Director Serves on Speaker Panel about "Becoming Indigenous", Business Responsibility



Last year I read an incredible book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.


About two weeks later, I received an invitation to be a panelist for “`Carlisle in Reverse’: Returning to a Sustainable Future” CALS/Centre County Reads roundtable discussion scheduled for Wednesday, February 9, 4:00-5:00 PM EST via Zoom. That's today! It is organized by the Center for American Literary Studies at Penn State and the Centre County Reads program.


Learn more and register at the CALS website here and at the Centre County Reads website here.


What is this event all about? Here's the description from the flyer (edited for clarity and length):

In Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer argues for the necessity of recuperating indigenous ways of knowing in order to ensure a more sustainable and fulfilling human existence. Kimmerer seeks to counter state-sponsored attempts to erase indigenous culture, such as those typified by institutions like the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Operating for nearly forty years in Pennsylvania, the Carlisle School engaged in the forced enrollment of indigenous children, subjecting them to an assimilationist curriculum under hazardous, and sometimes fatal, living conditions. Against this legacy, Kimmerer foregrounds the need for a counter education that would reverse this violent trend toward erasing indigenous ways of knowing. In this roundtable discussion, three panelists will suggest how such a reversal can be implemented and the possibilities and limitations of our, in Kimmerer’s words, “becoming indigenous.”


In my research and preparation for the panel, I have continued to be humbled by the history I don't know, the names and stories many have worked so hard to uncover and share anew. Stories like that of Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin) a Lakota woman who once taught at the Carlisle School and would go on to write "The Sun Dance", the first opera written by an indigenous person in America. She would also spend her life advocating for Native People's rights and fought for the passage of the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act.


Zitkala's story (11 mins) below from PBS' American Masters gives a glimpse at her amazing life. Today, I hope to share a bit about how business can be a part of the effort to honor these stories and their example of fighting for the rights of all people and the sacredness of all places.