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UW-Eau Claire, Ho-Chunk Nation to pursue higher-education partnership

September 23, 2013

Ho-Chunk President Jon Greendeer and UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt
Ho-Chunk Nation President Jon Greendeer and UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt signed an agreement to collaborate on the creation of a living-learning community at The Priory for members of the Ho-Chunk Nation.

EAU CLAIRE — The Ho-Chunk Nation and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire today signed a memorandum of intent to pursue collaborative activities, including a possible living-learning community at The Priory for students who are members of the Ho-Chunk Nation.

The agreement, signed by Ho-Chunk Nation President Jon Greendeer and UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt, is the result of more than a year of exploration and discussion regarding potential higher education partnerships between the Ho-Chunk Nation and the university.

The signing of the agreement is a step toward continuing the kind of programming that has been offered at The Priory site for decades, first by the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict and now by UW-Eau Claire, Schmidt said.

"This space was created for the education and personal growth of those who use it," Schmidt said. "We are excited to further develop plans for programs that are in keeping with both our missions."

The potential partnerships explored include the living-learning community for members of the Ho-Chunk Nation, as well as a Ho-Chunk language program and other course offerings, and certificate and degree completion options. The goal is to finalize specifics and to offer programming starting in the fall of 2014, Schmidt said.

Discussions between the partners have been led on behalf of the Ho-Chunk Nation by Adrienne Thunder, director of education, and on behalf of UW-Eau Claire by Priory Taskforce Chair Katherine Rhoades, dean emerita of the College of Education and Human Sciences, and Debra Barker, director of American Indian studies.

The collaboration between UW-Eau Claire and the Ho-Chunk Nation is "pioneering ground," as no other UW System institution has this type of partnership with the Native American community, Greendeer said.

As Ho-Chunk Nation president, he has many opportunities to participate in groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings that mark the outcomes of the nation's successful endeavors, but the agreement with UW-Eau Claire celebrates a beginning, he said.

"It also symbolizes what we are going to become," Greendeer said. "So as we pass on to the next generation whatever work our hands and hearts and minds have done, we will know that we were here today, to see the beginning of culture, of this partnership that the Ho-Chunk Nation has had with its communities, and now with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire."

Schmidt and Greendeer also said the partnership between UW-Eau Claire and the Ho-Chunk nation will enrich both the university and the surrounding community by providing opportunities for students and community members to experience the Ho-Chunk culture.

UW System Regent Edmund Manydeeds represented the system at the signing ceremony. He recalled 50 years ago when his father, who was employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, told him that the people of the Ho-Chunk Nation were highly educated and their culture was grounded in teaching and learning.

"I really think that the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has done this the right way," Manydeeds said. "They have approached the Ho-Chunk Nation as a sovereign nation, with respect, and with dignity. And the Ho-Chunk Nation has responded in kind. I'm looking forward to the future, to things that are going to be springing from this."

The memorandum of intent stipulates that any future collaborations will be consistent with both entities' respective missions, policies and regulations; that any future obligations or commitments must be agreed upon in writing and be signed by an authorized representative of each of their institutions; and that any future obligations or commitments will depend on the availability of funds for each party.

Background: Ho-Chunk Nation and The Priory

The Ho-Chunk Nation is based in Black River Falls and is descendant of tribes that were the inhabitants of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska when the first European settlers arrived in those areas several hundred years ago.

The Priory includes three building complexes totaling approximately 80,000 square feet and 112 mostly wooded acres. It is located in the Town of Washington, about three miles from the UW-Eau Claire main campus.

The Children's Nature Academy, UW-Eau Claire's children's center, occupies approximately 25,000 square feet at The Priory. Also, this fall, 20 UW-Eau Claire students are living at The Priory as a pilot project.

The remaining Priory space consists of residential rooms and gathering spaces that are suitable for conversion to classrooms, and collaborative learning spaces and offices. The complex also contains kitchen and dining facilities.

The Priory was purchased in October 2011 by Blugold RealEstate LLC, a subsidiary of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. The university currently leases the facility from the Foundation.



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