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SU to build Center for Global Indigenous Studies

Scott Manning Stephens

Syracuse University plans to break ground on a new building to centrally locate and expand upon the Indigenous studies program. The Center for Global Indigenous studies will be built through a $1.5 million grant awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation over three years. Associate Professor Scott Manning Stevens has been named the Executive Director. He said there will be several major areas of study: The intertwining of language, literature, religion and cultural retention. There will also be a focus on local indigenous issues.

“Of our own histories, of our own traditions and arts and language revitalization, that’s one big block,” Stevens said. “Another is political sovereignty and indigenous human rights and so since we are a collection of nations within nations, our political sovereignty is always under pressure.”

Another course offering, Indigenous Environmental Studies, will partner with members of nearby SUNY ESF. The professor said there can be a lot gained by mainstream society through an understanding of Indigenous perspectives when it comes to environmental management. He said unlike a capitalist society driven by profits to develop free land, the belief systems of Indigenous cultures seriously consider the long-term effects.

“And will be condemned for our short-sightedness or praised for our wisdom. And so before you put in that damn, before you drain that marsh, clear that forest, do whatever you’re doing, think about all its possible ramifications. Seven generations, 140, 160 years away,” Stevens added.

Hence, the SU Center for Indigenous Studies will delve into both global and indigenous issues. The professor said native peoples have frequently been forced to move to areas that settlers don’t want. He said they want environmental justice to start taking into account the effects of people on the ground immediately; including the water quality and the melting ice where communities are living in marginal climates.