Scholar and activist Sasānēhsaeh Pyawasay-Jennings to headline Indigenous Peoples’ Day event
Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a national holiday commemorating the history and achievements of the Indigenous Peoples of America. This year, the holiday is nationally recognized on October 12.
Clemson Inclusion & Equity will hold a virtual workshop experience called “Supporting Native Students: Building Relationships with Native Nations,” from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. October 12 via Zoom. The event is free and open to the public. The keynote speaker is the current tribal liaison for the University of Wisconsin System, Sasānēhsaeh Pyawasay-Jennings.
Pyawasay-Jennings lives on the Bad River Reservation in Wisconsin with her husband and two girls. She is an enrolled member of the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin.
As an educator, scholar and activist, her passion is to transform educational spaces to create more just institutions. She will offer insight on how universities can use policy to work with Native nations and build institutional infrastructure to support native students and create meaningful relationships with Native communities.
Pyawasay-Jennings was also the guest speaker for Clemson’s first Indigenous Peoples’ Day three years ago.
“When we brought her to campus last time, she inspired so many folks, including Native students who had never seen themselves reflected in Clemson’s curricular and co-curricular landscape. She started a movement that I hope lasts a long time and one that I hope becomes a campus-wide effort,” said Jerad Green, senior associate director of the Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Multicultural Center. Jerad said Pyawasay-Jennings’ experience is relatable to many students because she grew up on a reservation and transitioned to a non-Native institution, an experience many self-identifying native students have to navigate.
“My hope is this event will help prompt Clemson to build more strategic and reciprocal relationships with Native communities,” said Green. “Beyond resources, I hope we can also uncover the ways Clemson is implicated in colonization and how we benefit from Indigenous land from across the country.”
To that end, a committee was established in 2018 called Decolonize Clemson with the purpose of developing a basis for how Clemson connects with and recognizes local Indigenous communities, land, labor and history. The committee consists of students, faculty and staff who work collaboratively to advance indigeneity through the curriculum, co-curricular engagement and community development.
“Decolonize Clemson is a great starting place, but I recognize it will take a more collective effort to drive change in this arena,” said Green. “Indigenous communities have been educating, supporting and stewarding each other and the land for centuries. We can learn a lot if we consider different approaches to how we engage in diversity and inclusion work.”
Over the past several years, researchers on Clemson’s campus have committed to identifying and uncovering the history of colonization and slavery directly connected to the campus. In an effort to honor tribal communities who inhabited this land, Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes decolonization of historical narratives, while building awareness about the importance of preserving Native American languages, culture, traditions and identity.
You can register for the workshop here.