We in the Department of English acknowledge that the land on which the University at Buffalo operates is the territory of the Seneca Nation, a member of the Haudenosaunee/Six Nations Confederacy. This territory is covered by The Dish with One Spoon Treaty of Peace and Friendship, a pledge to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. It This territory is also covered by the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, between the United States Government and the Six Nations Confederacy, which further affirmed Haudenosaunee land rights and sovereignty in the State of New York. We urge the Trustees of SUNY and University at Buffalo to recognize officially the sovereignty and rights of the Seneca Nation and the Haudenosaunee people with regard to this land.
We recognize that English-language dominance and imperialism have played a crucial role in the political history of settlement in every part of the United States. Not only did treaties cede territory founded on colonial “right of conquest” and create contract with deceitful intent, but by virtue of being written in English, they also imposed and validated cultural and political frameworks of settler society.
We as a department acknowledge as well the historical role of the teaching of English and the promulgation of Anglo-settler culture in the campaign of violence against Native American life and lifeways in the United States.
We are mindful of our geographical proximity to the Thomas Indian School (Thomas Asylum of Orphan and Destitute Indian Children), a boarding school for Native American children operated in Cattaraugus Reservation (Seneca Nation) in Irving, Erie County, New York from 1855 to 1957. Almost 2,500 Native children in total were institutionalized at this school, largely due to extreme poverty on the reservation. As it became part of the state system, Thomas implemented federal Indian policy of forced assimilation, which included the prohibition and punishment of using Seneca language and of Seneca cultural expression. We recognize that this century-long trauma continues to reverberate in Seneca and other Haudenosaunee communities. Victims of this system still live in our community today.
We wish to state strongly our commitment to teaching the history and culture of North America (and beyond) in a framework that acknowledges settler colonialism and its consequences; to educating all of our students to understand the foundational nature and ongoing existence of settler colonialism as a social-political formation and system of thought.
We also acknowledge and celebrate the resistance of the Native people of our area and the United States that has occurred through Indigenous uses of English towards decolonizing ends, in Native creation of English-based, translative, and translingual literature and culture. We greatly value the Indigenous perspectives, knowledges, imagination, and resilience embodied in these works. We wish to serve these Native communities and everyone at the university by honoring and teaching Native literature and culture.
We most heartily welcome the Department of Indigenous Studies to the College of Arts and Sciences and look forward to a fruitful partnership in efforts towards decolonizing the study of languages and cultures, and our institution itself. We hope to share faculty, cross-list graduate and undergraduate courses, and to work on Native-centering initiatives with you.