This initiative was created by Mateo Escobar, and is now under the leadership of Brittany Diaz (UConn Collaborative Organizing), Michio Agresta (UConn Fridays for Future) and Sage Phillips (NACP).
Our intentions with this initiative is to generate more visibility for the UConn Native American Cultural Program and the ongoing effects of colonization. As a public land grant university, the University of Connecticut is the direct product of the violent relocation of Native American tribes. What more, as is the case with all United States Territory, Storrs resides on colonized land which was taken from the Mohegan and Pequot tribes. Current events demonstrate colonization is not a figment of the past. Open any news source and you will see the protests of the Wet’Suwet’en tribe against a Canadian pipeline, Standing Rock’s ongoing struggle in North Dakota, the government-sanctioned destruction of Native American burial grounds at Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and locally the Killingly mascot controversy. In the face of these contemporary issues that perpetuate colonial violence, we see an opportunity to build the NACP’s community presence, with the ultimate goal of encouraging the construction of a cultural center for our indigenous communities. The short term outcome of this initiative is to promote a campus dialogue on decolonization with a focus on local issues that is informed by global trends. It is also our intention to increase the visibility of UConn’s Native American community and Native American Cultural Program, and increase resources for the NACP. The long term goal of this initiative is to cultivate a UConn community that is informed and respectful of its indigenous neighbors, to pave the way for an eventual Native American Cultural Center, and to encourage the implementation of decolonial methods and theory on campus. -Mateo Escobar, Class of 2020
The first part of the initiative will consist of a Blanket Exercise performed and facilitated by the Akomawt Educational Initiative for a symbolic demonstration of land theft and the devastating impact it has on indigenous communities. The facilitation will begin with the demonstration and end with a follow up discussion to reflect on ideas and identities that emerged throughout. This event will be taking place on Indigenous Peoples’ Day- October 12, 2020 from 3:30-5:30pm in a virtual format.
We will be commissioning an art piece from Diné artist Shonto Begay that will be unveiled in the 2021-2022 academic year. The piece will serve as a decolonial attribute to the university community and beyond. To view Shonto’s work click here.