Twin Cities Cohort

A campus/community partner of the Mellon Environmental Stewardship, Place, and Community Initiative.

The Twin Cities Cohort is working with Makoce Ikikcupi, a project that emerged more than a decade ago as a response to the historical legacy of forced removal and exile of the Očéti Šakówiŋ people. Work with Makoce Ikikcupi centers mutual learning, decolonization through advocacy and activism, and re-establishing Indigenous knowledge and sustainable ecological practices, foodways, and language. This work involves undergraduate and graduate courses in American Indian Studies, Art, and an interdisciplinary course on climate change in Fall 2020.


Leadership Team

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Faculty Lead: Christine Baeumler

As an artist and educator, Christine Baeumler explores the potential of art as a catalyst to increase awareness about environmental issues and to facilitate stewardship. Baeumler’s community-based environmental art practice is collaborative and addresses issues of water quality, habitat restoration, and climate change.  Baeumler is a professor and chair in the Department of Art at the University of Minnesota. Long term collaborative projects include the Backyard Phenology Citizen Science Climate Project, Bee Real, Bee Everywhere Wild Bee Habitats, the Buzz Lab youth internship program at the Plains Art Museum in North Dakotaand the Rooftop Tamarack Bog at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She has served as the artist in residence for Capitol Region Watershed District in St. Paul since 2010 and is an Institute on Environment fellow at the University of Minnesota. She is also the recipient of a Bush Foundation Fellowship, several Minnesota State Arts Board grants, and the Scholar of the College and the Engaged Scholar Award in the College of Liberal Arts, at the University of Minnesota.

Faculty Lead: Vicente M. Diaz

Vicente M. Diaz is Pohnpeian and Filipino from Guam. An interdisciplinary scholar, Diaz founded and heads The Native Canoe Program in the Department of American Indian Studies, University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. The program uses Indigenous water craft for community-engaged teaching and research on Indigenous water traditions. Diaz’s research is on comparative Indigenous cultural and political resurgence in Oceania and the Native Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi River region, particularly through the lens of Trans-Indigenous theory and practice, which foregrounds Indigenous histories and technologies of travel and mobility and pan-Indigenous solidarity.

Faculty Lead: Čhaŋtémaza (Neil McKay)

Čhaŋtémaza (Neil McKay) is Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ Dakhóta and a citizen of the Spirit Lake Nation. He is a senior teaching specialist in American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, teaching classes in Dakhóta culture and history, advanced Dakhóta language, Dakhóta linguistics and language for teachers. He also teaches several community language tables and consults with schools and tribal communities on language education and teacher training. His work focuses on creating new speakers and teachers of Dakhóta, which is considered an endangered language.

HolyElk Lafferty

HolyElk Lafferty is a MniCoujou/Oglala Lakota. She currently serves as operations manager for Thrive Unltd and as a Governing Council Member for Makočé Ikikčupí. Her passion is for healing among her people, restorative justice, and the protection of our rights and lands as Native Nations.

Jim Rock

Jim Rock (Dakota) M.A. Ed. is University of Minnesota Duluth's Director of Indigenous Programming at the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium and an instructor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Swenson College of Science & Engineering. Rock teaches in the Honors Department as well and offers an ethno- and archaeoastronomy course called Native Skywatchers which includes Turtle Island (N., C. & S. America) and Oceania. He has worked or designed experiments with NASA and NOAA and is co-author of the 2014 D(L)akota Star Map Constellation Guidebook and other publications on Dakota and regional Sky-Earth connections.


Waziyatawin is a Dakota writer, teacher, and justice advocate from the Pezihutazizi Otunwe (Yellow Medicine Village) in southwestern Minnesota. She earned her PhD in American History from Cornell University and has held tenured positions at Arizona State University and the University of Victoria, where she also served as the Indigenous Peoples Research Chair in the Indigenous Governance Program. Waziyatawin is the author or co/editor of seven volumes, her most recent being Pezihutazizi Oyate Kin: The People of Yellow Medicine (St. Paul: Living Justice Press, 2019), a community-commissioned history of her home reservation.