Fourth annual Indigeneity Initiative Teach-In inspires Quinnipiac community

November 08, 2023

Quinnipiac hosted its fourth annual Indigeneity Initiative Teach-In to inspire the Quinnipiac community

An inspirational day of discussion at Quinnipiac’s fourth annual Indigeneity Initiative Teach-In touched on research, education and outreach on campus related to Indigenous peoples.

Held in the Student Center Piazza on the Mount Carmel Campus, the event’s 12 speakers engaged members of the Quinnipiac community with an interdisciplinary exploration of a wide range of topics.

The annual program is organized by the Quinnipiac University Indigeneity Initiative, said Julia Giblin, an associate professor of anthropology.

“We are a group of faculty, staff, students and now alumni who are really thinking about the ways our Quinnipiac community relates to this concept of Indigeneity,” said Giblin. “The Indigeneity Initiative Teach-In today is a tradition that was started four years ago to continue to explore these relationships and try to engage our community, as much as possible, to share the work that is being done within this community.”

Presenters included faculty, students, alumni and guest speakers, such as Stephen Amerman, Ph.D., a Hamden resident and professor of history.

Amerman discussed the new, interpretive panel unveiled in September on the ancestral land of the Quinnipiac peoples at Sleeping Giant State Park which neighbors the Mount Carmel Campus.

Amerman helped develop the narrative for the panel, titled, “Sleeping Giant: Stories of an Indigenous Place.”  Amerman and his wife, Leah Glaser, Ph.D., worked with Native American educator, Rachel Sayet of the Mohegan Tribe, to develop the narrative.

Amerman said an important question to consider when learning about Indigenous history and stories is, “Who is telling the history, and who is telling the story?”

“For the vast majority of the past 500-plus years of the European colonization of this continent, it has of course been Europeans, especially European men, who have gotten to dominate the telling of those stories,” said Amerman. “All along, Indigenous people have also been telling and often even writing their histories. It’s just that until relatively recently, for the most part, few Europeans really listened very much, or listened very well, or listened at all.”

Giblin introduced alumni guest speaker Kiara Tanta-Quidgeon ’22, who is pursuing a Master’s in Public Health. Tanta-Quidgeon spoke on the continued challenges in healthcare facing Indigenous peoples.

A member of the Mohegan tribe, Tanta-Quidgeon is also the founder of the Quinnipiac Indigenous Student Union (ISU), Giblin noted.

“She’s a major part of why this teach-in has been happening and has fueled a lot of really positive change and critical reflection and thinking at Quinnipiac over the last four years,” said Giblin.

At the teach-in, Tanta-Quidgeon recognized and honored the area’s ancestral lands of the Quinnipiac people and several other tribes of Connecticut.

Tanta-Quidgeon’s cousin, Aiyana Baker ’25, Quinnipiac Indigenous Student Union president, also participated as a teach-in speaker. Baker discussed the work of their late Great-Great Aunt Gladys Tanta-Quidgeon, a Mohegan tribe medicine woman.

Baker shared herbal remedies from Gladys Tanta-Quidgeon’s academically researched book on folk medicine, based on the practices of the Delaware tribe and Mohegan medicine.

“It’s important to keep the culture of our ancestors and what they once used alive," said Baker. "Some things are still used, such as witch hazel, but many things are not. We can also learn a lot from the uses of herbals that our ancestors used. I learned so much just reading through the book.”

Giblin and anthropology major Naomi Gorero ’24 discussed the extensive work underway with the “Quinnipiac River Valley Cultural Heritage Project.” The goal of the project is to help better identify and inventory artifacts of the Quinnipiac tribe found within a variety of collections. Another goal is generating a community-based and Indigenous lead methodology for education, outreach, scholarship and repatriation/rematriation related to these artifacts.

Caitlin Hanlon, assistant professor of biology, discussed the intersection of scientific studies with racist mythologies that continue to be tied to Indigenous peoples in her talk, “The ‘Thrifty Gene’ Myth: Intersections of Race, Genetics, and Health Outcomes.”

Christina Dickerson, assistant professor of history, spoke about Indigenous Americans as early “Native travelers.” Encountered by early European explorers, small groups of Indigenous people were transported from their homelands to Europe, specifically to Spain, France and England, in the period between 1493 and 1617. Dickerson’s discussion was inspired by the new book, “Savage Shores” by Caroline Dodds Pennock.

“It’s a story that’s not often told, but it’s important to acknowledge that this was happening from the earliest contact period,” said Dickerson.

Guest speaker Jim Powers, a board member of the Dudley Farm Museum Foundation in Guilford, Connecticut, spoke on the mission of the newly opened Quinnipiac Dawnland Museum at the Dudley Farm Museum. The culmination of a longtime dream of the late Gordon “Fox Running” Brainerd, the museum displays a wide collection of stone projectile points and tools from the area dating back as far as 12,000 years. 

Luis Arata, professor of modern languages, spoke on “Is the Popol Vuh (the Maya Book of Creation) a Text?” In discussing the culture’s different concept of reading, in which the word is implanted within the People to come out through voice, Arata also touched on their story of colonialism, said Giblin.

“Settler colonialism and the impacts of colonialism has certainly been a theme that has been woven through all of these talks today," said Giblin. "We discussed the ways that we continue to try to think about how to decolonize our institutions and our lives and the various scales that continue to pervade them."

Nita Prasad, associate professor of history, discussed settler colonialism as it relates to the current Israel-Palestine conflict in her discussion “Israel-Palestine: Settler Colonialism and the Meaning of ‘Indigeneity.’” Paul Pasquaretta, a faculty member at Quinnipiac, spoke about his book, “Gambling and Survival in Native North America.” Rebekah Stein, assistant professor of environmental science, discussed “Fossilized Evidence of Holocene and Pleistocene Indigenous Nations Behaviors Provides Insight into Climate Living Conditions.”

Giblin expressed her deep gratitude for all of the speakers who informed Quinnipiac’s fourth annual Indigeneity Initiative Teach-In.

“We had a lot of talks that brought in concepts of Indigeneity in really exciting ways,” said Giblin.

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