The decolonization of Americans is a major undertaking, yet it must be completed one step at a time. Decolonization involves the reversal of institutional actions that harm Indigenous peoples.
Step one is admitting to wrongdoing and recognizing the need to make amends with specific groups of individuals. For example, if an institution, such as the University of Connecticut, harmed Group X, helping Group Y doesn’t erase the reparations owed to Group X. The second step is making sure the group harmed has a say in how it uses institutional help, rather than institutions depending on internal advice. In the case of UConn, this would mean tribes that had their land stolen during British colonization, and later under the Morrill Act — a work of higher-education land-grant legislation — to build the university would be able to pick students for automatic admission and scholarship independent of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Finally, any act taken should be more than symbolic. For instance, flying the flag of an Indigenous nation is purely symbolic, as is giving that nation a small piece of land to fly said flag on. The ideal option would be to give that nation land to build upon or land with a preexisting usable building, so the flag could fly over the activities of that nation rather than merely being a symbol. Though UConn administration should ask the affected Indigenous nations what they want, I have several short-term ideas of my own.
My first idea is creating five classes taught in cooperation with each of the five tribes living in Connecticut, as well as a sixth taught in cooperation with out-of-state tribes dispossessed by the Morrill Act and a seventh with foreign nations hurt by U.S. military involvement (including UConn ROTC). The tribes should have full control over the curriculum. Ideally, such classes would be attended by staff, faculty and administrators in addition to students, but even alone students attending would be a positive step. Assuming each class will be worth two credits, this initiative would create 14 credits, or roughly a semester, of instruction. Instruction methods could range from traditional classroom instruction to service learning trips during breaks.
My next idea is a building, such as a dorm or classroom building, given to one or more of the tribes in Connecticut, to use as they wish. This would likely be in cooperation with the university, but the administration should leave that decision to the involved tribes. Potential uses include housing indigenous students at UConn and nearby universities who can’t afford other housing, or educating the UConn community and surrounding communities about tribal issues, culture, and language and others.
A third idea that could help to decolonize UConn is to offer ECE classes run by affected tribes, and possibly also by nations hurt by the U.S. military with UConn ROTC involvement. Similar initiatives might include an assistance program for those nations, which could cover study abroad programs and also tuition and fees at two-year UConn branch campuses (in addition to at Storrs).
Finally, I wish to emphasize that the consent of the nations affected by internal colonization and military intervention is required throughout the decolonization process, or else my potential solutions would become yet another form of colonization and would require even more decolonization to solve. With Thanksgiving, which honors a gift from Indigenous people to early colonists, coming up, we must remember how a small favor from one group to another can have long lasting effects. Hopefully UConn, and America, will soon repay this gift.