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Reflections on the American Indian Community of Practice

By Jennifer Garbow, Extension educator and associate Extension professor

University of Minnesota Extension established an American Indian Task Force (AITF) in 2006 to expand its work in Indian country through mutually beneficial community-University partnerships. The original three goals still hold true today:
  1. Improve American Indian communities' access to and representation in the University;
  2. Provide staff development for Extension staff interested in working with American Indian populations;
  3. Develop, in partnership with American Indian communities, culturally appropriate programs using innovative approaches to achieve mutual goals.
group of people near river edge.
As part of the work of AICoP, members went on a sacred sites tour.
The AITF has provided valuable guidance to those starting or improving Extension program work in Indian country. As a result, this work has expanded across the state, with over 35 staff and faculty from all Extension Centers currently engaged in programming efforts with Indian country partners. Many have expressed interest in either being on the AITF or having other opportunities for shared learning and support. The Community of Practice (CoP) provides these and other interested Extension personnel with a network of support, resources, and shared learning opportunities throughout the year.

The AITF CoP has five primary objectives:
  • Increase the knowledge among colleagues about Minnesota Native Nations and Tribal Sovereignty
  • Improve programming through the inclusion of American Indian content and knowledge
  • Expand understanding of American Indian ways of knowingand interpreting our world
  • Create effective networks of partnerships, ready and able to engage in authentic collaboration driven by community input
  • Strengthen the use of intercultural skills in a respectful way that honors both Extension’s mission and tribal communities’ priorities.
The CoP is member-driven using on-line tools and in-person platforms to share experiences, support, expertise, tools and resources to create new relationships and help members design and deliver relevant and culturally driven Extension programs.

Facebook is a platform to share interests and opportunities, connect with colleagues and learn about new ideas. To join the AITF Community of Practice Facebook page go to University of Minnesota Extension AITF Community of Practice.

The AITF CoP Google group is also a place to share, connect and learn. It is a platform for mutual engagement and innovation and serves as a sounding board to discuss new ideas, problems and to help each other. To join the Google group, email Diane Seefeldt.

If you would like to be involved in planning events or initiatives, or have questions about participation, you can email me or Renee Pardello.

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