Elmira College Engages Students in a Thought-Provoking Discussion on Native American Heritage

Students, faculty, and staff recently learned about the interesting relationship and history Native American tribes have with the United States government in a presentation facilitated by the Elmira College Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

To honor Native American Heritage Month, Larry Parker, Director of DEI, invited two tribally enrolled Cherokee Indians to speak. Dr. Richard Rose, Adjunct Professor at SUNY Albany, and his daughter, Rebecca Rose, Academic Counselor for the School of Education at Syracuse University shared a brief history of Native Americans, also referred to as American Indians. They highlighted the negative effects of colonization on the native peoples in North and South America and then outlined the political relationships between Native American tribes and the United States Government, including how those relationships remain complex and legally fraught today.

For both Richard and Rebecca Rose, learning this history is important because it will help people understand what comes next for both native peoples and the United States.

“The fundamental relationship in the Americas is between the native population and the colonizer,” shared Richard Rose. “If you don’t understand that history, you can’t understand where it is going.”

Elmira College Engages Students in a Thought-Provoking Discussion on Native American Heritage

Shermalie Bigot ’24, a Nursing major at EC, was among the attendees. She didn’t know much about Native Americans prior to the event but attended the presentation to “get an understanding of [the Native American people’s] culture and history.”

“I learned that Native Americans are the only group of people that have to show proof of race,” she said, referring to information Richard Rose shared about how the U.S. government determines whether a person is an American Indian or Alaskan Native. Native Americans must prove their lineage through various factors, including showing a genetic heritage, as well as showing membership with a tribal government. These measures are not typical for other races and ethnic groups.

While much of the presentation included information about the history that has led to difficulties Native Americans face today, Rebecca Rose spoke about contributions Native Americans are making today, including in literature, film, and art.

She shared the names of Native American bands, and movies and TV shows centered on the lives and stories of Native Americans. Among her top recommendations is to visit the Ganondagan State Historical Site near Victor, New York, which preserves Iroquois history and art.

“I encourage people to support local organizations, communities, artists and more,” she said.

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