Geneseo resides on 220 acres of beautiful landscape, nestled within a valley that provides gorgeous sunsets without fail. Yet Geneseo—an anglicized version of the Haudenosaunee word for beautiful valley—rests on stolen lands.
The college administration has swept this important historical detail under the rug along with other Native American issues. Furthermore, the current treatment shown towards Native Americans nationwide is unacceptable. By largely ignoring the cultural significance of these lands, Geneseo enables the marginalization of this cultural group.
While Geneseo has made efforts to move in a positive direction regarding diversity and oppressed groups, the school is extremely hesitant to celebrate anything involving Native Americans.
The college ostensibly recognized Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day, according to The Lamron. Yet, there wasn’t much of a statement from the college, nor was there a change to the college’s website as Columbus Day remains as one of the recognized legal holidays during the academic year.
The lack of acknowledgement that we are currently on stolen Native lands with no attempt to inform the students and faculty of Geneseo or on-campus visitors is deplorable.
There are various buildings at Geneseo that have Native American origins in their names: Red Jacket Dining Hall, Mary Jemison Dining Hall, Ontario Residence Hall and Seneca Residence Hall to name a few, yet there is a lack of knowledge among the campus community. Most people refer to them being named after counties, but fail to mention the word’s origin—that some of the counties were named after indigenous Native American tribes or words.
The college should take the responsibility to educate their community on historically accurate and culturally sensitive information. Students, faculty and staff may be unaware of the historical treatment toward Native Americans and what is currently happening to the indigenous nations residing within the United States.
The U.S. committed a complete genocide of the Native Americans. In fact, the atrocities exercised by the U.S. upon Native Americans is the largest genocide that has ever occurred on Earth, according to a testimony by historian Maria Girouard from endgenocide.org.
The U.S. government didn’t officially apologize to Native Americans until 2009, according to congress.gov. Even then, the U.S. has yet to publicly apologize to Native Americans as the country refuses to openly discuss native issues with the public, as reported by Thought Catalog.
Educating the Geneseo community on these facts and establishing positive relations between the college and the indigenous communities should be a huge priority for the campus. The significant lack of knowledge on-campus regarding Native American issues fuels the larger epidemic of inaction towards these individuals in the country.
Geneseo must move toward acknowledging the indigenous history and culture that is tied to the college’s land in a physical sense. Firstly, it is essential to have the Haudenosaunee flag—and possibly other minority group flags—displayed in the MacVittie College Union lobby as soon as possible. The administration committed to putting a flag up in October, according to The Lamron. They still have yet to do so, however.
Various colleges do actually acknowledge their land’s origins and put a conscious effort into forming relations with native communities, so it is disappointing Geneseo does not.
Concordia University and the University of Guelph are two institutions that constantly remind the college community of the land’s history, making a statement before every event about the grounds they are currently residing on, according to both campus’s websites.
Geneseo must elevate its inclusivity and acknowledgement of Native culture, especially given the rich history within the territory. Geneseo displays a quote from Mahatma Gandhi on the website that the college should now actively face: “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.”