The American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIISP) provides a unique combination of American Indian and Indigenous Studies (AIIS) courses, student leadership opportunities and an undergraduate residential experience at Akwe:kon, the first Native student residence hall in North America.
AIISP Statement of Solidarity with Grief and Anger expressed by Indigenous Communities regarding Discovery of the Graves of 215 Indigenous Children at Kamloops Indian Residential School
The students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program at Cornell University join with the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc People and Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island to honor and mourn the 215 lost Indigenous children whose bodies were found in a series of unmarked and undocumented graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. We offer our deepest condolences to the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, whose families have been most directly affected by this heartbreaking discovery. We also recognize that this is but one instance of a much larger pattern: massive numbers of undocumented deaths likely occurred at many, or even all, of the nearly 500 residential schools for Indigenous children funded and operated by the U.S. and Canadian governments between the mid 1800s to as late as 1996.
Almost every Indigenous person in North America can trace the devastating legacies of government-run boarding schools in their families. This includes our own Indigenous students, faculty, staff, and alumni. These English-only schools were established in an attempt to assimilate Indigenous children, in many instances forcibly taking children from their families to isolate them from their communities, languages, and traditions. Psychological, physical, and sexual abuse was rampant. Indigenous peoples across the continent today continue to deal with the tremendous legacy of trauma and grief caused by these colonial institutions.
The disclosure about these lost children found buried at Kamloops has incited new feelings of outrage and grief throughout Indigenous communities and homes. We acknowledge the anger of Indigenous peoples at the pervasive colonialist system that inflicted so much damage on individuals, families, and communities. We particularly recognize the viciousness of targeting Indigenous youth and then burying them, neglected, undocumented, and without notifying their families, when they fell victim to this deliberate and cruel system. As our Indigenous students are graduating, returning home, or preparing for another year at Cornell University, we remain grateful that their families have entrusted us with their loved ones and we continue to work towards justice and accountability.
Cornell University is located on the traditional homelands of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' (the Cayuga Nation). The Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign nations with a historic and contemporary presence on this land. The confederacy precedes the establishment of Cornell University, New York state and the United States of America. We acknowledge the painful history of Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' dispossession, and honor the ongoing connection of Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' people, past and present, to these lands and waters.
This land acknowledgment has been reviewed and approved by the traditional Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' leadership.
Cornell University & Indigenous Dispossession Project
AIISP launched the Cornell University and Indigenous Dispossession Project in June 2020 to research Cornell’s ties to violence and displacement through its landholdings in New York state, the Morrill Land-Grant College Act of 1862, and other takings of Indigenous homelands. This project was prompted by a March 2020 article in High Country News that exposed the ties between Indigenous dispossession and the United States Land-Grant system, and Cornell’s prominent role in that process. AIISP has produced a blog that contains informative articles, videos and audio podcasts produced by faculty, students, alumni and members of the Indigenous communities affected by Cornell’s actions. AIISP plans diplomatic outreach to more than 200 Indigenous nations affected by Cornell’s actions to discuss this history and possible remedies desired by the impacted communities.
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