To the Carleton Community:
Today is Indigenous Peoples Day—a day to celebrate and honor the people who have stewarded the land on which we stand, and to acknowledge their creativity, resilience and contributions to this region and the country. It is also a day to be reminded of the injustices we have committed against Indigenous peoples, and the importance of ongoing efforts to interrupt that legacy.
As I look back on the steps Carleton has taken since we commemorated Indigenous Peoples Day last year, I am pleased to share an update on our ongoing efforts to strengthen our connections with local tribal nations and to increase awareness on campus of the history and contributions of Native peoples. This also seems a good opportunity to share some ways in which you might engage in learning and honest reflection not just today but in the months ahead.
Last year, we were honored to entertain a presidential delegation from the Prairie Island Indian Community, the first of several wonderful exchanges with the community involving students, faculty, and staff. Following thoughtful conversations with Prairie Island President Shelley Buck and the Carleton Indigenous Peoples Alliance (IPA) last fall, we committed to advancing a number of priorities, resulting in the actions noted below:
- Hiring Carleton’s first Indigenous communities liaison. Marcy Averill joined us on Sept. 1, thanks in part to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in partnership with the Social Science Research Council.
- Creating a new tenure-track position in Native American and Indigenous Studies. A search is underway to fill this position, with an expected start of fall 2023.
- Awarding the Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professorship to Jennifer Denetdale (Navajo), who will join us in the spring to teach a course on Indigenous films.
- Creating a space in the Arboretum where Indigenous people can practice their traditions and attend to their spiritual well being. Prairie Island representatives blessed the area, and IPA students are collaborating on signs for the space and the elements within its bounds.
- Planning for a cultural house for Indigenous students. This designated residential space is being developed as part of the Student Life and Housing Plan, which makes investments in cultural housing, adds multicultural and Black student centers, creates a new home for SHAC, and adds other new housing to campus.
We have also committed resources toward the Elder-in-Residence program, which piloted last spring and brought Dr. Denise Lajimodiere of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa to Carleton for workshops, classroom visits, public talks, meetings with senior leaders, individual mentoring, and shared meals with students, faculty and staff. The program will continue in 2023. Conversations are also continuing on the possibility of a scholarship program for Dakota students, and ways to develop a consistent recruitment pipeline to bring more Dakota students to our campus. I am grateful for the partnership of President Buck and the IPA as we have pursued these campus initiatives.
On this year’s Indigenous Peoples Day, our focus is on internal restorative reflections and relationship building rather than outward-facing events. The IPA student group has recently grown significantly and will invest time today in getting better acquainted with and supporting one another. Our Prairie Island neighbors also will return to campus to spend the day with our Indigenous students and continue building those relationships.
For all students, faculty, staff, and community members, there are a number of significant opportunities to honor and support Indigenous people beyond the holiday and to deepen our capacity to engage with topics of Indigeneity taking place in the coming weeks and months:
- The Julie Buffalohead exhibit is on display at the Perlman Teaching Museum through Nov. 16. Julie is a member of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma and creates visual narratives told by animal characters that have personhood, agency, individuality, and power. Those of us who were privileged to hear Julie Buffalohead talk, along with Gwen Westerman, on campus at the exhibit opening were moved by her artistic and cultural vision.
- During Family Weekend on Oct. 15, Çaƞte Máza (Neil McKay), a Dakota Language Specialist and faculty member in the American Indian Studies Department at the University of Minnesota, will give a talk at the Perlman Teaching Museum on the display of local flora and fauna prints, viewing them through the lens of Dakota language and culture.
- Julian Brave NoiseCat will present the Convocation on Oct. 21. Julian is a proud member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen and a descendant of the Lil’Wat Nation of Mount Currie, whose work cuts across the fields of journalism, policy, research, art, activism and advocacy, often engaging multiple disciplines at once.
- On Nov. 14, a screening of “Maat Means Land,” a 30-minute film by early career Ipai Kumeyaay and Payómkawichum director Fox Maxy, will be held in collaboration with Carleton’s International Film Forum. “Maat Means Land” is a Tiktok-eqsue ode to contemporary Indigenous culture and identity, mixing activism, sociality, and play. The screening is at 7 p.m. in the Weitz Cinema, and the filmmaker will join virtually for a Q&A following the screening.
November is Native American Heritage Month, and more opportunities to celebrate and honor Indigenous people are planned on campus. Looking even further ahead, a number of interdisciplinary, Indigenous community-engaged workshop opportunities are in development for winter and spring terms, which will be open to all members of our community. I hope that you will find an opportunity to reflect on this important heritage today, next month, and throughout the year.
President Alison Byerly