Join the SEEDS Grant Program

Jerah Doxtator and Dustin Skenandore

jerah doxtator and dustin skenandore | yl voice | jan. 2019

In the ever-changing landscape of education, how do we ensure students are receiving accurate and thoughtful experiences concerning Indigenous people? Planting Seeds of Knowledge (SEEDS) is an Oneida Nation Arts Program grant program for Wisconsin schools and other community groups to work with qualified Native artists in interactive and engaging residencies, workshops and performances. Since its inception in 2007, our Native artists have presented 270 performances and workshops, reaching more than 65,000 Wisconsin children with authentic experiences in and teachings on Native culture and good messages on diversity.

The artists working in the SEEDS program are experienced and have developed programs to help connect children to Native history, culture and language. Topics in Native history and culture vary from learning about pre-contact life of Wisconsin Native people to the history of boarding schools to today's stereotypes. SEED artists are skilled at presenting this information in a loving and kind way, helping to plant seeds of understanding in Wisconsin Native culture, getting along and celebrating differences.

Two of our SEEDS artists, Mark Denning (Oneida Nation) and Wade Fernandez (Menominee Nation) share some of their insights presenting in the schools. Denning is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's School of Continuing Education, where he specializes in Act 31. Fernandez is a professional award-winning musician who specializes in Native American flute, guitar and vocal performance.

Fernandez states, “With younger students I adjust to their age group by leaving out some of the more mature themes such as the punishments in boarding schools that were … too violent for them to hear about at that age. Instead I will tell the story of how lonely the little girls were in the boarding school and how they would hold hands to support each other when missing their parents."

Denning adds, “What I want to do first [is respect that] children aren't little adults. They're children, they're students and we have to approach them where they are at."

When in session with students you can expect to see smiling faces and kids engaged while learning about our traditional dances and La Crosse from Denning or Native American flute and our stories from Fernandez.

Of all grants awarded each fiscal year, the most rewarding for schools is the residency; this allows educators to work with Native American artists for four days in a culturally rich experience. During this time, qualified Native Artists engage students in history, creativity and culture.The grant program also boasts other highly qualified artists: Jennifer Stevens, who eloquently integrates Oneida culture through pottery and music; Coleen Bins, a gifted artisan in traditional and contemporary Native adornments and crafts; Ted Skenandore (Strong Medicine Band), talented musician and songwriter accompanied by traditional dance and customs through stories; and Greg and Jamie Kellicut, who encompass an interactive cultural and learning environment.

In January, the SEEDS Grant Program accepts applications for new artists to join the roster for the 2019-2020 school year. Additionally, the Oneida Nation Arts Program is holding a special meeting to introduce the grant program and enhance the ability of artists to share their talents with us in Seeking New Talent: Expanding the SEEDS Grant Roster. This meeting will be at the Community Education Center on January 25, 2019, at 4:30 p.m. Register online and obtain all the forms you need at oneidacommunityeducationcenter.org.

Funding for these grants is made possible by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board and the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin. If you would like more information about becoming a SEEDS Grant Artist or having an Artist visit your school/organization, please visit oneidanationarts.org/seeds-grant-info-main.html.

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