Back to all news stories

MBGNA Work Propels $30M NSF Center for Braiding Indigenous Knowledges and Science

U-M Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

The University of Michigan, in collaboration with the College of Menominee Nation, is set to play a pivotal role in the newly announced National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Braiding Indigenous Knowledges and Science (CBIKS): a five-year, $30 million international NSF Science and Technology Center based at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The center will braid Indigenous knowledge systems with Western science to address some of the most pressing issues of our time.

CBIKS will work on complex, evolving challenges brought on by climate change, including dire impacts affecting land, water, plant, and animal life; the danger posed to irreplaceable archaeological sites, sacred places, and cultural heritage; and the challenges of changing food systems, all of which disproportionately affect Indigenous communities.

MBGNA Director Tony Kolenic shares, “Research and innovation – and arguably our democracy – are most productive when ways of knowing the world are actively in conversation with each other, growing new approaches and solutions to our shared challenges. Based on what Mi’kmaq peoples call ‘two-eyed seeing,’ the Center for Braided Indigenous Knowledges and Science does just that, and we couldn’t be prouder to serve alongside College of Menominee Nation to co-lead one of just eight global Hubs.”

CBIKS is structured according to Indigenous models of consensus decision-making and intergenerational learning and responsibility. The center’s team includes over 50 scientists — more than 30 of whom are world-leading Indigenous natural, environmental, and social scientists, representing Native American, First Nations, Métis, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, Māori, and Aboriginal Australian peoples. Among the 40 partner organizations are 29 universities, two tribal colleges, five NGOs, two national museums, and two industry partners. CBIKS unifies and propels community- and place-based initiatives and research. It does so in partnership with institutions and 57 Indigenous communities in eight international “hubs’ ‘ in the U.S., Canada, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Australia. Over the coming years, CBIKS intends to grow these partnerships to include additional Indigenous community partners and more regional hubs.

Among the key CBIKS regional leaders is David Michener, Curator at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum (MBGNA) and Mentor Faculty in the Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship contributing expertise in seed rematriation and Indigenous agricultural/plant sciences. Michener serves as one of the co-principal investigators and co-leads for the Midwest Hub, along with Jennifer Gauthier at the College of Menominee Nation. The Midwest Hub’s advisory group includes Kyle Whyte (UM-SEAS), who serves on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and who contributes expertise in climate policy ethics, and Megan Bang (at Northwestern) who brings expertise in Indigenous land-based PreK-12 grade education. 

Read the full story at MGBNA.