This week, Cadence Gonzales speaks about land acknowledgments and Indigenous people’s erasure.

Helllooooo lovely readers of Bwog, and avid fans of Barnard SGA! I hope you are doing fine and dandy this Tuesday! Even though the sun has been shining and the birds have been chirping, something is in the air. I’m truly glad that March is over and April is upon us. March theory to April theory if you know what I mean. Let’s enter into a new era: protecting our peace. That’s my goal for the month and I hope you are all able to join me on this. On Monday, I once again was a faceless Zoomer, but this time my bed had striped green sheets! Big accomplishments on my end in my opinion. Enough about me. I’m excited to talk to you about Monday’s meeting because it is a topic I feel is very important, and it was really an eye-opening presentation.

Let’s get into external announcements:

  • Take care of yourself and check in on your friends because it has been a difficult week with Bacchanal and the passing of one of our fellow students.
  • Attend info sessions this week if you are interested in running for SGA. You can find more information in the SGA Newsletter.
  • Bold Beautiful Black at Barnard is beginning and there will be many events for this like a Paint and Sip, so be on the lookout for these events!
  • If you have been using the laundry sheets at Barnard, fill out the survey code.

Cadence Gonzales, a first-year student at Barnard, came to this week’s meeting to talk about ending land acknowledgments.

She begins her presentation by talking about her background and why she believes in ending land acknowledgments. 

Cadence grew up in New Mexico, where there were a lot of Indigenous people, and Indigenous culture present, so when she came to New York for college, and the only acknowledgment of Indigenous people in the area was a land acknowledgment, she was confused and angered. 

She began to explain why these land acknowledgments were so problematic. What is the exact purpose of this statement and who is it for?

She shows a picture of a land acknowledgment of the Lenape people on Columbia’s campus as an example of Columbia’s erasure of Indigenous culture. This plaque is on the ground and easily overlooked unless someone is trying to look for it. 

The plaque reads “In Honor of the Lenape People: The Lenape lived here before and during colonization of the Americas. This plaque recognizes these Indigenous people of Manhattan, their displacement, dispossession, and continued presence. It stands as a reminder to reflect on our past as we contemplate our way forward.” 

Cadence breaks down the language used in the plaque and how this perpetuates the idea that Indigenous people are long gone from this area, even though they are not. With the statement “The Lenape lived here before and during colonization of the Americas” it reads as if Indigenous people are a myth and a form of prehistory that is not relevant anymore. In addition to this, the statement “it stands as a reminder to reflect on our past as we contemplate our way forward”, is a form of inaction because their statement and their reflection are final, and it is clear that they are not actually doing anything to try to move forward. Instead of truly acknowledging, celebrating, and empowering the Indigenous people still in the area, these statements can be extremely traumatic to Indigenous people, bringing up the idea of being removed from their homeland. Even though Columbia may be trying to have progressive intentions with this these statements they can actually be harmful and are instead a form of progressive activism.

Cadence also introduces us to the Lenape people of this area and shows how they have been portrayed by the government through different monuments. The monuments around these areas have made the Lenape people seem like they are fools, in showing the trading of their land for beads, making people wonder why since it made no sense why they would give away the land. However, we know that this is not how the true history happened. All of the traditions and culture of the Lenape people have been erased and they are currently fighting to gain more power and representation. The Lenape community here is so small, maybe only 10-15 people, and all of them are trying to gain power in their circumstances, but they are given no attention by the government.

Finally, Cadence provides steps toward rematriation.

  1. What is the history of any land you indirectly/directly have access to?
  2. Who are the Native people and communities where you live or the land you have access to?
  3. Start the slow process of building relationships with Native people where you live.
  4. What are the visions and struggles of Indigenous people and tribes in the area you live?
  5. How can you support the efforts of Indigenous people?

Thank you for tuning into another article. Remember to protect your peace, and come back next week for another update on Barnard SGA!

Image via Bwarchives