Dr. Nichole S. Prescott, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs,
The University of Texas System
Aya ceeki eeweemaakiki. Niila Myaamia. Neehweeta weenswiaani myaamiaataweenki. Nichole akala shima tawengi.
Hello all my relatives. I am Myaamia. My Myaamia name is Neehweeta, which means she speaks. Nichole is my English name.
The Myaamia first emerged as a distinct people along the banks of the Saakiiweesiipi (St. Joseph’s River near South Bend, Indiana). We call our homelands Myaamionki (the place of the Myaamia). Today, we consider Myaamionki as along the Wabash River in Indiana (our heartland), the Marais des Cygnes River in Kansas, and the Neosho River in Oklahoma, reflecting our history. Our history consists of two forced removals, one literally at gunpoint from our original homelands in the Great Lakes region to Kansas, and one from Kansas into Northeastern Oklahoma, where we are currently based. As for so many other native peoples in the U.S., the history of our forced relocations is a painful memory and the cultural scars of that removal are still felt. Our original homeland in the Wabash River Valley in very real ways contributed to the creation of our culture, identity, spirituality, lifeways, and ways of knowing. Land is inextricably bound to who we are as Miami people.
Over the past several years, higher education institutions in the United States have begun to adopt land acknowledgements. Doing so is consistent with a university’s commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Moreover, doing so is not merely symbolic and rhetorical but rather constitutes action by which higher education honors the history of the land, linking Indigenous peoples to the land upon which the institution sits, and recognizing the institution’s own role in fostering inequities.
Most, if not all, higher education institutions reside on land that was often unscrupulously obtained from Native Americans. Universities are and should be at the forefront of acknowledging and confronting, painful truths and finding reconciliation and insight through that process. In many cases, universities are wrestling with past and continuing injustices of African Americans. While the jury is out as to whether this will create meaningful and lasting change, fewer are making progress in this journey with Native Americans.
All universities occupy land that was once and probably still is home to Indigenous peoples. Many universities occupy land that was dispossessed from Indigenous peoples through unethical and often violent practices. Of all American cultural institutions, universities should be at the vanguard of facing these historical (and contemporary) realities.
As both an Indigenous person and a university system administrator, thinking about equity as it applies to Native Americans comes naturally. In addition to being an enrolled citizen of the Miami Nation of Oklahoma, I am also the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Texas System. The University of Texas System consists of eight academic and six health sciences institutions and serves over 240,000 students annually.
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