her mother’s people, Dził’łigai Sí’áń Ndee (White Mountain Apache), in northeastern Arizona. She is a first generation and non-traditional student in her family. Shannon is currently a Junior pursuing her Bachelors of Science degree in Geographic Information Systems Technology (GIST) and Minor in Environmental Science from the University of Arizona (UA). At UA, Shannon is involved with the Arizona Institute for Resilience Earth Grant Program, as well as Planet Forward & Ilíiaitchik: Indigenous Correspondents Program (ICP).
Prior to transferring to UA, Shannon graduated with an Associates of Arts Degree from Northland Pioneer College in 2012. She also graduated summa cum laude with an Associate of Science in Natural Resources and Certificate in Geographic Information Systems from Tohono O’odham Community College in 2023. She interned for two years at American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), where she worked with climate change and energy data to develop adaptation and renewable energy strategies. Shannon cites the Traditional (Indigenous) Environmental Knowledge (TEK) passed on to her growing up has a significant influence on her environmental understanding and practice. After graduation, Shannon’s career goals are to apply her knowledge of GIS and digital map-making, as well as advancing the representation of Indigenous peoples and knowledges in environmental decision making and Indigenous data sovereignty.
Through the Indigenous Correspondents Program, Shannon hopes to highlight the importance of TEK in western science. She believes that becoming a steward of the land will ensure that the traditional stories, knowledge, practices, ceremonies and language of Indigenous peoples will live on.
Kimberlee is an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation; born to the Ciicga Clan, and a descendent of the Hunkpapa Lakota. Her traditional name is Sunlight Woman, given by her great-grandmother, Rose Crow Flies High. Kimberlee’s most cherished roles are being a mother, a daughter, and a student. She is pursuing her Master’s in Environmental Science at Sitting Bull College in North Dakota with a focus on atmospheric science. Her academic path includes a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and research, and two associate degrees in Pre-Engineering and Native American Leadership from United Tribes Technical College. Kimberlee’s career goals are to focus on tribal research for restoration and preservation purposes. Her passion is to serve underrepresented Indigenous Communities with STEM outreach. She hopes to inspire youth to spark an interest in STEM to continue the footwork of indigenous research and decolonize STEM spaces. Kimberlee braids science and mentoring with tribal knowledge. Indigenous youth struggle with STEM; it's hard to start on a path when you can't see it. By seeing the footwork they can begin to go beyond what others have laid down.
Kimberlee teaches the Original Indigenous Scientist. We have been scientists and engineers since our first creation. We may not have called it the scientific method, but we used it. Just as we’re taught about historical trauma in our genes, we have scientific bases built within us. We are scientists and engineers that will make change for our people
Meet Previous Correspondents
Raylen Bark (she/her) is Cherokee, Choctaw, Hualapai, and Hidatsa. She grew up in Cherokee, North Carolina, located in the Great Smoky Mountains where she was raised with a love for nature. Learning sustainable harvesting techniques of medicinal plants and foods, Raylen learned about traditional agriculture from her Grandpa Goodlow Bark. She graduated from Cherokee High School as the Valedictorian of the class of 2020. Raylen is a junior (or ‘24) at Dartmouth College majoring in Native American and Indigenous Studies modified with Linguistics. She has been involved with the Dartmouth Rockefeller Global Leadership Program, Natives at Dartmouth Program, and the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America as a scholar and mentor. After graduating from Dartmouth Raylen plans to attend law school so that she can assist her tribe in the legal and linguistic fields.
Darrien Benally (she/her), Diné, is a first-year graduate student enrolled in the Master of Arts Communication program at Northern Arizona University. Darrien graduated from NAU in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Indigenous Studies. During her time at NAU, Darrien worked for the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals’ Environmental Education Outreach Program. Upon graduation, Darrien worked with Tribal Healthy Homes Network to improve wildfire smoke education for the Tulalip Tribes community in Tulalip, Washington. Darrien is the Communications and Outreach Manager for the Colorado Plateau Foundation, an organization that supports Native-led initiatives across the Colorado Plateau region. Darrien’s passion for environmental communication comes from the teachings of her paternal grandparents, who taught her the value of seed keeping and traditional knowledge. Darrien has an interest in ethical storytelling and Native representation in media.
Alexander Cotnoir (he/him) is a citizen of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation whose passion for environmental education is rooted in his home in Askaskwiwajoak (the Green Mountains of Vermont), where a love of maple sugaring, hiking, and hunting alongside his grandparents, aunties, uncles, and sisters created a passion for environmental stewardship, ecology, and food. As a Dartmouth College undergraduate, he served as a teaching assistant for ecology and writing courses and worked in the university’s archival collections and ecology department. Alexander is particularly passionate about exploring how rural communities relate to temperate forests and how climate change is impacting food systems and associated cultural practices in the north. After graduating with a degree in Environmental Studies, Alexander worked in outdoor education programs. Alexander recently graduated from GW with a Master of Arts in Teaching. In his spare time, Alexander enjoys running, learning to weave ash baskets, and gardening whenever he can.
Carlie Domingues (she/her) currently resides in Wintun homelands where she is earning a PhD in Native American Studies at UC Davis. She comes from Chumash and Mexican heritage and works to be a good relative. Carlie's research and lifestyle embodies Indigenous women's knowledge and practice to generate resilient ecosystems. Although being a mama is her most important responsibility, Carlie prepares for her qualifying exams to become a doctoral candidate, tends three sisters, contributes to revitalization of cultural burning and water tending in Chumash homelands and beyond.
Raised at the foothills of Iisaxpúatahchee Isawaxaawúua/Big Horn Mountains, JoRee (she/her) grew up with a twin sister on a gravel road next to the Little Bighorn River where they spent most of their time swimming, riding horses, gardening, and lacing up their Nike N7’s to play basketball on a dirt court with a rim that had a plywood backboard. JoRee’s Apsáalooke/Crow name is Iichiinmáatchileesh/Fortunate with Horses - which was given to her by Sue Takes Horse - and her English name is JoRee LaFrance. She left the reservation to attend Dartmouth College where she received a B.A. in Earth Sciences and B.A. in Native American Studies in 2017. After taking a year off between undergraduate and graduate school, JoRee returned home to work with the Crow Environmental Health Steering Committee which has been dedicated to environmental health literacy and addressing water quality issues on Apsáalooke lands. She is now an aspiring water scientist studying surface water quality in the Little Bighorn River watershed as a doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Arizona. On top of her research, JoRee works as a consultant working on projects like the now traveling Apsáalooke Women and Warriors exhibit with the Field Museum and the University of Chicago Neubauer Collegium. She enjoys her heart work which is serving as a community advocate organizing events and workshops for women and youth in her community. Although she is away from home, JoRee continues to find ways to work with, empower, and support her people.
Troi Madison Newman
Troi Madison Newman (she/her) is a black-indigenous enrolled citizen of Piscataway Conoy Tribe and a first-year law student at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. From 2019 to 2021, while obtaining her master’s degree at George Washington University, Troi researched Missing Murdered Indigenous Women under Dr. Elizabeth Rule, which led to a publishing thesis: “Are Tribal Courts equipped with the knowledge and resources to handle MMIW cases of non-Native perpetrators?” Troi is the Project Artist of the “Guide to Indigenous Maryland” App available in the Apple Store and Google Play.
When Troi is not freelancing graphic designs, she is a part-time paralegal and was previously working with All Native Group (ANG), a government contractor for Ho-Chunk Inc. of Ho-Chunk Nation. Troi has a strong interest in Environmental Law, specifically focusing on racial discrimination in environmental policy-making, enforcement of regulations and laws, and the deliberate targeting of indigenous communities.
Shondiin Mayo (she/her) is originally from Stevens Village, Alaska, and grew up in both Fairbanks, Alaska, and the Navajo Nation. Shondiin is both Dine and Koyukon Athabascan. Shondiin’s childhood was influenced by the subsistence lifestyle of fishing and living in a rural Alaskan village as well as spending time on the reservation with her family. There, she learned values such as an appreciation for the land, preservation of traditional knowledge, and the responsibility to continue her heritage for the next thousand years.
Shondiin recently graduated from Northern Arizona University where she studied Creative Media and Film with an emphasis in Documentary and a minor in Ethnic Studies. Amid the Covid pandemic, Shondiin returned home to Alaska and completed a 10-minute thesis documentary about the cultural erasure of dog mushing due to the advancements of the 21st century. Shondiin’s upbringing in a small community that was only accessible by plane, boat, or snowmachine inspires her to capture her people’s traditional ways of living and knowledge about the environment that surrounds small villages in the Interior of Alaska.
Nadira Mitchell (she/her/asdzáán) is Diné (Navajo) and an honors undergraduate student at the University of Arizona studying Natural Resources with an emphasis in Wildlife Conservation and Management. She is a student leader in the Tucson Native American community, holding the title Miss Native American University of Arizona First Attendant 2022-2023, and a board member of the Southern Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Foundation. A life-long resident of Tucson, Nadira is passionate about the Sonoran Desert, conducting wildlife conservation research using wildlife cameras, and helping lead American Indian Student Initiatives. In her first year at UArizona, she became a founding member of the American Indian Student Initiatives (AISI). The student-run organization’s goal is to reduce environmental injustices for Indigenous communities in the state of Arizona. Nadira is interested in the integration of Indigenous perspectives in wildlife, Tribal lands, and natural resources policy. She aspires to advocate for environmental equity in Indigenous communities.
Alisa Smith Woodruff
Alisa Smith Woodruff (she/her) is an enrolled Skokomish Tribal citizen who comes from a family of weavers, teachers, and nurses/caregivers. Her family focuses on traditions and culture. Alisa enjoys spending time with tribal Elders who weave, gather, and dye using traditional Skokomish practices. She was taught basic Twana (Skokomish language) words for animals, plants, seasons, clothing, and numbers. To reciprocate the knowledge, Alisa emphasizes sharing and teaching through her work, with special consideration for future generations and those willing to learn. She was reminded that sharing with our future generations keeps traditions alive and helps others gain a better understanding of traditional practices. For these reasons she is grateful to have been accepted into the Masters in Environmental Science program at Evergreen State College where she has the opportunity to add to the skills she learned at Northwest Indian College. Alisa has also worked to combine both Western and traditional knowledge in internships for NASA and Mount Rainier National Park to enhance knowledge of the Cascade red fox.