Isa Meyer grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, but her family spends a week every summer in northern Wisconsin. When she started her search for colleges, she knew two things: she wanted to study forestry and she wanted to stay in Wisconsin.
She discovered Northland College during family day trips to Ashland. Drawn to Northland for its setting near Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands and for its emphasis on the outdoors, experiential learning, and a forestry program, she applied.
Now in her junior year, Meyer is double majoring in natural resources with a forestry emphasis and in Native American studies. She added a Native American studies major after taking an Introduction to Native American Studies course her first semester at Northland, spurring her interest in traditional ecological knowledge.
“She’s just an incredibly dedicated, articulate, and smart Northland College student,” said Stacy Craig, coordinator of applied learning.
Meyer said Northland College scholarships have been critical to her overall experience. “They have allowed me more time for my studies, and to become involved with the greater Chequamegon Bay community.”
She’s worked for the last two summers at the Wisconsin Historical Society Madeline Island Museum in La Pointe, Wisconsin, located on Madeline Island—a thirty-minute car ride and twenty-five-minute ferry ride away from campus—and plans to return again this upcoming summer.
She says the museum has taught her so much about the history of the region, Ojibwe culture, and about providing a welcoming atmosphere of “relentless hospitality.”
Keldi Merton, acting director at the museum, said Meyer is diplomatic at fielding tough questions and about educating people about the tribal experience. “She also brings a sense of grace and formality to everything,” she said.
Merton also commented that Meyer is a great fit for the museum. “She’s smart, curious, reliable, and a voracious reader,” Merton said. “She’s working her way through every book in the bookstore.”
Meyer is currently interning at the Indigenous Cultures Center Native American Museum on campus.
She has developed several new exhibits, including a display of Rainy River First Nations chicken dance regalia and a jingle dress, and another highlighting twenty-nine Pueblo Nation Kachina dolls, with a goal of adding a new exhibit every semester. Meyer organized an open house in December to showcase these new exhibits and plans to make this a regular event.
The traditional Pueblo Kachina dolls, donated by the family of ICC staff person Cassie Brown, have become an ongoing project of discovery about the origins and meaning of the dolls.
Carved from the driftwood of the cottonwood tree, each of the dolls “represents a specific Kachina spirit, of which there are several hundred. The word Kachina also refers to a person who transforms into a Kachina spirit by wearing sacred body and face paint, regalia, and a mask,” Meyer said.
Meyer is currently working with experts from around the country to authenticate the dolls, determine their tribal nation of origin, and learn more information about them.
“Isa is conscientious and self-motivated: when you assign her a project, she works hard to ensure its success,” said Assistant Professor of Native American Studies Emily MacGillivray, who oversees the museum.
For instance, as part of her on-going research, “Isa found a curator at the Maxwell Museum at the University of New Mexico with a specialization in this area and is working with her to learn more about the individual dolls,” she said.
Meyer said she looks forward to taking Professor MacGillivray’s course, Indigenous Museum Studies, in May. As for the future, she intends to remain in the region after graduation to pursue a career in a forestry or Native American studies related field.