On Feb. 21, the Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity (CSCRE) arranged for a speaker to discuss the importance of environmental conscientiousness in the Seneca territory. The speaker was Jason Corwin, the executive director of the Seneca Media and Communications Center, an organization that directs the media presence of the Seneca Nation of Indians. The event primarily focused on how media produced by indigenous people can be used to advocate against their exploitation. The CSCRE also organized for Nick Estes, assistant professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of New Mexico, to discuss indigenous resistance and the #NoDAPL movement March 4 at Ithaca College.
This presentation was a crucial learning opportunity for our campus community, especially considering the college’s relationship with Native American land. The college itself was built on top of what was once the Cayuga Nation’s land, another one of the native nations that are a part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The land was part of a major piece of territory, spanning from the college’s location to Niagara Falls, that indigenous people were eventually forced from.
As a predominately white institution, it is important that our campus community remains cognizant of our college’s problematic history. Considering the college presents itself as a liberally progressive establishment, conversations such as the one that occurred Feb. 21 should happen and be promoted by the departments at the college more frequently. Voices like Corwin’s are exactly the kind that the college needs to be encouraging its students to listen to, and they have a major impact on students’ understandings of privilege and prejudice.
Moving forward, the Roy H. Park School of Communications should take a page out of CSCRE’s book and investigate ways it can diversify the speakers and voices it amplifies at our institution. As a school that advertises itself as a place where students can learn to produce relevant, engaging media, it should promote ways students can create pieces that are meaningful and deal with political issues like the ones Corwin presented. Ultimately, diversifying the speakers that come to the Park School and interacting with its students to the same degree the CSCRE does will aid students in becoming better content producers.