The Red Cedar river runs directly through Michigan State University, separating north and south campus. A series of walking bridges allow people to cross on foot and not have to swim. There is one section of land and corresponding bridge I like the most for what it might symbolize or even ask. If you stand in the middle of the bridge and look south, you see the football stadium backside and massive spartan logo.
If you spin around, turn your back on the stadium, and look north, you see the back entrance to the library.
All the while, the water, fish, and micro-organisms in the river continue running and living underneath you.
In the opening chapter of Indigenous and Decolonizing Studies in Education, editors Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Eve Tuck, K. Wayne Yang begin with two elements at play in this setting:
Water is life.
Land is our first teacher.
It seems this configuration of land, water, and built environment on campus presents a dilemma, a kind of choice – or maybe even a question.
From the MSU Library: A map of Michigan Agricultural College from 1857 overlaid with a modern map of Michigan State University. The circled area in the top left is the location of a Native encampment in 1857, the year the institution first opened for class.
The land acknowledgment some of us use on campus goes like this:
Michigan State University occupies the ancestral, traditional and contemporary lands of the Anishinaabeg – Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi peoples. The university resides on land ceded in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw
I like this additional comment on land acknowledgments from the Native Lands site.
However, these acknowledgments can easily be a token gesture rather than a meaningful practice. All settlers, including recent arrivants, have a responsibility to consider what it means to acknowledge the history and legacy of colonialism. What are some of the privileges settlers enjoy today because of colonialism? How can individuals develop relationships with peoples whose territory they are living on in the contemporary Canadian geopolitical landscape? What are you, or your organization, doing beyond acknowledging the territory where you live, work, or hold your events? What might you be doing that perpetuates settler colonial futurity rather than considering alternative ways forward for Canada? Do you have an understanding of the on-going violence and the trauma that is part of the structure of colonialism?
Did you know that public school textbooks change depending upon the political orientation of the states in which they are used? I bet you did. But here is a clear illustration, literally.
Reading: Slowly making my way through Posthuman Rap. For someone who hasn’t been too jazzed about posthuman theories and keeps saying he’s done writing about hip-hop, I sure am reading a lot of both these days.
Writing: Letters of recommendation and a grant application, the blue color genres of academic writing.
Listening: A chronological listen through Mobb Deep’s catalog. “Hell on Earth” is always so dope.
Community: A deep curriculum planning session with The ADZKN. And by planning, I also mean a multi-hour beatmaking session. I hope there’s much more to say on that in the future.