Campus News

Spring Elder discusses cultural resources, campus courses

Leland Wigg is UW-Madison's Spring Elder in residence.

Image By: Alyssa Hui

The Elders-in-Residence Program hosted by the UW-Madison American Indian Studies Department welcomed spring Elder Leland Wigg Wednesday.

Upon starting in 2018, the program aims to advance the experience of American Indian and Alaskan Native students by hosting Native elders.

Ninham served as a Tribal Judge on the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin for 14 years and is a certified Peacemaker who conducts workshops for schools, businesses and communities that teach participants how to effectively interact with each other and manage conflicts in a respectful way. 

The Elder-in-Residence program seeks to provide students with access to crucial cultural resources, strengthening partnerships between Tribal Nations and UW-Madison and improving the retention of Native students. 

Ninham lead a discussion on the importance of having courses on campus that discuss Indian culture and traditions. 

“As Indian tribes, we all had that and I’m just one of many elders,” Ninham said. “Our language was taken away, which is why it’s important to have classes on culture, traditions and Indian tribes.” 

Ninham said that as a Peacemaker he hopes to welcome our differences to create unity and peace. 

“We are all human beings on this earth to live together in harmony and community,” he said. “It’s all about relationship and if we can embrace our diversity, ethnicity, and individuality, we would be at the top of the world.” 

The Elder fielded questions regarding mental health and accessible education from event attendees.

Ninham said he was delighted to see so many students, professors, staff and elders involved in the program after the conversation ended. 

“I hope that we all keep this program alive and keep it going for the benefit of the students,” Ninham said. 

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