Ithaca students upset at name of 'Native American studies', rally to change to 'Indigenous studies'

Students at Ithaca College want to change the school’s Native American studies minor to “Indigenous studies,” claiming it’s more racially inclusive.

The founding professors of the minor say it would make Native Americans less visible and might cause people to think indigenous refers to plants and animals instead of people.

Students at Ithaca College want the school’s Native American studies minor to be renamed “Indigenous studies” to make it more racially inclusive.

Sophomore Victor Lopez-Carmen and senior Kayla Young are leading the reform efforts as part of the student body’s push for inclusion following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, according to The Ithacan, the school’s independent student newspaper.

“We hope to have an indigenous studies minor instead of a Native American studies minor, so that we can encompass a global perspective on issues that Native Americans and all indigenous people face and issues that are also more unique to specific countries,” Lopez-Carmen told The Ithacan.

The students’ efforts have been acknowledged but refuted by the founding professors of the minor, Jack Rosen and Brooke Hansen, who believe changing the name to indigenous would make Native Americans “less visible.”

“I personally favor keeping it Native American studies because we live in Cayuga territory of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and should recognize that,” Rossen told The Ithacan. “I fear that indigenous studies would submerge Native Americans and make them much less visible under the broader umbrella.”

The professors also fear that people might confuse indigenous people with indigenous plants and animals, which would minimize the group’s identity.

“The term ‘indigenous’ means of, or innate to, the land, which can be an important component of a group’s identity but doesn’t capture the sense of a contemporary culture and nation,” said Hansen.

However, Lopez-Carmen and Young are not giving up. They are demanding the minor become “more structured, with a tenure faculty line and a new curriculum.”

“I grew up on Yaqui territory and was taught my cultural hermeneutics by many people,” Lopez-Carmen told The Ithacan. “When I came here and noticed that the minor was in disrepair, I knew that something had to be done. It has been my dream to have a working minor that represents my people and all indigenous people by the time I leave this campus.”

Lopez-Carmen told The Ithacan that he is optimistic about their efforts and will not give up in the face of administrative resistance.

“I feel that it will happen, but not without work on all levels,” said Lopez-Carmen. “After the intense advocacy, we are well on our way to getting it started. But I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch, and I am still ready to advocate should there be resistance to what must happen on this campus.”

Ithaca is a private college located on the South Hill of Ithaca, New York.

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