Years ago, Nick Reo spent four undergraduate summers at UMBS. He went on to earn his master’s at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment – now the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS). After finishing his PhD at Michigan State, collaborating on various UMBS-based research projects, and establishing a successful professorial career at Dartmouth, he recently returned to Douglas Lake to deliver the Pettingill Endowed Lecture in Natural History.
Reo calls it “a real honor” to deliver a signature lecture at a place that has been so influential in his professional, and personal, life – he met his wife, Angie, at UMBS when they were students. In addition to his Station connection, Reo has deep ancestral roots in northern Michigan as a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
Reo describes his area of work as “indigenous environmental studies.” This includes the study of indigenous knowledge, best practices for ecological stewardship on indigenous lands, and investigation into the social systems that have historically marginalized native peoples. As part of this work, he blends ecological, anthropological and indigenous methodologies, often via tribal community-university partnerships.
A hot topic he discusses in his lecture is the importance of land acknowledgements, delivered increasingly often at the outset of public presentations.
“Land acknowledgements are simply reminding people of the presence and the political positionality of indigenous peoples and indigenous nations,” says Dr. Reo. “For the past 250+ years, settlers and their colonial forebears have attempted to erase indigenous peoples from this continent – erase our histories, our protocols, our languages, our political systems, our educational systems, our ceremonies, our philosophies. And to counteract systematic and systemic attempts at erasure, we need to systematically and systemically shed light on indigenous presence.”
Other topics include:
- Renaming streets, towns, and natural features in accordance with indigenous history.
- Combatting ongoing settler-colonialism.
- Making space for indigenous land-use priorities, even when they do not perfectly align with mainstream environmental goals.
For the full lecture, watch and listen below: