A Stranger in Your Own House, interview with William Rice (MDP ’17)

On the first day of Laguna Pueblo citizen Rep. Deb Haaland’s senate confirmation hearing for her nomination to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives has published Eden Yonas’ (C’ 22) far-reaching interview with Emory alum, William Rice (MDP ’17) who is a member of the Coquille Tribe. Read below:

A Stranger in Your Own House


Entangled histories & the work ahead

Today is the 200th anniversary of the First Treaty of Indian Springs (January 8th, 1821). In this treaty, signed by the US government and the Muscogee Creek Nation, the Muscogee Creek were forced to relinquish the land which is now present-day DeKalb County and the home of Emory University. By all accounts, this was a coerced treaty. At the treaty’s signing, this tract of ceded land (included within 116 on map) became part of the State of Georgia.* The Muscogee were forced to move west, towards and into Alabama. One year later, in 1822, this area of land was incorporated as DeKalb County, and included the town of Covington (founded 1822), home of Emory’s Oxford College (founded 1836), as well as the land upon which the main campus of Emory University sits. Emory University was founded in 1836, fifteen years after this First Treaty of Indian Springs, as the sons of the new settlers were beginning to reach college age. The 1821 treaty and others during this period led to massive land dispossession from Indigenous nations, and allowed for continued expansion of the Southeastern plantation economy and enslavement of Africans and their descendants. These facts also form part of the background to the horrific forced removal of over 20,000 Muscogee Creek people from Alabama that occurred in 1836-1837 and through which approximately 3,500 Muscogee Creek people died en route. The Muscogee Creek Nation (OK) is currently the fourth largest Tribal Nation with approximately 80,000 citizens. We are looking forward to seeing Emory University and DeKalb County begin to reckon with this history and its enduring consequences, and begin to commit to reparative actions.

*Note: The 1821 treaty was expanded with a 1825 treaty, and revised January 24th, 1826.

additional links:
Land Acknowledgment and History Statement
A Community for All: Indigenous Student Committee Initiative Statement
Original handwritten treaty, 1821 (US National Archives)
Print version of 1821 treaty.
Task Force on Untold Stories and Disenfranchised Populations (Emory University, Office of the President)

Reflections for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, 2020

(published October 12, 2020 in the Emory University Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Newsletter.)

Our/the Indigenous communities and their allies are standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. It is important to recognize that this powerful uprising to dismantle systemic racism has supported Indigenous peoples’ struggles and visibility, and has signaled the crucial intertwined history of Indigenous land dispossession and the enslavement of Africans and African-descended peoples in the Americas. Some significant wins include initiatives to “unsettle” and “decolonize” the curriculum, the name change of the NFL DC football team, and the toppling of numerous monuments across the United States of America.

The second Monday of October recognizes the invaluable contributions made by Indigenous nations, peoples, and people. It acknowledges the people who are the first inhabitants of the land that is present-day U.S., and their enduring nations and peoples. Across the United States, numerous higher education institutions, over 100 cities and municipalities (including South Fulton county here in Georgia), and at least thirteen different states have declared the second Monday of October as an official holiday, Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We are deeply appreciative of the recent decision by Emory University President Fenves, Interim Provost Love, and the Emory leadership to officially recognize this day at our institution. In the United States, the movement to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day began in the late 1980s as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day. We also wish to highlight that shortly after this, the United Nations designated August 9th as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Today, we wish to acknowledge that there are 574 Tribal Nations living side by side, or sharing land, with the United States. This represents over 6 million people. Emory University itself resides on land that was forcibly dispossessed by the US government from the Mvskoke/Muscogee Creek Nation in 1821, through the First Treaty of Indian Springs. Emory was founded in 1836, just fifteen years after this treaty, during a period of sustained oppression, land dispossession, and forced relocation of Mvskoke/Muscogee (Creek) and Ani’yunwi’ya (Cherokee) people from Georgia and the Southeast. The ultimate removals of over 60,000 Indigenous people from this region to the area of present-day Oklahoma occurred during the genocidal period known as the Trail of Tears (1830-1838). Approximately 25% of the forcibly displaced Indigenous people died in route.

Today, the present-day Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma is the fourth largest tribal nation in the U.S. with over 86,000 citizens. In 2019, Muscogee citizen Joy Harjo was named the 29th poet laureate of the United States. Here at Emory University, Professor Craig Womack, who is also Muscogee, is an internationally acclaimed scholar in Native American literary studies and a talented musician. We owe an immense debt to the Mvskoke, Ani’yunwi’ya and other original peoples who have cared for and inhabited these lands, and to their descendants.

We want the important social justice momentum that is developing across our nation to extend to our campus and ensure that Indigenous voices and contributions are part of our intellectual practices every day, not just on October 12th. On this day we hope that the Emory community will join us in recognizing the resiliency and strength of Indigenous Peoples — and especially our Native students —  in succeeding in an education system that was not designed for them, and one that they are working to decolonize for the enrichment and flourishing of us all.

We welcome the Emory University community to find more resources and statements here at https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/nae

Beth Michel, MPH
Tohono O’odham/Navajo/Hopi
Associate Dean
Office of Undergraduate Admission

Debra Vidali, PhD
USA, from occupied Haudenosaunee territory
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology

Dancing with Synthetic Moccasins

by Klamath Henry (C’19)

Native American students who attend primarily white institutions are constantly dancing between two different worlds. In one world, they are their authentic selves: Indigenous. In another, they try to morph themselves into what the white man wants them to be: assimilated.

My 2018 website was named “dancing with synthetic moccasins,” because that is what it feels like for Native students who are in all-white spaces. They are constantly dancing and walking with prayer throughout their college journeys. Yet, somehow this dance must be done in shoes. Instead of wearing leather moccasins, Native students must wear shoes in order to be succesful. They must appear to be tamed, and non-threatening.

Yet, dancing through their campuses, they do not forget who they are. From the outside they appear to be everything the dominant culture wants them to be. Little does the dominant culture know what the Native people are doing.

Regardless of what is on their feet, in dancing, they resist.

North American Indigenous People

by Klamath Henry (C’19).
Originally published in 2018

It is tricky to define what exactly a “North American Indigenous person” is. Issues of sovereignty, blood quantum and recognition all occur when speaking about a particular tribe.

It is first of all important to recognize that there still ARE Native peoples living in the United States. These people all are descendants from varying tribes, all of which have different identities, languages, spiritualities and ways of being. 

In short, not all Indians are the same.

Image result for tribal nations and names

Self-identification is especially important when speaking about Indigeniety.  The map above lists tribes with the labels that they individually gave themselves (decolonized versions of their own names). With the creation of the UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), all peoples are allowed to self-identify as being an “Indigenous” person.

Tribes in the United States, however, have to prove their Indigeneity through blood and DNA screening, archaelogical records, etc. No other grouping of people in the United States has to do this. This is modern day colonialism.

Being “Indian” means different things to different people, just like being “American,” does to some.

It is important to educate yourself on the history of colonization and genocide. But, it is just as important that you educate yourself on how resilient the tribes who survived colonization are, and how they are managing the remnants of that genocide today.

Attached are links to important articles and resources of generalized material:

Genocide or Holocaust?

What Native American Heritage Month Means to Me

Who decides who counts as Native American? 

“What does it mean to be a Native American today?” 

Word Association: Reservation

A Conversation with Native Americans on Race