Indigenous Peoples’ Symposium sheds light on diversity

MSUM hosed an Indigenous Peoples’ Symposium Friday in the CMU. Put on by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the event consisted of an opening ceremony followed by three speakers.

Starting with professor Tadd Johnson, director of American Indian Studies at the University of Duluth, the symposium began with a lecture analyzing 400 years of US-Tribal relations.

Second, Erma Vizenor, White Earth Chairwoman, talked about the importance of constitutional reform for White Earth and other tribal nations.

Closing out the event, Kandace Creel Falcon, MSUM assistant professor of women and gender studies, lead a workshop entitled “Reflecting on Experiential Ways of Knowing, Institutional Violence and the Pathways to Diverse Student Empowerment.”

Creel Falcon is in her fourth year of teaching at MSUM, but this is her first time speaking at the Indigenous Peoples’ Symposium, though she has done many different lectures and trainings in the past.

She began with a documentary of 15 Latina and Latino student interviews focusing on experiential ways of knowing. The film was based on the students’ experiences of what it was like to be a diverse student in historically white higher education institutions in Minnesota.

After the film screening, the workshop opened up to the audience to share, discuss and develop their own ideas about the cultural capital model in relation to higher education.

She further explained the term “experiential ways of knowing” saying, “It’s how we use our own experiences to see them as valuable ways of interpreting the world around us.”

“It’s important to create more spaces where we address individual and community experiences, systematic oppression, racism, sexism and homophobia.” Creel Falcon said. “The more we engage in these conversations, the easier it will be to address inequalities.”

Going on to say that there is a dominant kind of knowledge, one that is taught from the perspective of a white professor informing students on his or her area of expertise, Creel Falcon said that people need to be thinking about different ways of generating knowledge, ones that do not come from a historically white set of experiences, to use in conjunction with currently dominate traditional theories of knowledge.

When asked if she thought the attending audience was benefited, Creel Falcon said, “I hope so. I think the feedback was that they learned a bit more about themselves and their identities as an important approach to success at a university.”

“Even though we may be in a historically white institution, students, staff and faculty of color are necessary and valuable members of the institution.” Creel Falcon said. “It is our collective duty as members of the community to learn about cultures different from our own and honor their presence on campus.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the content Creel Falcon discussed in her lecture should look into taking a women and gender studies or American multicultural studies class. Interested students are also welcome to stop by her office.

BY MARIE VEILLETTE
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