The University of Connecticut’s Native American Cultural Programs held an event on Zoom last night to discuss decolonization and the fight for Native rights worldwide. The event featured speakers collaborating on historical perspectives as well as the pursuit of Indigenous reparations for stolen lands.
The event, titled “A Global Perspective: Indigenous Rights and Decolonization” invited speakers from Indigenous communities in the United States, Australia, Peru and New Zealand. Shaquanna Sebastian, Jamie Hampton, Garrick Cooper and Azucena Minaya spoke on their individual experiences in their respective tribes and communities.
The event, which began with a land acknowledgement, took place in a question and answer format, with interview questions from Blevin as well as audience questions received through the Zoom chat box. The speakers discussed their perspectives and ideas for Native success.
Smokii Sumac, member of the Ktunaxa nation in Canada, responded to a question about diagnosing the political health of Indigenous people by comparing Canada to America.
“When I think about America, the difference is population,” Sumac said. “Think about Winnipeg, where 25 [percent] of the population is Indigenous people. That’s going to make a difference in how we are recognized, however our biggest problem, coming from an Indigenous perspective of holistic knowledge, is racism. That is the core.”
Sumac, who is two spirit and identifies with his/him pronouns, joked about intersectionality of the LGBTQIA+ community and Native communities.
“When you look at intersectionality, my picture will be in the dictionary,” Sumac said.
Garrick Cooper, a representative of the Ngati Whanaunga and Ngati Ranginui tribes in New Zealand, explained his people’s struggles with the federal government and sovereignty.
“We haven’t had a lot of land returned, in the vicinity of 1 or 2 percent of what was confiscated and taken for other means,” Cooper said. “The division has grown between those who have and those [who] have not. Some people are tied up with gains, some are intergenerationally unemployed, yet some are doing awesome stuff with different communities.”
Shaquanna Sebas, from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut, talked about her experiences being both Black and Native American. Native communities struggle with colorism and anti-Blackness.
“People say, ‘Oh you look too much like this or too much like that,’” Sebas said. “President Trump even remarked that my tribe didn’t look Native enough. But I am Native American and I am Black.”
Near the end of the discussion, Jamie Hampton, of the Warlpiri and Arrente tribes in Aborginal Australia, thanked the group for their time and support.
“Aboriginal people are still treated as non-human, which affects their work opportunities, education, even housing,” Hampton said. “I feel supported by the Native communities outside of mine. It’s great to hear from everyone and hear their stories. We can all work and grow together.”
“Aboriginal people are still treated as non-human, which affects their work opportunities, education, even housing,”