School exploring possibility of Native American Studies minor

By Bryan Dooley, Senior Writer
Photos by Kacey Minnick

Associate Professor of History Coll Thrush presents his work to a group of students, faculty, and staff.

Would the Guilford community support a minor in Native American and Indigenous Studies? A committee on campus is trying to find out.

A subcommittee of the Diversity Action Committee, the Native American and Indigenous Studies steering committee will determine through speakers and panel discussions if Guilford should have an indigenous studies minor.

On Tuesday, Sept. 18, NAIS welcomed Coll Thrush, an associate professor of history at the University of British Columbia, as the first in an exploratory series of speakers.

Thrush discussed his upcoming book, “Indigenous London,” which retells the city’s history through the experiences of indigenous people from the American colonies, including Pocahontas and four kings (three Mohawk and one Mahican), who all visited the British royal family.

“At first I was a bit leery (about attending the lecture), just as I always am, when I hear about individuals who are to discuss Native Americans,” said Tabitha Jacobs-Polanco, a first-year CCE student and registered member of the Lumbee tribe. “My first thought is ‘why?’ And the second is ‘Who are they to speak for my people?'”

She was pleasantly surprised to leave with a clear understanding of the purpose of Thrush’s project.

Jacobs-Polanco continued, “A program such as this may plant the seed and begin to dispel some of the general stereotypes surrounding indigenous people and in part, aid the healing process of the offended and offender.”

The experience of indigenous people is often overlooked.

“Native American cultures and histories have been persistently marginalized and ignored throughout the history of the U.S.,” said Tom Guthrie, associate professor of sociology and anthropology.

Guthrie pointed out that indigenous people have not disappeared. In fact, their communities are revitalizing.

“This is not just about the past but also the future of our world,” Guthrie continued. “We have much to learn from and about indigenous peoples, who have compellingly asserted their enduring presence and rights.”

The speech ties in directly to social justice at Guilford, according to Damon Akins, assistant professor of history.

“Clearly, Guilford needs a more pronounced and visible Native American presence of some kind,” he said. “But that must take place in an intentional and meaningful way that doesn’t replicate the power relationships implicit in the colonial process itself.”

Georgieann Bogdan, associate coordinator of Disability Resources and who holds a master’s degree in anthropology, agreed with Akins’ statement.”When studying other cultures, we learn to question our own ethnocentric biases, helping us to be more mindful of others’ experiences,” Bogdan said. “I believe we are morally obligated to tell the whole story and correct misconceptions concerning the participation of native peoples in all history.”

Thrush summarized the point of his talk quite simply:

“Indigenous people are part of world history. They are not metaphors and they are not extinct. We need to remember them today. It’s not activism for me to say that they are full human beings.”

The steering committee will be holding an open panel discussion on Oct. 2 at 5:00 pm in King 126. Anyone interested in participating in the open panel can contact a member of the steering committee. The committee plan to host three more speakers.

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