Wenona Singel on connecting with her ancestry through nature

Landscape of wetland
Wenona Singel

Wenona Singel takes pride in her history within Michigan’s tribal communities. She is an enrolled member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and an associate professor of law at Michigan State University, where she teaches courses in federal Indian law and natural resources law. As a dedicated WWF supporter and member of the National Council, Wenona feels protecting the environment and natural resources is at her core.

Why is being close to nature important to you?

I’ve always loved being on the water. Growing up, I would canoe Michigan’s rivers with my parents. Being in nature was a formative experience for me. Recognizing our obligation to be caretakers of our environment is central for Michigan’s Anishinabek Nation, of which the Odawa are a part. In my culture, women are considered the caretakers of water. In fact, Michigan’s Indigenous peoples are leading advocates of water protection in the state and country. I am personally very committed to protecting the Great Lakes and the environmental well-being of our watershed.

What inspired your connection with WWF?

WWF recognizes that Indigenous peoples have an important role to play in environmental conservation efforts around the world. I’ve been really impressed with the work of people like Monica Rattling Hawk, WWF’s Native Nations liaison in the Northern Great Plains, who has been instrumental in building support for our tribal communities. It’s exciting to see all that WWF is doing to support tribes in restoring bison to the Great Plains. As a National Council member, I’m excited for the opportunity to support those efforts and WWF’s other work with Indigenous communities around the world.

Are you hopeful for the future of nature?

I am because I think the impact of WWF, and other organizations like it, will continue to grow. While we will still face a variety of existential threats—from climate change to biodiversity loss—I am hopeful that with greater public outreach, education, and awareness, we will persevere in making advances and find creative ways to overcome political barriers to protecting our environment.

Explore More

World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

View all issues