Fast Chat: A Passion for Conservation

We ask a student leader to share her story.
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Zoi Crampton Caught In Between 1200x700
"Caught in Between," a film-photo by Zoi Crampton, captures the overlapping identities Zoi feels being part Native in an urban, predominantly white space.
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As a Native American woman, sophomore Zoi Crampton has spent much of her time at U-M promoting the representation of people from different heritages. During her first year, she joined the Native American Student Association, where she now serves as the co-external activism chair. In the fall of 2020, she took on the role of co-student coordinator for Native American Heritage Month, which takes place every November. Behind all of Crampton’s academic and extracurricular interests is a passion for conservation, whether it be conserving the environment, her native culture and heritage, or both.

Michigan Alumnus gleaned the following in a conversation with Crampton.

CRAMPTON SPENT HER EARLY YEARS in the city of Mount Pleasant, Michigan, on the Isabella Reservation, part of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation, a federally recognized band of Chippewa located in central Michigan. Around age 5, she and her family moved to Haslett, a predominantly white suburb of Lansing, Michigan. There, Crampton faced discrimination from her peers and teachers. Later, while living in Florida, she found it difficult to assert her native identity because her peers assumed she was Mexican or Puerto Rican.

DOODLING AND DRAWING was an outlet for Crampton during her childhood but became a serious pursuit in high school. Now studying at U-M’s Stamps School of Art & Design, Crampton is delving into photography and videography as well as social practice art. “A lot of my pieces focus on identity and what constitutes identity, both personally and as a community,” Crampton says. “I want to explore conversations around blood quantum, colorism, and similar issues to see how they shape identity and autonomy today.” (Blood quantum is the highly controversial measurement of the amount of “Indian blood” in a person.)

Zoi Crampton
Credit: Zoi Crampton

CRAMPTON IS PURSUING both a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science from LSA’s Program in the Environment. She is also a member of the environmental professional fraternity Epsilon Eta. To illustrate how her interests intersect, she provided this example. “Birchbark trees are receding north, and we’re getting less of them. That affects traditions for Great Lakes tribes, like basket weaving. My grandma was a master black ash basketmaker, so she taught me a little bit, but the forests receding upward means that tradition can’t be passed down anymore.”

TO RAISE AWARENESS OF THE THREATS of environmental and cultural degradation, Crampton helped organize the events for last year’s Native American Heritage Month, including moderating a panel on “Indigenous Environmental Justice.” She is also currently learning the Anishinaabemowin language, the same language her ancestors were brutally beaten for speaking at boarding schools. “To know that I’m learning it right now, that is in itself a form of resistance that speaks to my identity.”

IN THE FUTURE
, Crampton plans to work in wildlife conservation. Following high school, she volunteered with a whale conservation project in Tenerife, Spain. Although Crampton was already passionate about the environment, she said that her experience inspired her to work toward leadership roles in the field. “To not only be in a project like that but to be leading the project, that would be my ideal dream job in 10 to 20 years.”


Alexander Satola is a senior in LSA and a correspondent for The Statement, the magazine of The Michigan Daily.

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