Guest speakers invite students to consider different cultural perspectives.
BY KRISTIN DUISBERG
Imagine an indigenous future.
Recognize that you can’t solve problems using the same thinking that gave rise to them.
While differing in specifics, these two messages, delivered during two Chapels by guest speakers Adrienne Keene and Gyasi Ross, respectively, provided a common framework for discussions around the grounds as St. Paul’s School kicked off its observation of Native American Heritage month. Keene, who visited on Nov. 1, and Ross, who spent the day on Nov. 7, shared their perspective as Native Americans, scholars and activists during Chapel Talks and in classroom visits. Both guests also stayed to share lunch and conversation with students and faculty.
A member of the Cherokee Nation and an assistant professor at Brown University, Keene is the founder of Native Appropriations — a blog that analyzes the way Indigenous peoples are represented in popular culture and addresses issues that include cultural appropriation in fashion and music and stereotyping in film and other media. In Chapel, she described autumn as the season of “bad native representation” — a time when football teams that use Native people as mascots get airplay, some citizens continue to refer to Indigenous Peoples Day as Columbus Day, and a romanticized view of Wampanoag/English settler relations is perpetuated in Thanksgiving marketing — but noted that remarkable progress has been made even since she began her blog.
“Twelve years ago, I couldn’t have imagined the popularity of a show like ‘Reservation Dogs,’ or someone like Deb Haaland serving as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior,” she said. “Realistic representation matters, and it is happening thanks in part to the work of Native activists and scholars.” Inviting students to use Native American Heritage Month to imagine a future that holds space for Indigenous peoples in every field, she noted, “We are still here. We always have been here and always will be.”