Join us: November Celebrates Native American Heritage

November is Native American Heritage Month, a month dedicated to celebrating the rich and diverse culture, history, and contributions of Native people. Wunk Sheek, the Multicultural Student Center (MSC), and their campus partners will be hosting a series of events across the university to celebrate the rich history, culture, and heritage of Native people at UW-Madison.

Additionally, UW-Madison is excited to welcome Mary Louise Defender Wilson (Dakotah/ Hidatsa) as the Fall 2019 Elder-in-Residence. The Elder-in-Residence Program, a partnership between Student Affairs, the Nelson Institute, and the American Indian Studies Program, seeks to strengthen partnerships between tribal nations and the university, provide all students with access to crucial cultural resources, and improve retention and recruitment rates for Native students by hosting Native elders on campus for educational exchanges. Mary Louise Defender Wilson is a nationally renowned traditional Dakotah/Hidatsa elder, storyteller, and traditionalist enrolled at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation of North Dakota.

Mary Louise Defender Wilson (Dakotah/ Hidatsa) as the Fall 2019 Elder-in-Residence.
Mary Louise Defender Wilson (Dakotah/ Hidatsa) as the Fall 2019 Elder-in-Residence.

“Celebrating, recognizing, and honoring the history and contributions of the Native American and Indigenous people at UW-Madison is a necessary part of the fabric of our campus,” said Interim Assistant Dean and Director of the MSC Ida Balderrama-Trudell. “The awareness and celebrations we participate in regarding Native Americans, not only in the month of November, but throughout the year, is the effort of many people across campus-students, staff, and faculty – as well as Native American community members, in particular Wunk Sheek. The MSC is proud to support and lift up their work and is grateful to be visitors on Ho-Chunk land.”

UW-Madison students sing a welcome song during a Native November feast event. (Photo by Bryce Richter /UW-Madison)

A few Native November events have been highlighted below:

  • Native November Feast & Elder-in-Residence Welcome
    Sunday, November 17, 6 – 8 p.m.
    Multicultural Student Center, Red Gym

    Come to the Red Gym for traditional food, community, and laughter to kick-off Native November and celebrate the Native legacy by welcoming our Fall 2019 Elder-in-Residence Mary Louise Defender Wilson.

  • “More Than A Word” Documentary Screening
    Wednesday, November 20, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
    2235 (Collaborative Learning Hall), Nancy Nicholas Hall

    Come to Nancy Nicholas Hall for a screening of the documentary “More than a Word” by John Little and Kenn Little. The documentary analyzes the Washington football team and their derogatory team name. Come for food, the screening, and a discussion afterward.

  • The Power of Storytelling and Traditional Ecological Knowledge
    Thursday, November 21, 7 – 8 p.m.
    Dejope Hall, Lake Mendota Room

    Come listen to Elder-in-Residence Mary Louise Defender Wilson speak as part of the Everyone’s Earth lecture series – conversations on race and the environment.

November is also a time to familiarize yourself with Our Shared Future. The recently dedicated Our Shared Future Heritage Marker acknowledges the hard but crucial truths concerning the historical relationship between the Ho-Chunk people and the United States, and how the University of Wisconsin–Madison came to occupy Ho-Chunk land. You can visit the Our Shared Future Heritage Marker at the Multicultural Student Center & Morgridge Center in the Red Gym from November 7–17.

Last month, Governor Tony Evers, joined by Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, signed Executive Order #50, declaring the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Wisconsin. In the executive order, Governor Evers recognizes the importance of Native Nations to Wisconsin and reaffirmed the significance of Native Nations’ sovereignty, culture, and history. Another example of how our community recognizes Native Americans. Learn more.

For a full list of Native November events, visit, and use the hashtag #UWNativeNovember to join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram.