FNSA, The Commons offer series highlighting Native ways of thinking

This fall, the University of Kansas First Nations Student Association (FNSA) and The Commons are offering regular events that center approaches and ideas of Native peoples, drawing on themes offered in the 2021-22 KU Common Book, "Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants," by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The next event, which will examine the roles of language in culture and understanding, will take place at noon Nov. 18.

The virtual event will feature a guided discussion with Joe Brewer, director of the Indigenous Studies Program and associate professor in the Environmental Studies Program, and Ignacio Carvajal, assistant professor in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese and affiliate faculty member in Latin American & Caribbean studies and Indigenous studies. KU graduate student Robert “Nokwsi” Hicks Jr., Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, will start the event with a prayer song.

This series offers an opportunity for attendees to learn new practices and share their own. Participants will be invited to consider deep listening and immersive learning through language of both humans and more-than-humans.

“It is very exciting to tap into the expertise and knowledge of our own Indigenous faculty, staff and students,” said Melissa Peterson, Diné, KU director of tribal relations and a central coordinator of these events. “These conversations come at a critical time, and we wanted to offer a space for these needed conversations.”

Peterson advises FNSA, which has been actively engaging faculty, staff and students in meaningful conversations around Native identities and tribal histories. FNSA’s lead representative executing this series is graduate student D’Arlyn Bell, citizen of Cherokee Nation.

Bell said that the primary goal for this series “is to demonstrate that Native people are still here. With these conversations we want to create a platform for the expertise, wisdom and knowledge of Indigenous students, faculty and staff to inform and radically transform the way we live and experience the world and offer solutions to some of the most difficult and pressing issues of our time. We truly believe that Indigenous ways of thinking, knowing and being are worth considering and have broad application for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous community alike.”