The American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIISP) provides a unique combination of American Indian and Indigenous Studies (AIIS) courses, student engagement and leadership opportunities, Indigenous community on campus, and an undergraduate residential experience at Akwe:kon, the first Native student residence hall in North America.

Land Acknowledgment

Cornell University is located on the traditional homelands of the Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ (the Cayuga Nation). The Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ 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:nǫɁ dispossession, and honor the ongoing connection of Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ people, past and present, to these lands and waters.

This land acknowledgment has been reviewed and approved by the traditional Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ leadership.

Learn more about land acknowledgments.

In addition to the Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ land acknowledgment but separate from it, the AIISP faculty would like to emphasize: Cornell's founding was enabled in the course of a national genocide by the sale of almost one million acres of stolen Indian land under the Morrill Act of 1862. To date the university has neither officially acknowledged its complicity in this theft nor has it offered any form of restitution to the hundreds of Native communities impacted. For additional information, see the Cornell University and Indigenous Dispossession website here.

Indigenous Student Spotlight

A smiling woman with black hair and glasses stands in below a garden arch. She is wearing a black shirt, circular mirror earrings, and a black ribbon skirt with black, red, orange, and yellow ribbon in a color gradient.

Merritt Khaipho-Burch (Thai-Oglala Lakota) received her Ph.D. from the Section of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University in February 2024. Merritt’s research investigates how pleiotropy controls complex traits within the wagmiza (maize) genome and how transposable elements, or jumping genes, regulate gene expression. Before coming to Cornell, Merritt obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Hawai’i at Hilo on the homelands of the Kānaka Maoli and obtained her Master’s degree in one of her homelands, the Oceti sakowin, at South Dakota State University. After graduation, Merritt joined Corteva Agriscience as a Research Scientist to further work with her favorite plant, wagmiza.

Learn more about their work from this article in Nature: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-02895-w

Standing beside an elevator door in red and black Native regalia, River poses alongside a photograph of their applique bandolier bag work now installed in Olin Library.

River Webb is graduating with a Masters degree in Geology from Cornell University’s Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department. River’s work examines the volcanic cycles of their tribal homelands in and around Yellowstone National Park. 

River was named a traditional scientist and knowledge keeper in 2022 for their preservation efforts in titóoqatimt, their Native tongue. The National Park Service named River a Tribal Heritage Fellow in 2023. They hold the title of International Two Spirit Ambassador from the International Two Spirit Council, and Wabanaki Two Spirit Alliance based in Nova Scotia, Canada. River is a fifth generation seamstress and women’s powwow dancer, dancing traditional styles such as Basket Hat/short fringe, as well as women’s applique/scrub dance.
After graduation, River plans to continue their work with a position at Yellowstone National Park.

“I feel so fortunate to have come to a school with a vibrant Native American Community. In Undergrad, I went to a school with little to no student engagement for Native Students. At Cornell the community is diverse and multifaceted, and I think it holds something for everyone. AISES, NAIMP, and so many more programs foster community through career building connections. AIISP has done so much to foster Native student engagement on multiple fronts. For myself, I do beadwork, ribbonwork, and dance powwow, and through IGSA I have found friends that enjoy those same things. AIISP helps foster trips to powwows and social dances, and those are the sort of things I grew up doing and love to do. It’s an experience that’s hard to find at many other schools.”

Photograph of a young woman with black hair wearing a dress with strawberries talking at a podium with a young man wearing a blue shirt behind her.

Yanenowi (She Guards the Corn) Logan is graduating with a degree in Environment & Sustainability from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Yanenowi served as the NAISAC Co-Chair, the Media Chair for AISES, is the co-President of the Youth Commission with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), and previously served as the commission’s Vice President. In her work with NCAI, she established a Native youth travel scholarship program to enable greater youth participation in the national dialogue, ensuring youth voices and issues in Indian Country are heard. She delivered the first ever in-person State of Indian Nations Youth Address before the NCAI General Assembly.

She was selected to attend the United Nations Indigenous Youth Forum in Rome, Italy in October 2023. She is the recipient of the WNY Peace Center’s Emerging Leader Award, the Tewaaraton Award in lacrosse, founder of the Seneca Youngbloods, a grassroots youth organization at the Seneca Nation, sits on the Native Youth Council for the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force, and was elected and served on Cornell’s Student Assembly as the CALS Student Representative. She is an AIISP Ambassador, alumni of the Cornell ILR High Road Fellowship, plays club lacrosse at Cornell, and in 2023 worked as a Public Policy & Regulation intern with the multinational law firm Holland & Knight LLC researching environmental and tribal law issues.

Yanenowi plans on spending her free time after graduation traveling and working before applying to law school.

Photograph of a young man looking at a laptop screen while a young woman to the side of him points something out on the screen.

"It can be difficult to adjust to the academic rigors at a prestigious university like Cornell. However, AIISP has offered me the necessary support and sense of community that have helped me to thrive and excel. Specifically, the Akwe:kon Program House has provided an Indigenous space on campus where I feel most comfortable.”

A woman with black hair looks off camera to the right standing in front of a body of water. She has a feathered barrette on her head, multiple strands of colored beads in a necklace, and is wearing a bright turquoise top with stripes of colored ribbons (turquoise, blue, white, yellow, red). She holds a eagle feather fan with seven distinct feathers with black tips and colored red rachis' over her chest.

Carolyn Click is a third-year Mvskoke (Muscogee/Creek) law student with a passion for intellectual property law and pro bono practice. She has dual Bachelor’s degrees in Forensic Science and Art History from the University of Central Oklahoma, as well as a Master’s degree in Art History from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She also attended the College of the Muscogee Nation in Okmulgee, Oklahoma where she studied Mvskoke language, history, and culture. At Cornell Law School, she has participated in the Cornell Capital Punishment Clinic where she assisted counsel who represent Indigenous clients on death row. In the past, she served as the president of Cornell’s Native American Law Students Association. Carolyn looks forward to continuing to advocate for Indigenous interests throughout her career as a lawyer. After graduation, she will join Latham & Watkins as an associate in New York City.

AIISP Events

Two men, in a green and grey jacket, speak with two students.

News

Through community, Indigenous students thrive in STEM

Indigenous students in STEM are creating community and working to increase representation and visibility – all while bringing valuable cultural insights and a community-focus to their academic work.

  • American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program
  • Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Biological and Environmental Engineering
Photo of peaceful protestors holding a colorful banner in the streets that says recognize indigenous peoples rights

Lecture

Indigenous Resilience, Reclamation & Recognition v. Removal, Dispossession & Erasure Archived Event: Saturday, November 4, 2023 | 12PM – 4PM | Goldwin Smith Hall 132/Zoom Watch the full recording here. Panels feature local and national...
  • American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program
Robin Wall Kimmerer stands in a field

Seminar

Distinguished Speaker in Global Development and American Indian & Indigenous Studies Program Seminar Recording Thank you to all of those who joined us at the recent seminars with Robin Wall Kimmerer at Cornell University. Recordings of two of Dr...
  • global development
  • environment
  • Environment & Natural Resources

AIISP News

Two men, in a green and grey jacket, speak with two students.

News

Indigenous students in STEM are creating community and working to increase representation and visibility – all while bringing valuable cultural insights and a community-focus to their academic work.

  • American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program
  • Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Biological and Environmental Engineering
A book opening and pages flaring out.

News

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.

  • American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program
  • Cornell AgriTech
  • Department of Communication

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