Once home to five different Native American tribes, the land on which the UGA campus sits today has a deep cultural history all its own that is often overlooked but retains the compelling power to teach. The Red & Black highlights Native American Heritage Month and ongoing efforts to educate the public about this rich culture:
The Institute of Native American Studies, Native American Student Association, the University Union and the Multicultural Services and Programs are coming together throughout the month of November to host various events highlighting and promoting education on indigenous heritage.
“The heritage is a very colorful heritage. Native American cultures… all have different languages, different stories, different ceremonies. It is part of American heritage and we really ought to celebrate it,” Ervan Garrison, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Native American Studies professor said.
With the University of Georgia sitting on native land and the state of Georgia once having five different native tribes occupying and nurturing this land, all of which were removed, it is important to recognize just how ingrained native culture is in the fabric of North America.
Clarke County is located on land belonging originally to the Creek Indians. Cori Bazemore-James, a doctoral candidate at the UGA Department of Counseling & Human Development services, emphasises the importance of recognizing this and the impact of our response to being on occupied land.
“It is important to recognize that we are on occupied space and what that means for us to be in this space and the fact that there are so few native people here anymore,” Bazemore-James said. “We have some native people but do we want to support them? Do we want to learn about them? Or do we want to just pretend like they don't exist?”
Faculty tribal members throughout UGA and especially in English, anthropology, religion and collectively through the Institute of Native American Studies, are a remarkable resource for our students and the community. Challenges of educating Americans about our past are monumental. Even longstanding traditions like Thanksgiving are often opportunities to elide rather to illuminate the cultural heritage of this part of the world. Still, we are grateful for the efforts of our colleagues and conscious of the continuum of which we are all a part.
Image: historical map of the tribes on the East Coast in the year 1600