Water is Life - Bringing People Together to Share Indigenous Ecological Knowledge and Wisdom
April 3, 2024 | 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.followed by a feast and storytelling
UW-Stevens Point, Dreyfus Univesity Center
Additional Interests, Business and Leadership, Educators, Lectures, Live Training and Classes, Mind and Body, Natural Resources, See Stevens Point Offerings
April 3, 2024 | 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. followed by a feast and storytelling
​UW-Stevens Point, Dreyfus University Center

Registration Information

Conference Fees:

Students - $20
General Community Members - $50
Vendors/Attendees for Professional Networking Fair - $25​​


Professional Networking Fair
One Table - $25
Two Tables - $40

Art Vendors:
One Table -$35
Two Tables - $60

Would you like to support this event? That option is available on the registration site.​

Professional development networking fair contact information will be shared with conference attendees to facilitate networking. There is an opt-out option on the online ​registration.

 Conference Agenda

8-8:30 a.m. | Registration & Breakfast

Check-in to get your name badge & grab breakfast

8:30 -9:15 a.m. | Opening & Keynote

​Opening Ceremony - Drum and Invocation with Karen Ann Hoffman

Keynote - Jen Martel

9:20 - 10:20 a.m. | Panel 

​Water Protectors - Sandra Gokee, Paul DeMain, & Jen Martel

10:30-11:15 a.m. | Breakout Sessions

​Workshops Hosted by:

Paul DeMain, & Sandra Gokee -Organizing Communities

Misty Cook - Traditional Medicines Workshop

We will talk about our ancestors who passed this information down throughout the generations.  How to identify the Medicines, gather, dry, preserve and use them in our lives.​​

Lucy Grignon - Planting Seeds of Healing in Our Community

We recognize connections to our Indigenous roots come in many forms from our language 
journey to the stories of our elders, our people, our food ways, and our healing. As we take time
to heal ourselves, the people around us heal. We heal for the ancestors who have come before
us and the ancestors who will come after us.

Learn about connecting to ancestral knowledge of Indigenous ways of life through
homesteading. The Ancient Roots Homestead journey.

Planting seeds of resiliency! Culture is prevention. Despite all of the challenges we have faced,
We work towards our Indigenous practices, to bring them back, use them, and honor them daily.
Reclaiming and restoring our traditional ways of connecting and living. Renewing our special
commitments with each generation, to keep these traditions alive and well. To understand and
remember who we are, never forgetting. To live a life of strong purpose, connecting to our
Ancient Roots.

Seek connection, dig your bare feet into the earth, and feel those strong connections to your​
ancestors, plants, animals, and all things. We are all connected! Find your sacred space to
feel safe and heal, and the rest will follow!

Corice Lieb - Discussion of his 2023 Running Strong Grant project.

His focus for the grant is to strengthen indigenous sovereignty with the utilization of drones to help tribes become more independent from the state with conducting preliminary damage assessments for FEMA, as well as, shorten the paperwork process when conducting a preliminary damage assessment with the help of drone footage instead of written report we can use a visual footage for the assessment. 

11:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. | Professional Networking Fair

Hosted by: David O'Connor

Our Professional Networking Fair is open to all individual’s, organizations, government departments and businesses that are doing work that relate to Indigenous wellness, sustainability, advocacy, natural resources, and revitalization.

​The NAC wants to help celebrate all the good work being done locally in all areas relevant to Indigenous communities. Indigenous people and them allies are at the forefront of Integrated wellness, environmental sustainability, and restorative justice. Building relationship between people locally to help to grow and recognize Indigenous knowledge for future generations.​​

12:15 - 1 p.m.| Lunch

​Lunch Ceremony, Drum, and Invocation with Sonny Smart

Keynote Speaker - Rebecca Webster

1:15 - 2:15 p.m. | Panel

​Food Sovereignty - Misty Cook, Lois Stevens, & Rebecca Webster

2:15 - 3:15 p.m. | Indigenous Food Demonstration

​Brian Yazzie

3:15 - 3:45 p.m. | Networking Time

Spend some time networking with exhibitors and  conference attendees.

3:45 - 4:30 p.m. | Closing

Closing and Smudging Ceremony and Traveling Song

5 p.m. | Storytelling

Storytelling With Michael Laughing Fox and Feast 

For detailed information, click open the tabs below


Sheniah Reed ​

Sheniah Reed is an enrolled tribal member of Oneida Nation in Wisconsin. She is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point studying for Wildlife Ecology and Management, a minor in Biology and a Certification in Native American and Indigenous Studies. She is also the president of AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) as well as multiple other environmental organizations such as Women in Natural Resources and The Wildlife Society.

In 2023, Sheniah was honored to be chosen as one of the Running Strong for American Indian Youth grant winners with projects in Environmental Justice. Each year Running Strong awards ten Dreamstarters and their mentor organizations a grant to start a project inspired by each of their individual dreams. Sheniah's dream is to bring people together to share and inspire new indigenous, ecological ideas and wisdom.

Sheniah will be hosting a Water is Life conference to bring people and resources together to really learn about the interconnected importance of water, water quality, food sovereignty and social justice. Sheniah's end goal after the conference is for everyone to be able to network and connect with each other to learn about our local indigenous movements, projects, strengths, and actions. This way we can help support and improve our communities' environments and wellbeing. This would be a wonderful way for students and professionals to actively make a positive impact on themselves and their communities.  

Native American Center


The Native American Center (NAC) supports and develops cultural programs on campus while building community for our Native students. These initiatives encourage the revitalization of Indigenous cultures and languages while providing a tether to Indigenous students who are away from their home and families.
The NAC connects indigenous students to resources and encourages personal and professional development while fostering appreciation for their Indigenous identity and culture.

To develop and support educational programs, projects, and initiatives to encourage the perpetuation of tribal languages and cultural traditions among Native American communities in Wisconsin.

To promote fellowship among the American Indian community of central Wisconsin.
To foster the formal and informal educational goals of American Indian people.
To advance public education concerning American Indians on the UWSP campus and in surrounding communities.
Work to advocate for change and support that benefit the recruitment and retention of Native American Students.


American Indians Reaching for Opportunities student organization established in 1968 is one of the oldest student organizations at UW SP. Our students spend time together building community, working on issues important to them, and making connections with their culture and each other.​



Jennifer Martel is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Reservation, resides and works on the Standing Rock Reservation.  She has worked for Sitting Bull College 21 years, currently the Visitor Center Coordinator of the Sitting Bull Visitor Center at Sitting Bull College. Tourists from all over the world come through the doors.  She has gained knowledge and understanding through grant writing and giving opportunities to the communities and surrounding communities offering traditional art, food and medicine classes. Having a good rapport with Native artists locally, nationally and internationally through networking and resourcing. Always seeking to help the community of artists as well as spring up new artists. Helping in the community is where you will find her working with the Youth, Elders or an event she has helped coordinate. As Native and artist rights activist, community leader, grant writer and educator, and a public speaker for the relatives. 
She had courage to help produce a film named OYATE. OYATE elevates the voices of Indigenous activists, organizers, and politicians as they offer their perspective on that complicated history, contextualize the #NoDAPL movement, illuminate the interconnectivity between the issues facing Indian Country today, and look towards a more sovereign and sustainable future for their people. She was a key organizer during the Standing Rock protests, directing thousands in and out of the reservation and developing protocols for national media outlets. Jen is a founding member of the Indigenous People's Movement, a worldwide advocacy group for first nation sovereignty and rights.  She was key in developing the Oceti Sakowin Treaty Conference, a revival of a 150 year old tribal leader tradition, and continues to develop Indigenous-empowering conferences around the world.     


Rebecca M. Webster

Rebecca M. Webster is an enrolled citizen of the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin. She is an Associate Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth in the Department of American Indian Studies. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in their Tribal Administration and Governance programs. Her research interests focus on tribal administration and food sovereignty. She is the editor of the book, Tribal Administration Handbook: A Guide For Native Nations in the United States. She is the author of the book, In Defense of Sovereignty: Protecting the Oneida Nation's Inherent Right to Self-determination, as well as the book, Our Precious Corn: Yukwanénste. She received her B.A., M.P.A., and J.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration from Walden University. In addition to her academic interests, she grows heirloom traditional foods with her family on their 10 acre farmstead Ukwakhwa: Tsinu Niyukwayayʌthoslu (Our foods: Where we plant things) and with Ohe·láku (among the cornstalks), a co-op of Oneida families that grow Iroquois white corn together. Based on their family farming practices, they started a YouTube Channel called Ukwakhwa (Our Foods) where they share what they learned about planting, growing, harvesting, seed keeping, food preparation, food storage, as well as making traditional tools and crafts. In 2021, their family formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Ukwakhwa Inc., to help advance their goals of helping share knowledge with the community."

Her speech is titled, “Seeding Resilience: Haudenosaunee Corn and History".​​

David J. O'Connor

David J. O'Connor is originally from and is a citizen of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa ( Anishinaabe or Ojibwe) in northern Wisconsin. In January 2012, he became the American Indian Studies Consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). In David's role at DPI, he supports school districts' efforts to provide instruction on the histories, cultures and tribal sovereignty of Wisconsin's American Indian nations and tribal communities, often referenced as Wisconsin Act 31, and the education of Native American students.
David provides training opportunities and presents at conferences and workshops throughout the state of Wisconsin on American Indian education and studies. He also provides general consultation on issues related to the education of American Indian students. David serves as liaison to American Indian nations and tribal communities of Wisconsin; tribal education departments, Wisconsin Indian Education Association (WIEA), Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council (GLITC) and the Special Committee on State-Tribal Relations.
David received both his Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Educational Leadership Policy and Analysis (ELPA) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in History with certificates in American Indian Studies and Chican@ and Latin@ Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also a graduate of the School District of Ashland where he did his K-12 education and a graduate of the Bad River Tribal Head Start where he started his education and his early learning.

Lucille Burr

My name is Lucille Burr Gringon. I am an enrolled member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Nation and a direct descendant of the Menominee Nation. Muh-he-con-ne-ok being of the People of the Waters that are never still and Menominee being of the Ancient movers. I am a passionate Indigenous homesteader, educator, writer, doula, and advocate for my community and the world around me. My family owns an Indigenous Homestead called Ancient Roots in Bowler, Wisconsin. We research traditional gardening practices from our ancestors dating back to ages ago to the present day. We use a combination of their methods to learn, preserve, grow, seed save, reconnect, and share. We are working to reconnect to our cultural inheritance through the land, plants, medicines, and wildlife. I recognize my connections to my Indigenous roots come in many forms, from our language journey to the stories of our elders, our people, and our healing.

Brian​​ Yazzie

Brian Yazzie aka Yazzie The Chef (Diné/Navajo) is a chef and food justice activist from Dennehotso, Arizona and based out of Saint Paul, MN. He is the founder of Intertribal Foodways catering company, a YouTube creator under Yazzie The Chef TV, a delegate of Slow Food Turtle Island Association, and a member at I-Collective: a collective of cooks, chefs, seed keepers, farmers, foragers, and scholars, focused on bringing awareness to the cultural appropriations of Indigenous foods of the Americas.​


Paul DeMain (Skabewis)



Paul DeMain (Skabewis) is a citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and of Ojibwe descent. He lives near Hayward, Wisconsin on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Reservation and summers on Madeline island. He is the former editor of News from Indian Country and former Board Chair of the Minnesota environmental advocacy organization Honor The Earth.
A member of the Bear Clan, DeMain has been involved in several environmental actions to help defeat open pit mines, and fossil fuel pipelines in the Chequamegon Bay area. He is currently engaged with assisting regional actions opposing the reroute of Line #5 through a community coalition called Communities United by Water.

Sandy Gokee

Wenipashtaabe indigoo, Sandy Gokee indizhinikaaz zhaaganaashmong, makwa indoodem, jiigibiig gichigaming wenjibaayaan. ​​

Misty Cook (Davids)

Author of "Medicine Generations" herbalist, and a cultural consultant with a Master's in management providing diversity trainings on many topics including, Native American history, games, and of course medicine.

Lois Stevens

Lois Stevens is a mother, teacher, researcher, geographer, and citizen of the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin. Her true name is Kah^tuwahna, given to her by her great grandmother. She is an Assistant Professor of First Nations Studies and the First Nations Education Doctoral Program at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. She received her PhD from the University of Kansas in the Department of Geography. Growing up on the Oneida Reservation, she developed a deep appreciation for ancestral knowledge, community relationship, and an understanding of her impact on Mother Earth. Beside her partner, Paul, they are dedicated to continuing this transference of knowledge to their three daughters; Kah^tes, Yakokalanolu, and Yakoliwawihe. As a researcher and geographer, her research interests involve the effects of environmental and climatic change on Indigenous food systems and Place-based adaptation within Indigenous communities. She is also invested in empowering Indigenous voices in academia by encouraging individual wellness and fostering a love for collaborative research and writing.​

​Corice Lieb

Corice is from the Omaha Nation Tribe located in Macy, Nebraska, he attends the university of Omaha Nebraska majoring in emergency management, minoring in tribal emergency management and drone theory. He’s a Veteran in the armed forces and Running Strong Grant 2023 recipient. His focus for the grant is to strengthen indigenous sovereignty with the utilization of drones to help tribes become more independent from the state with conducting preliminary damage assessments for FEMA, as well as, shorten the paperwork process when conducting a preliminary damage assessment with the help of drone footage instead of written report we can use a visual footage for the assessment. ​​​​​​

 Honored Elders

​​Karen Ann Hoffman


Karen Ann Hoffman is a Haudenosaunee Raised Beadwork artist and citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. A 2020 National Heritage Fellow and a 2022 United States Artists Fellow, she beads, hunts, forages and caretakes Haudenosaunee heritage seeds on a 40 acre homestead poised on the edge of the Fogerty Marsh in Central Wisconsin. 

An advocate for the voices of Native art and artists, she has been instrumental in curating both temporary Native art exhibitions across the region as well as multiple permanent, prominent pieces of Native driven public art throughout Portage County.

Her own Beadwork is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution, Chicago's Field Museum, the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, New York's State Museum in Albany NY, the Iroquois Indian Museum in Howes Cavern, NY, the Fenimore Art Museum I'd Cooperstown NY and other prominent institutions.​​

Alton " Sonny" Smart

Alton “Sonny” Smart is an Anishsiabe educator who occupies many roles in native and non native communities. He is first and foremost a Grandfather, father, husband, son, uncle, and grandson.  He is a Tribal Judge; a United States Army (Airborne) Vietnam Veteran; He holds positions on Ojibwa ceremonial Big Drum and Midewiwin medicine societies. He is a member of the Band River Band of Chippewa of Wisconsin, where he was born into the Fish Clan. His spiritual names of Ozaawaa-na-quad (Yellow Cloud) and later a Menominee tribal name of Notnowgiishick (Center Sky), when he was adopted into a Menominee Tribal Family

He is currently Professor Emeritus of Social work at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. (1990) Where he coordinated the Native American Rural & Social Work program and Native American Family Institute. He served as Program director of department Social Work program. 2010-15. He teaches courses in Native American Social work, child Welfare, problems in family interaction and other social work. He has under-graduate and graduate degrees in the social work, sociology and has post-graduate training in Family Therapy. He is state certified as a third-party therapist in individual, family and group therapy. He has served as an expert witness in many Indian Child welfare cases and has done numerous cultural assessments in such cases.

He has worked for various Wisconsin Tribes in many capacities, such as clinical social worker, director of alcohol and drug prevention, in-home family therapist, director of family and counseling services, high school guidance counselor, school cultural specialist, health careers recruiter. He served in the United States Army Airborne field medic in Vietnam and Germany. He has served as a Tribal Judge for the Bad River Band since 1985 where he currently Senior Associate Tribal Judge. 

He currently does consultant work and training in the areas of tribal mental health, Indian child welfare, treatment modalities in working with tribal families, alcohol and drug intervention and prevention, cultural parenting programs, Indian education and cultural teaching styles, community and program development, Peacemaking in tribal courts

He has done work in the areas of tribal leadership development and supervision. He has provided training to tribal, state, federal and private social service and educational agencies and organizations through out the Midwest regional and national levels. He has done training in cultural sensitivity and cultural competency. He has developed assessment tools to assist in evaluating child welfare and counseling tribal clients.
He conceptualized and co-authored the Family Circles Woodland Parenting manual using the cultural paradigm as the main learning paradigm. He currently works with the Lac Du Flambeau community in revitalizing the Family circles model as an consultant working with tribal families. He produced a in-depth series of Ojibwe language CD’s with Larry “Amik” Smallwood

Sonny has a unique style of blending his cultural knowledge and heritage with the western paradigm of helping. He is able to help bridge the gap between the two worlds in a humorous and non-threatening way through his use of cultural stories of song and dance and life stories of his Anishinabe people.
He has been attending and dancing at powwows through out the country for over 40 years in traditional and grass dance categories as well as serving as head judge, head Veteran and Arena Director and Master of Ceremonies

 Story Tellers

Michael Laughing Fox Charette is a gifted Native American storyteller, poet, and member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (located in Northern Wisconsin). As a self-taught Native flute player he enhances his stories with hauntingly beautiful flute and drum performance. Growing up surrounded by the beauty of Lake Superior and the woods led him to dedicate his gifts as an artist to gently teaching about Native history, culture, and spirituality. His work as both a visual and performance artist is varied and tied together by the traditional wisdom of the Anishnaabe people, which is respectfully incorporated into his work. Michael captivates audiences with his authentic, relaxed style.​​​

 Drum Host

Fire Nation Drum Group

Fire Nation drum group are from the Potawatomi nation in northeast Wisconsin. We have been existence for 10+ years. We enjoy dancing and singing all over Indian country. Traveling to new places and meeting new people are a favorite of ours. Culture is prevention. We are proud of where we come from. We continue the traditions that were pasted down by our older generations so our children and their children's​​ children will be proud of their culture and hopefully they pass it down just as we have. Many migwetths​.

 Menominee Water Walks

We are a grassroots group who have a determination to protect Mother Earth and our water. We as Menominee have been fighting a metallic sulfide mine that is threatening the Menominee River and our Ancient Cultural Sites that have been there since time immemorial. We also plan, organize and take part in Water Walks in NorthEast Wisconsin. We include our youth in our water protecting events to give them the teachings so they will someday pick up this task to save and protect Mother Earth and our Water. 

​​ ​



Cancellation Policy 

The registration fee is completely refundable through March 26, 2024. No refunds will be granted on or after April 2​​, 2024. Substitutions may be made at any time, but no-shows will be responsible for the full registration fee. ​​