Reflections on Indigenous Peoples' Day and Global IDBEA Efforts from Dr. Lisa Coleman
October 13, 2021
Dear NYU community members,
Monday, October 11th, 2021, was Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which serves as a day to recognize the leadership, resistance, and sovereignty of Native and Indigenous Peoples. It is also another opportunity to reflect, take action, and sustain efforts toward dismantling historical legacies of settler colonialism and ongoing systemic oppression. Following the leadership of Native and Indigenous activists, organizers, and scholars who work on the frontlines and behind the scenes to address these inequities, it continues to be NYU’s obligation to make intentional efforts that demonstrate ongoing institutional commitment, acknowledge where we have fallen short, and create more opportunities for collective and collaborative work.
As some are aware, NYU New York’s campuses and New York City sit on unceded Lenapehoking. The history of how this city came to be is one of invasion, genocide, forced labor, and displacement of Native and Indigenous Peoples—histories that are all too familiar across the United States (US) and the rest of the globe. The impacts, legacies, and present-day realities of settler colonialism are complex, deeply rooted, and embedded within our societies. As a result of historical and intersectional disenfranchisement, Native American communities continue to face unequal access to healthcare and transportation, lower household incomes, a greater proportion of frontline work, as well as a higher prevalence of COVID-19 risk factors. The long-lasting and continued impacts of colonialism and continual intersectional disenfranchisement also compound effects of health and economic disparities that have resulted in the highest death rates in the US for members of Native and Indigenous communities.
Part of our work in the Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation (OGI) and at NYU is to not only recognize continued inequities and histories but to also educate on how they shape our institutions, systems, structures, and day-to-day lives (while continuing to learn alongside our NYU community). We do so through our strategic partnerships, programs, consultations, collaborative initiatives, and outreach so that we, as a community, can take action together. We must also actively and openly discuss the injustices, legacies, inequities, and the ongoing impacts that are embedded in our institutions so that we can engage in processes of reconciliation. The intention of my own land acknowledgment at the start of each OGI program or event, for example, is informed by the traditions of Truth and Reconciliation and the important work of the Native Studies Forum, other individuals and entities across NYU, and the Guide to Indigenous Land and Territorial Acknowledgements (developed by Felicia Garcia (Chumash), MA Museum Studies, New York University, 2018).
As such (and as mentioned in OGI’s recent community update on September 28th, 2021), it remains a key OGI objective to develop and implement strategies, programming, initiatives, and resources that are intentional, reflective, and responsive to the needs of our Native American and Indigenous communities at NYU and beyond, and to center the experiences of Native and Indigenous groups locally and globally. We recognize the leadership of Native and Indigenous NYU community members—past and present—who have been doing this work long before OGI was created by NYU, including Native Studies Forum, Native American and Indigenous Student Group (NAISG), A/P/A Institute, and other faculty, students, advocates, and activists across the University’s global network. I also wish to again take this moment to recognize all of those individuals and groups within our NYU communities who have been, and continue to be, committed to and engaged in this work. And, finally, I would like to acknowledge all of the partners across NYU and beyond who work tirelessly to collectively take actions to redress colonial legacies and collaborate with OGI to ensure our commitment to students, faculty, and staff across NYU is advanced and implemented.
As you continue to engage the work of global inclusion, diversity, belonging, equity, and access, we welcome you to keep up to date with our programs, events, and resources here at NYU by signing up for our weekly digest, taking note of our upcoming events, accessing past programs on OGI’s YouTube channel, visiting our website, and following @nyuogi on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. We also strongly encourage you to support our partners engaging in this work across NYU and amplify the leadership, scholarship, and activism of Native and Indigenous community members.
Again, we hope that everyone will take time—throughout this week, this month, this year (and in perpetuity)—to not only reflect on Indigenous Peoples’ Day and its meaning but to also take actions that are centered on dismantling the historic legacies of settler colonialism and the related impact of the ongoing systemic and systematic inequities and disparities. Let us honor, celebrate, work, AND take action together.
Lisa Coleman, PhD (she/her/hers)
Senior Vice President for Global Inclusion and Strategic Innovation
& Chief Diversity Officer
Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation