Jim Ennis visits White Earth Nation, extends invitation to tribal leader - Catholic Rural Life

Jim Ennis visits White Earth Nation, extends invitation to tribal leader

Catholic Rural Life • June 26, 2014

Jim Ennis visits White Earth Nation, extends invitation to tribal leader


Add another high-profile name to the list of confirmed speakers who will be participating in November’s Faith, Food, and the Environment Symposium: Dr. Erma Vizenor, the Chairwoman of the White Earth Nation.

Jim Ennis made the trip to White Earth Nation in northwest Minnesota last week to personally extend an invitation to Dr. Vizenor, a woman who Ennis described as a “highly respected leader” in the Native American community.

Dr. Vizenor accepted the invitation to offer a keynote address, joining a list that already includes Cardinal Peter Turkson, the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobachur. “Dr. Vizenor seemed very enthusiastic and committed to what we’ll be doing at the symposium,” relayed Ennis.

Dr. Vizenor will be the keynote speaker for a session entitled “Agriculture and Culture,” and will be focusing specifically on how agricultural developments affect Native American communities, delving into the impact, concerns, and opportunities associated with environmental and agricultural changes.

Ennis says Dr. Vizenor’s particpation is a reflection of her passion for education. “She sees the series of symposiums—one national in St. Paul, and one international in Italy in 2015—and the leadership resources being informed and developed from the symposiums as a really important set of tools for educating the next generation of men and women leaders, especially concerning how agricultural practices and environmental concerns intersect.”


A Good Relationship, A Shared Affinity

It’s unsurprising that CRL and White Earth Nation will be collaborating on this endeavor; they have a shared interest in agriculture, food, and environmental stewardship issues.

Since 2009, White Earth Nation has participated in three separate conferences with the University of Minnesota, exploring how genetically modified rice might affect the traditional agricultural practices of the Native American peoples. Both CRL and White Earth Nation are committed to sustainable methods of agriculture, such as  producing and harvesting wild rice, and protecting Minnesota’s water resources.

And for the past two years, CRL has administered a scholarship program for Native Americans interested in food, agriculture, and environment. The scholarship program has helped 20 young leaders from Native American communities in Minnesota pursue academic studies focusing on food and agriculture and environmental concerns. For more information on the scholarship program see CRL’s website at

CRL and White Earth Nation are also currently working together to explore possible funding opportunities through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development program to alleviate poverty and address economic development issues in the Native American community.

Ennis says the opportunity for close collaboration with White Earth Nation,  and Native American peoples at large, stems from the fact that they have a shared appreciation for the created order and the one who created it. “There’s a mutual understanding that God has created this beautiful world, and the we are to be stewards,” said Ennis. “This means we need to understand nature so that we can work with it, instead of fighting it or attempting to control it. That’s very much a part of both the Catholic and the Native American traditions.”


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