Keynote Speakers


Dr. Michael Yellow Bird is a citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes, (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara), and a Professor of Sociology and Director of Indigenous Tribal Studies at North Dakota State University.  He joined the NDSU faculty in the fall of 2014. He has held faculty and/or academic administrative appointments at the University of British Columbia, University of Kansas, Arizona State University, and Humboldt State University.

His teaching, writing, research, and community work focus on Indigenous Peoples’ health, leadership, and cultural rights; the effects of colonization and methods of decolonization; decolonizing social work approaches; decolonizing war and military service; neurodecolonization and mind body approaches; neuroscience and Indigenous Peoples; traditional mindfulness and contemplative practices; ancestral and paleo eating and lifestyle; and the Rights of Mother Earth.


Dr. Melanie R. Riwai-Couch is the Principal of a year 1 – 13 full immersion Maori language school, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whānau Tahi, in Christchurch, New Zealand. The curriculum is taught from an indigenous world view, using Maori curriculum guidelines with a focus on technology, innovation and partnerships with the local tribe.  Dr Riwai-Couch is a member of the New Zealand Competence Authority for the Education Council of New Zealand and has previously worked as Senior Adviser to the New Zealand Ministry of Education, a tribal education facilitator and senior lecturer in pre-service teacher education.  She is married to Jared and together they have five children aged 7 – 16, all of whom are proficient in both English and Māori languages.  Her tribal affiliations are to Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō and Rangitāne ki Wairau and her husband is from Ngāi Tahu and Kahungunu.


Dr. Edna Manitowabi is Odawa/Ojibway from Wikwemikong, Manitoulin Island; head woman for the Eastern Doorway of the Three Fires Midewewin Lodge. She is well-known nationally as a Traditional teacher, ceremonialist, drum keeper and grandmother. She has been instrumental in the re-introduction of Traditional teachings and ceremonies in the local area, and is an active researcher of Traditional medicines. Edna is the founder of the annual Aboriginal women’s symposium at Trent. It was through her vision that Indigenous Studies and Trent started Nozhem Theatre, our Indigenous performance space that is developing an international reputation in Indigenous theatre and dance performance.

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