Ithaca College Students Protest Native American Studies Minor, Want it to Be More Inclusive

Ithaca College students want the Native American Studies minor to be changed to an indigenous studies minor in the name of greater racial inclusiveness.

From the department’s website.

Students at Ithaca College are pushing for the university to fold over its Native American Studies minor into an Indigenous Studies minor in order to boost “racial inclusivity,” according to a report from The Ithacan, the campus’s newspaper.

The push is being led by two students, sophomore Victor Lopez-Carmen and senior Kayla Young, who want the revised minor to include study on a broad range of indigenous groups and related topics.

As reported in The Ithacan:

In addition to the tenured faculty line and a revised curriculum, the student advocates have hypothesized renaming the program as the indigenous studies minor to further its inclusivity.

“We hope to have an indigenous studies minor instead of a Native American studies minor, so that we can encompass a global perspective on issues that Native Americans and all indigenous people face and issues that are also more unique to specific countries,” Lopez-Carmen said.

However, the two anthropology professors who founded the minor back in the early 2000s, professor Jack Rossen and associate professor Brooke Hansen, disagree with the proposed name change and curriculum re-focusing. In particular, they argue that an “indigenous studies” minor  might confuse students, as the word “indigenous” can refer to not just peoples but also indigenous animals and plants.

From the same The Ithacan article:

However, both Rossen and Hansen said they are against the renaming of the minor, as they feel it will lessen the distinctiveness of Native American studies. Rossen also said an indigenous studies minor would require far more resources, whereas Native American studies better reflects Ithaca’s Native American history and is a more effective career combination with majors such as anthropology and museum studies.

“I personally favor keeping it Native American studies because we live in Cayuga territory of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and should recognize that,” Rossen said. “I fear that indigenous studies would submerge Native Americans and make them much less visible under the broader umbrella.”

Though Hansen said she finds the terms Native American and American Indian to be misnomers, she does not feel the term “indigenous” is any better because it often lumps native people with indigenous plants and animals, and she said it is less effective in advertising methods.

Those interested in reading more about the situation can consult The Ithacan, once again linked here. By the way, true Cornell Review fans might remember Lopez-Carmen from this video (4:48 mark).