AIISP is a CALS-based unit that provides Indigenous-related academic, student support and outreach services to Cornell University.
The American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIISP) news section highlights our rich range of activities through articles about program events, faculty, staff, and student accomplishments and local community stories. These articles mark important moments for our community both on and off campus.
Twenty-five faculty and academic staff from nine Cornell colleges and units are Engaged Faculty Fellows for the 2023-24 academic year, with projects dedicated to advancing community-engaged learning at Cornell and within their respective fields.
Ecologist, MacArthur “genius grant” winner and bestselling author Robin Wall Kimmerer, who has written about Indigenous people’s relationship with the land, will visit campus on Nov. 1
Four Cornell-funded projects are expanding efforts to preserve and highlight the Gayogohó:nǫˀ (Cayuga Nation) language and culture, in western New York and throughout the country.
Cornell University’s repatriation of Oneida remains was necessary, but more action is needed by the institution to ensure structural support for Indigenous students, staff, and communities.
by AIISP Students, Peyton DiSiena & Marina Johnson-Zafiris (Mohawk, Wolf Clan)
Published March 22, 2023.
“I am actually the first visiting Indigenous scholar in residence at Akwe:kon,” Charla Hall said. “Akwe:kon is the name of the residence hall here (and) was the first university residence hall in the country that was specifically built to celebrate North American Indigenous heritage in a variety of ways. So, they’re getting ready to celebrate the 30 years.”
Cherokee Phoenix wrote an article about our very own Dr. Charla Hall (Cherokee Nation) as she steps into the very her role as the first visiting Indigenous scholar in residence at Akwe:kon.
Published March 4, 2023.
Cornell returned ancestral remains and funerary objects that had been kept in a University archive for six decades to the Oneida Indian Nation on Tuesday. President Martha Pollack apologized for the harm caused by this wrongful possession at a small Sage Chapel ceremony.
Cornell's Indigenous Graduate Student Association (IGSA) issued a statement which is present in its entirety throughout the article.
Published February 22, 2023.
Before Sharp took the stage Tuesday, NCAI Youth Commission co-presidents Caleb Dash, Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, and Yanenowi Logan, Seneca Nation, gave a youth address.
It was the second time the youth have given an address of their own as the organization looks to have them more involved at its events.
Cornell's own, Yanenowi Logan (Seneca Nation) gave the second ever State of the Youth Indian Nations address this year.
Published February 22, 2023.
Karim-Aly Kassam, the Cornell University Professor of Environmental and Indigenous Studies in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, held a seminar at AUCA on December 16, titled “A Methodology of Hope for the Climate Crises: The Role of Ecological Calendars” and based on his research conducted in partnership with indigenous communities in the Circumpolar Arctic, Boreal Forest, as well as the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Xinjiang.
Published December 23, 2022.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Council on Environmental Quality are spearheading the effort, which includes new Indigenous knowledge guidance for federal agencies. The goal is to “elevate Indigenous observations, oral and written knowledge, practices, and beliefs that promote environmental sustainability and the responsible stewardship of natural and cultural resources,” according to the White House.
AIISP faculty, Professor Karim-Aly Kassam, is quoted in the article.
Published December 1, 2022.
Any discussion of the situation in Israel/Palestine must begin with a terminological issue, which is the use of the term “conflict” to characterize the relationship between Israel and Palestine. That term implies a symmetry of power when the facts on the ground are vastly asymmetrical. These facts, which are the result of historic Palestinian resistance to Israeli settler-colonialism, are most brutally represented by the gross discrepancy in the number of Palestinians and Israelis killed in the course of armed engagement since 2000, the beginning of the Second Intifada.
by Professor Eric Cheyfiz
Published February 24, 2022.
As Cornell Health’s first Community Liaison for Indigenous Students, Wahieñhawi “Hawi” Hall has been working to instill hope, healing and health in the Cornell community, particularly among the Indigenous student population.
Throughout the spring semester, Hall will co-facilitate a therapy group for Indigenous students and a Talking Circle — a traditional Indigenous communication practice — with a community partner from the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program.
Published February 3, 2022.
David Kimelberg JD '98 (Seneca) has always been a fan and collector of contemporary Indigenous art, and he and his brother had dreamed of someday opening a gallery to showcase this art. When they came up with the idea, only a handful of contemporary Indigenous artists had achieved national recognition and there was no gallery specifically featuring their work.
“The many, very talented, contemporary Indigenous artists just weren’t getting the recognition they deserved. We wanted to change that,” he observes.
by Professor Eric Cheyfitz
On May 26, days after the end of Israel’s latest attack on Gaza, Cornell University President Martha Pollack issued a “Statement on Hatred and Bias” addressing an “alarming national rise” in antisemitism “amid ongoing tensions in the Middle East.” I wrote to her the following day to criticize her selective focus as a form of bad faith, erasing Palestinian history and the Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim members of the Cornell community.
A new ILR program—offered virtually this year due to the pandemic—explores Native American approaches to conflict resolution.
Before meeting in January, the students were required to prepare by spending a week learning about Native American history and culture. AIISP faculty and staff were brought in to address the University’s complicated legacy as a land-grant institution. The students discussed the recently formed Cornell University and Indigenous Dispossession Project, founded by AIISP faculty to determine how Indigenous communities have been impacted by the Morrill Act and to explore potential avenues of restitution for affected nations. The ILR course also included a talk on the history of the Gayogohó:no’ (Cayuga) nation—on whose territory the Ithaca campus sits—by Urszula Piasta-Mansfield, AIISP’s associate director. “The students were really involved and asked a lot of thoughtful questions,” says Piasta-Mansfield. “They showed concern about issues of social justice and equity, inquiring about ways they could support AIISP’s work.”
The tragedy of COVID-19, with its devastating loss of life and disruption to our food and social systems, will be a walk in the garden compared to the looming catastrophe of human induced climate change. As we tenuously begin to emerge out of this pandemic, our attention is returning to the shattering impact of climate change.
Fashion collections are invaluable research tools, Denise Nicole Green says, and they are also institutions that must reckon with colonialism.
"Resplendent, mural-like curtains called thliitsapilthim depict a family’s history among the Indigenous nations known as the Nuu-chah-nulth. Thliitsapilthim and other ceremonial regalia have their beginnings in dreams and visions from the world beyond the horizon. Ḥaa’yuups, also known as Ron Hamilton (an English name that was imposed on him), has painted dozens of thliitsapilthim for Nuu-chah-nulth families. In the 2010 documentary Histakshitl Ts’awaatskwii (We Come from One Root), he says, 'These things, and there are many of them—drums, rattles, bowls, spoons, dance robes, poles, feast dishes—they’re connectors that connect [us to] those [past] events, those specific people and their places in history, whether they were 50 years ago or 550 years ago.'"
The below text was published in the Ithaca Journal on April 24th as a “Your Turn” Guest Column.
April 21, 2021
Since the murder of George Floyd, President Martha Pollack has been sending missives to the Cornell campus community on racial violence in the United States. These communications express both grief at the incidents and Cornell’s continued commitment to social justice.
The latest of these messages, sent on April 20, 2021, was prompted by the guilty verdict in the case of Derrick Chauvin, George Floyd’s murderer. The president terms this just verdict “a pivotal moment in our nation’s reckoning with racism.” We shall see, though history suggests otherwise.
At the same time that the president has been sending out these calls for social justice, Cornell has not wavered in its continuing educational partnerships with regimes around the world where social justice is violated every day for the marginalized: the Uighurs in China, Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories, and South Asian guest workers in Qatar, who in their dangerous jobs suffer disproportionate deaths and injuries in a country where Cornell has a medical school. In addition, Cornell partners with a business school in Saudi Arabia as the country conducts its genocidal war in Yemen. And the university has yet to make an honest public statement about the fact that its founding was enabled, under the Morrill Act of 1862, through the selling of stolen Indian land in the course of a national genocide.
One is reminded here of Dr. King’s dictum that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Cornell’s actions, then, both at home and abroad threaten the very social justice that President Pollack calls for in her messages.
Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters.
"In the twenty-first century we need a concept anchored in the reality, history, culture, and ecology of North America. It is time to expel the idea of ‘race’ from our thinking. It has no relevance in the third millennium. The idea of ‘personhood’ offers hope for a just and sustainable future."
An essay and poem written collaboratively by Professor of Environmental and Indigenous Studies, Karim-Aly Kassam and Native American artist, poet, and photographer, Frederick MacDonald (Cree) arguing we're in a time that demands we expel the idea of "race" and embrace Indigenous ideas of "personhood" while recognizing "difference."
Karim-Aly Kassam collaborates with Indigenous peoples to apply their local, place-based knowledge to the problem of climate change.
“Despite the sophisticated climate models that are developed by NASA’s Earth Observatory and by all kinds of climate scientists, we don’t have the capacity at the level of villages or at the level of valleys, for instance, to anticipate climate change amongst the people who are at the vanguard of that change,” says Karim-Aly S. Kassam, Natural Resources and the Environment/American Indian and Indigenous Studies. “These are largely Indigenous peoples who did not contribute to the primary roots of climate change and currently do not contribute significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions per capita, yet they are among the first affected.”
Published November 4, 2021.
During the Tuesday, November 16, 2021 panel discussion entitled “Indigenous Movement: Dispossession, Return, and Imposed Borders,” faculty members, Prof. Kurt Jordan, Prof. Jon Parmenter, and Prof. Jolene Rickard, discussed Indigenous movement through art, history and archeology presentations.
The roundtable, moderated by Prof. Jeffrey Palmer, performing and media arts, hosted a conversation about the dispossession and racism that the Haudenosaunee people, a confederacy of six northeastern nations, have faced. The panel also discussed the forced imposition of U.S. and Canadian borders throughout Native land.
Eric Cheyfitz, Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters in the American Indian and Indigenous Studies at Cornell University, addresses Cornell University president Martha Pollack's recent statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and Pollack's failure to include mention of the university's land-grab history in an op-ed published by LA Progressive.
In under a week, a group of students hoping to expand the Black Lives Matter movement in Ithaca organized a coalition, Cornell Students for Black Lives, that now includes over 175 member organizations including AIISP's affiliated, Native American and Indigenous Students at Cornell (NAISAC) undergraduate student organization. Cornell Students for Black Lives’ first initiative is a massive campus fundraiser (namely a GoFundMe), launching Friday evening. They hope to ultimately “amplify Black voices in the Cornell community and promote education and activism to end explicit and implicit racism,” said Ashley Bishop ’22, one of the group’s leaders. Sherell Farmer '21, further discusses the goals of the initiative in an op-ed published by the Cornell Daily Sun.
Every year, Dr. Karim-Aly Kassam collaborates with the Johnson Museum and curator Andrew Weislogel on the course “Indigenous Issues in Global Perspectives” (AIIS 1110). This year, they cocurated a group of works from the Museum’s collection for a class installation, “Personhood, Pluralism, and Hope,” to present indigenous art from around the world. Despite the circumstances of COVID-19, the class still had the opportunity to engage with the artworks virtually rather than in person as planned in the Museum’s study gallery.
As a land-grant institution, Cornell is “charged with advancing the lives and livelihoods of the state’s citizens through teaching, research and public service,” according to its website. This was aided by almost 1 million acres of dispossessed American Indian land granted by the federal government, sold to form the basis of Cornell’s endowment — a sum of almost $6 million by 1914, equivalent to $150 million today. Learn more more about land-grab universities. Read the full article "Cornell's land grant heritage: A sinister tradition?" in the Cornell Sun.
Statement given Saturday, February 29, 2020 by traditional Cayuga Chiefs and Clanmothers regarding the destruction in Seneca Falls on February 22, 2020.
We the people of the Cayuga Nation Chiefs and Clanmothers wish to address the situation that occurred in the early morning hours of February 22, 2020 on the Cayuga Nation territory. The actions by Clint Halftown, his council and his police force are inexcusable. Traditional Cayuga Nation citizens do not commit acts of terrorism on their own people or desecrate buildings used for traditional ceremonies. The schoolhouse was a building used for the Cayuga Nation citizens to revitalize their language so that they can maintain their ceremonies. These actions by an outside entity of the Cayuga Nation Council of Chiefs is an act of terrorism and brings back memories of the 1779 Sullivan Clinton Expedition when Cayuga Nation villages were burned and destroyed, and Cayuga Nation citizens driven from their homeland. All of his actions are a sin against the Gayanerehgo:wa, The Great Law of Peace.
The traditional Cayuga Nation leadership is not determined by a mail in survey campaigns as Clint Halftown claims. It is derived from the Gayanerehgo:wa, The Great Law of Peace that mandates that the Chiefs are nominated by their respective Clanmothers, approved by the Cayuga Nation then further approved by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council. Furthermore, for Clint Halftown and council to bring in a foreign government police force onto the sovereign Cayuga Nation territory is an act of treason committed against the Cayuga Nation, its citizens and the Gayanerehgo:wa. Clint Halftown has been sent an invitation wampum several times to attend Grand Council to answer for his actions over the years and has never responded or attended.
The actions on February 22, 2020 have placed Clint Halftown and council outside of the protection of the Cayuga Nation Council of Chiefs, we say that he has stepped outside the protection of the Circle of the Confederacy Chiefs. Clint Halftown and council will cease to use all treaty rights and privileges of the Cayuga Nation for their own benefit. The Cayuga Nation Council of Chiefs views the US Bureau of Indian Affairs endorsed Cayuga Nation of New York and Clint Halftown as an entity of the United States and is not considered the governing body of the Cayuga Nation. All Nation properties and structures were purchased by the Traditional Cayugas before Clint Halftown and his council left the protection of the Circle Wampum and the Great Law of Peace to be subjects of the BIA and leaving their laws and customs behind.
Any and all outside agencies who assisted Clint Halftown in his wonton destruction of all buildings on the Cayuga Nation territory need to be held accountable under their own system of justice as an act of terrorism. We now take this time to inform you of the current legitimate leadership of the Cayuga Nation as confirmed by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. If an agreement is to be made concerning the Cayuga Nation, it will be ratified through consensus by all the Condoled Cayuga Chiefs. Below is the current list of Cayuga Nation Chiefs and are to be recognized as the legitimate leadership and have followed the ancient and traditional procedures of being sanctioned leaders of their clan, Nation and Confederacy.
Furthermore, any past, current and future agreements by individuals or factions posing as the "Cayuga Nation" are considered null and void. All correspondence and agreements with the Cayuga Nation will be handled by the Cayuga Chiefs. Therefore, we urge you to respect these ancient laws of Peace and Democracy and respect the Nation to Nations treaties that allow the Cayuga Nation Council of Chiefs to act on behalf of the Cayuga people.
In Peace and Friendship,
Cayuga Nation Council of Chiefs
Press statement from Samuel George, a sachem chief of the Cayuga Nation representing the Bear Clan in regards to the destruction of the Cayuga Nation buildings, Clint Halftown, and the US Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The Chiefs and Clanmothers of the Cayuga Nation of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Confederacy have released an extended statement regarding the recent destruction of Cayuga Nation buildings near Seneca Falls. The statement covers the relationship between the Traditional Cayuga Nation and Clint Halftown, the US Bureau of Indian Affairs Cayuga Nation Representative.
Extended statement regarding the destruction:
Greetings from the Chiefs and Clanmothers of the Cayuga Nation of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Confederacy. The Haudenosaunee is a constitutional democracy that has existed since time immemorial and long before the colonial occupation of settler states such as Canada and the United States. The Haudenosaunee are governed by an ancient constitution known as the Gayanerehgo:wa; The Great Law of Peace. Pursuant to this sovereign status, the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Confederacy Chiefs made up of each of its member nations, one being the Cayuga Nation Chiefs, serve as the custodians of the Haudenosaunee sovereignty.
In 2003, Cayuga citizen Clint Halftown was appointed by Chief Vernon Issac to act as liaison for those Cayuga citizens living amongst Haudenosaunee communities on the southern side of the imaginary line known as the US/Canadian border. Clint Halftown then used his appointment to secure federal recognition as the cayuga Nation Representative by the US Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) - a post he was unsanctioned to pursue by the Cayuga Nation. Clint Halftown and his supporters have since established a BIA entity known as the Cayuga Nation of New York, which is not recognized by the Cayuga nation.
Since then, condoled Cayuga Chiefs and Clanmothers have been installed to resume traditional and political responsibilities in the reacquired Cayuga lands around Cayuga lake. This in turn led to internal leadership struggle. between the elected leadership illegally empowered by the BIA and the legitimate traditional leadership empowered by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Clint Halftown and his council or any other faction pretending to act as the government on behalf of the Cayuga Nation is not recognized by the Cayuga Nation Chiefs and Clanmothers.
It is the conclusion of the Cayuga Nation, supported by the Gayanerehgo:wa; The Great Law of Peace, that Clint Halftown and his followers have passed through the circle of joined arms, removing themselves from the domain of the Cayuga Nation and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. This alienates their birthrights as citizens of the Haudenosaunee. The Cayuga Nation views the BIA endorsed cayuga Indian Nation of New York as an entity of the United States and is not considered a governing body of the clans of the Cayuga Nation.
Sovereignty and the inherent right of self-determination are vested with the Haudenosaunee as a primordial political and spiritual entity that has existed long before the creation of the United States. Any internaI political entity succeeding the Haudenosaunee cannot qualify for sovereignty. The current Cayuga situation is exasperated by the United States interference in granting tribal status as a subordinate entity of the BIA. As a result, the BIA created entity has severed its relationship with the Haudenosaunee sovereign - Cayuga Nation and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
Moreover, the sacred Two Row Wampum makes these situations all the clearer. With two vessels traveling in a parallel course, one belongs to the Haudenosaunee and the other belonging to the European colonists. The Two Row Wampum establishes a relationship of coexistence and non-interference between the Haudenosaunee and its colonial neighbors. This initial relationship has been extended to succeeding colonial regimes in one form or another. Therefore, by the tenants of the Two Row Wampum it is a violation of these principles and subsequent agreements for the United States and/or New York State to interfere 'in Cayuga Nation affairs. Furthermore, those Cayuga's who have sought to bring in colonial status as their political governance are also in violation of the principles embedded in the sacred Two Row Wampum.
We also bring to your attention the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794 signed by the first president of the United States, George Washington with a wampum belt commissioned by him to serve as our reminder of this treaty. This treaty is relevant today as it was recognized in 1973 by then president Nixon during Wounded Knee-2, _when the Haudenosaunee met at the White House. We were assured by the president's office at that time the treaties are as good today a the day they were signed. In addition, later in 1973, the United States requested our aid under Article 7 of the Canandaigua Treaty to help in the Investigation of a shooting incident at the Mohawk re-occupation in t_he Adirondack Mountains of New York. We agreed to that request and together we defused a potential life-threatening situation. To this day treaty cloth is distributed to the Haudenosaunee on behalf of the United States in recognition of the Canandaigua Treaty. This occurred as recently as February 22nd, 2016 when the Haudenosaunee Confederacy was invited and received at the White House for the commemoration of the Canandaigua Treaty.
This forced intrusion by the BIA of a foreign system of leadership into our territories by your government department is a direct violation of Article 7 of the Canandaigua Treaty. So, we now inform the United States and the BIA to not interfere with the internal governance of the Cayuga Nation.
This has also been reinforced by your own judicial system, the State of New York Court of Appeals decision on October 29, 2019. This is a reinforcement of the Cayuga Nation right to sovereignty over Its internal affairs, the recognition that the Cayuga Nation adheres to the Gayanerehgo:wa, which is recognition of the protocols and process as to how the leadership ls selected, approved and removed by the Clan mothers an that this process is the responsibility of the Cayuga Nation. It also recognizes the existence of federal law and United Nations Declarations declaring the right to self-government. Yet a letter dated November 14th 2019 from Tara Sweeney on United States Department of the Interior letterhead disregards the above decision and continues to interfere in Cayuga Nation affairs.
The Cayuga Nation government is composed of ten Chiefs appointed by ten Clanmothers, regardless of what side of the imaginary colonial line they reside upon. Pursuant to the Great Law, Cayuga Nation traditional law mandates that the Chiefs are nominated by their respective Clanmothers, who also maintain the power of removal of Chiefs, and that the decisions of the Council of Chiefs are by consensus. The Great Law does not sanction mail-in survey campaigns, or armed police forces comprised of non-indigenous former police officers. The Cayuga Nation supersedes the existence of both the United States and Canada and its sovereignty is shared equally by the clans who make up that nation. The Cayuga Nation's traditional leadership is the legitimate governing body of the Cayuga Nation Territory, and subject to the authority of the Gayanerehgo:wa and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
The Cayuga Chiefs and Clanmothers does not recognize any other authority over the Cayuga homeland and certainly dismisses any external interference over Cayuga affairs by colonial entities. The United States represented by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Interior are in complete violation of all civil, and political integrity of the Treaty protocols. The American entities interfering in the Cayuga Nation sovereignty and governance is a continuing process of colonization and a violation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Leadership is an internal matter of a community and Indigenous nation and it is strongly recommended the Departments of the United States government need to stop interfering in Cayuga Nation matters and uphold to the principles of all relative treaties specifically the Two Row Wampum and the Canandaigua Treaty.
David Strip '77, PhD '78, gives gift to help establish a fund which fills in the gaps that traditional financial aid does not cover enabling indigenous students to mix with their peers on more equal footing. Strip had a unique purpose in mind for his gift: “to provide an opportunity for Native American students to develop assets to survive, and hopefully thrive, in the world they have been forced into.”
The director of the Language Resource Center, Dr. Angelika Kraemer interviewed AIISP Director and Associate Professor Jolene Rickard on United Nation’s declaration of 2019 as the “International Year of Indigenous Languages.” The Language Resource Center at Cornell produces a weekly podcast, Speaking of Language.
The speaker who provided the Opening Address, Kanen'tó:kon Hemlock, Kahnaw'a:ke Mohawk Nation (Quebec, Canada), spoke in AIIS 2100 Indigenous Ingenuities, on Thursday, Feb. 21. Learn more about this opening address or visit the official website for IYIL2019.