“Let us recognize the legacy of the Susquehannock people who were the first stewards of this beautiful place and from whom this university and the river derive our names.”
Beginning last May, this land acknowledgement has become a part of our opening convocation and commencement ceremony. This addition was recommended by Malia Simon a junior at Susquehanna who is the president and a founding member of SUNA (Susquehanna University Natives and Allies).
Today, SUNA held a “die-in” as part of their commemoration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. About 75 students, faculty, and staff participants were invited to lie on the ground or sit around the fountain with their eyes closed for five minutes to reflect on the lives lost and the sacrifices associated with colonization.
After the die-in ceremony was completed, members of our community who are indigenous or first people shared personal stories and perspectives. The crowd was addressed in a variety of native languages as well as English. The messages were about hope, a desire to be recognized and valued, and gratitude for the support of those in attendance.
It was a moving event led by a group of remarkably strong and thoughtful women from our campus. I was so very proud of them and all the members of our community who engaged in this inaugural observance.
Themes of stewardship, tradition, and honor ran through all of the comments. These are the values that should run through all that we do in higher education. We learn to be stewards of our planet and our resources, we learn to recognize the richness of our many traditions, and we strive to honor all members of our community for the unique gifts each of us brings to the many.
What a humbling experience it was to witness a manifestation of these goals so poignantly presented by our students and colleagues.