We have probably all attended an event or sat in a lecture where the starting statement sounds something like this: “At Ithaca College, we inhabit the homelands of the Cayuga people and Haudenosaunee Confederacy. These are stolen lands, still occupied due to expropriation, violence and deceptive and broken treaties.” This is the land acknowledgment Ithaca College has incorporated into the mainstream dialogue in hopes of dismantling the ongoing legacies of settler colonialism. While the sentiment is well-intended and acknowledgment is an important first step to respecting Indigenous people and Native lands, acknowledgement alone is not nearly enough.
Language has always been the companion of empire and by encouraging this land acknowledgment we have begun to decolonize the voice of the Ithaca College community. However, the discussion has been opened up for a while and the conversation is starting to stall. Step two incorporates both communication and action. Once we start aligning as a community, we move beyond the performative action of institutions. Understanding this as a historical, structural problem which requires centering the needs and desires of the Indigenous people is key. Supporting Indigenous artists, performers and musicians is a way to encourage and recognize the local impact of Indigenous groups.
Another way the the college community can take action is by getting involved in local level political movements: recently allies of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ Nation — the original, vernacular name for the Cayuga Nation — in communication with Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ citizens, began crafting a resolution for the City of Ithaca Common Council. The intent is to recognize the nation’s sovereignty. Uplifting and investing in local Indigenous sovereignty is a tangible means to change.
Those interested in helping this movement can sign the petition on Intercom posted by Patricia Rodriguez, associate professor and chair of the Department of Politics at the college. The petition supports the removal of Clint Halftown, the current tribal representative who has been unrecognized by the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ Nation for years, but continues to hold power federally ignoring the Nation’s traditional governance structures. Rodriguez urges community members to send emails or letters to the Ithaca City Common Council expressing their desire for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to unrecognized Halftown as the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ representative.
History shows Europeans are good at finding others because they are always looking for their center — a connection to land. Native people live in their center and from the land they know as home. If you cannot find the center in yourself, you will always be looking for it elsewhere. Home is in the relationships we cultivate with others; we must be in relationship with others at Ithaca College as well as its surrounding Indigenous communities.
Correction: a former version of this editorial stated that members of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ Nation worked with allies to draft the resolution. The allies created the resolution in alignment with the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ citizens. Additionally, a previous version of the article stated that the resolution aimed to restore the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ Nation’s sovereignty. Rather, it aims for the government to recognize the nation’s sovereignty. The story has been updated to reflect these corrections.