One of the signature events of the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Arts – Community Talk & Art Build for Indigenous Futures – took place on Saturday April 20 and was organized by Brandeis Climate Justice. The panel that kicked off the event included guest speakers Professor Evangelina Macias (WGS) and Jean-Luc Pierite, Chairman of the Board of the North American Indian Center in Boston. The panel was moderated by Art History student Marissa Small ’22.
Pierite introduced the North American Indian Center in Boston and its founding mission to the group, which is “to empower the Native American community with the goal of improving the quality of life for Indigenous people.” Center members are dedicated to educating the Greater Boston area about the Indigenous community, assisting Indigenous community members with career-related training, and advocating for environmental justice. He also pointed out that while the United States had re-ratified the Paris Agreement, the declaration’s abstract guidelines precluded more aggressive action to improve the situation of Native American communities and climate justice. In fact, at past United Nations conventions, the majority of Indigenous delegates were barred from the conference due to their vaccination status, “leaving the room to fill with white lobbyists and fossil fuels.”
According to Pierite, the exclusion of Indigenous people from environmental conversations is problematic because it not only poses a threat to racial justice, but also to ecological justice. “Many tribes are not recognized by federal or local governments,” he continued. “But they are often on the front lines of global climate change.” As growing awareness of the issue leads to more widespread initiatives for land recognition across the country, it is also clear that we need to think about “how to move beyond the platitude and put things into action.” “.
Considering the question “in what kinds of creative expressions?” Macias also chimed in to discuss the importance of creative expression. She recounted her experience speculating on archived photos and discovered one of the people dressing up for the Sun Dance when the practice was still illegal in 1883. Apparently a 4th of July celebration, photo attendees were enjoying en makes the occasion to practice the ceremonial dance. She said sentimentally, “The dancing never stopped. Bodies are containers that recall traditions.
On the subject of education for indigenous youth, Macias expressed concern for students from indigenous communities who leave home to go to school for the first time. Speaking about her experiences mentoring Indigenous students, she pointed out that New England universities, while not lacking in discussions of inclusivity, can still seem cold or distant. Many Native students come from out of state or New England; thus, losing connection with their community can be extremely stressful for them. Compared to New England, Macias described that due to its geographic proximity to areas with high tribal concentrations, his alma mater University of California, Riverside is one of the few schools in the country with strong ties. with indigenous communities, which leads to their highly developed development. Native American student program. “The ultimate problem,” Macias asserted, “is that there are no Indigenous communities on campus” that they could look to for support or connect with, and “an Indian connection for them can make all the difference”. Building on Macias’ concerns for Indigenous students, Pierite says the challenge for Indigenous students seeking higher education stems from concerns about “the need to help around the house with work” or “the amount work they could do rather than go to schools in New England. .”
The panel also spent time discussing the lack of resources to fund Native American studies in college. Claiming to be a university that advocates racial justice and equality, Brandeis hasn’t put enough effort into creating a department dedicated to Indigenous studies. In President Liebowitz’s letter to the Brandeis community in April 2021, he announced the formation of a “university-wide Indigenous Land Declaration Committee that will be tasked with developing an accurate and informative declaration that recognizes the indigenous lands on which Brandeis University resides”. While this is an important step for the University to honor Indigenous presence and ownership of the land, there are very few other actions taken by the University. The panel had a thought-provoking discussion on how the University can support its Indigenous students. Pierite has suggested that there is a need to modernize ecological knowledge ta
Justice in institutions and the establishment of multidisciplinary native studies programs are a step in this direction. Professor Thomas King (ENG), a panelist, addressed the difficulties faced by white professors, who are required by the University to teach these subjects in the classroom; professors limit themselves to teaching the material through academic and cold methods, despite their support for indigenous communities. He also stressed the importance of employing more instructors from indigenous communities.