Next Steps for Cross-Cultural Partnerships

WI Green Fire, November 16, 2022

Wild rice
Photo: Nancy Larson

In September, representatives from WGF and the Wisconsin Chapter of The Wildlife Society (WCTWS) co-facilitated a session at the Great Lakes Regional Native American Fish and Wildlife Society (NAFWS) conference in Hayward, WI called “Building cross-cultural partnerships for conservation.” The session was attended by 16 conference participants, representing state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and tribal organizations. Attendees broke into two groups to discuss two questions:

1) What are some challenges and opportunities to cross-cultural communication, collaboration, and partnerships for conservation among organizations in the Great Lakes Region?

2) What are some ideas for specific action steps organizations can take to better pursue cross-cultural communication, collaboration, and partnerships?

Participants discussed the barriers, and agreed there is often a misalignment of goals and worldviews between tribal and non-tribal organizations. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge differences in these perspectives by adjusting language and priorities at the beginning of collaborative projects. Additionally, it is crucial to establish relationships on trust between individuals in each organization, which must be done early before critical issues arise.

Heather Stricker and Jenny Washam at the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society Great Lakes Regional Conference in Hayward, WI.

Participants also agreed there is a general lack of communication and effective information sharing between tribal and non-tribal organizations, and between conservation organizations focused on similar topics (i.e. wildlife management, biology) across the Great Lakes region. Youth engagement, employment, and funding for early-career professionals is also a barrier to engaging a new generation of conservation professionals in both tribal and non-tribal organizations.

Some specific action steps for WGF and WCTWS that participants identified included encouraging cross-organizational and cross-cultural communication and attendance at meetings held by other organizations; providing education, training, and resources to members to better equip them for cross-cultural partnership building and collaboration; and working closely with Tribes to influence decision makers on shared goals and issues that impact co-managed territories. Participants emphasized the importance of having qualified people provide trainings on culturally sensitive topics, such as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). As one attendee put it, “We can help you guys. We’re equals.”

You can read more on our findings and takeaways from the session here. Please reach out to us at with any questions, comments, or concerns.

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