Hiawatha Center For Justice Moving Forward

Hiawatha Center For Justice Moving Forward

The vision of the Hiawatha Center for Justice (HCJ) continues to grow and become clearer. Although it is likely the Center will function virtually for at least 2-3 more years, there is good news to report regarding the physical restoration and rejuvenation of the beautiful and historic Hiawatha Hall located on the Haskell campus. This fall the entire interior of Hiawatha Hall was cleaned-up and cleaned-out. In November Dr. Wildcat was given a tour of Hiawatha by interim Facilities Manager Karla VanNoy and Haskell’s contractor. It is now ready for the exciting phase of interior redesign and renovation. Working with Tonia Salvini and the University Master Plan Committee, Haskell Student Government, and Board of Regents, Dr. Wildcat will work on the final official approval of the vision and location of the HCJ in Hiawatha Hall. Haskell’s Master Plan Committee will continue to work with Kansas University School of Architecture & Design and the School of Engineering to create a state-of-the-art multipurpose facility in Hiawatha.

Thus far the HCJ has held five events. On February 25, 2021, the inaugural event of the Hiawatha Center for Justice was convened virtually in honor of Black History month. Dr. Dan Wildcat hosted a three-person panel led by Academy Award-winning screenwriter, director, and KU professor Kevin Willmott, who led a discussion not only about the past and present injustice Black Americans face, but most importantly, what steps can be taken to create institutions embracing systemic justice. Joining Professor Willmott in this honest and difficult discussion was Dr. Randal Jelks, national awarding winning author and Professor of American Studies and African and African American Studies at the University of Kansas, and Alex Kimball Williams, community activist, musician, and Haskell Indian Nations University alum, and honors graduate of KU’s Indigenous Studies Program at Kansas University.

On June 21, 2012, the HJC partnered with the Lawrence Arts Center as part of the Lawrence Free State Festival to host a special virtual program in conjunction with the showing of the documentary film End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock. Dr. Daniel Wildcat led in a live virtual discussion with Shannon Kring (director), Phyllis Young (Hunkpapa Lakota) and Pearl Daniel-Means (Diné) about the powerful role women played as Water Protectors to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock documented in the film End of the Line.

As many of you know the first American Indian Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, has launched a major initiative to tell the story of the Federal Indian Boarding Schools. This is a huge undertaking and given Haskell’s role in that history, the Indigenous and American Indian Studies (IAIS) faculty at Haskell reached out to Secretary Haaland to express our support for this historic initiative and interest in engaging in this work. Subsequently, Haskell faculty have been involved in meeting to discuss this major initiative and various considerations that need to be taken to address this complex and too often traumatic history.

Consequently, in late September, in honor of Secretary Haaland’s initiative and Indigenous Peoples Day on October 11th, Haskell invited Secretary Haaland to be a part of a HCJ forum on the history of Indian Boarding Schools. Although she was unable to participate, on October 27, 2021, HCJ hosted a virtual Justice Forum in honor of Indigenous People’s Day. The forum attended by almost 100 people was moderated by Haskell faculty member Dr. Eric Anderson (Citizen Potawatomi Nation). Panelists included Haskell faculty members: Cody Marshall (Akimel O’odham, Piipaash, & Hunkpapa Lakota), Sierra Two Bulls (Oglala Lakota), and Student Government Association President, Rebecca Villalobos (San Carlos Apache & Omaha).

In November, the Virtual Hiawatha Center for Justice hosted two events with Robin Wall Kimmerer (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) and author of the Fall 2021 Kansas University and Haskell Indian Nations University Common Book Braiding Sweetgrass. On November 10 Dr. Wildcat hosted a conversation with Dr. Kimmerer about her highly acclaimed book, and on November 22 the HCJ sponsored a presentation by Dr. Kimmerer on Ecological Restoration.

This past fall Dr. Wildcat worked with two interns on HCJ development and program ideas. Ms. Makayla Hernandez, Haskell Indigenous and American Indian Studies major, helped organize and advertise all fall programs and worked closely with the HCJ’s second intern Ms. Darene Esse, senior in the KU School of Engineering. Ms. Essa is working with Dr. Wildcat and KU advisors on the development of the HCJ as her senior SELF capstone project entitled: Haskell Center for Justice: Racial Justice & Equity Through a Partnership with KU Engineering. Both Ms. Hernandez and Ms. Esse have been invaluable in working to realize the vision of the HCJ. Ms. Esse is surveying KU students for their ideas about the future of HCJ and Ms. Hernandez will work with the Haskell Student Government Association to get Haskell students’ ideas about future programs and activities the HCJ can support and host.

On a final note, a faculty advisory board was formed and convened for the HCJ this past fall. They met twice and plan to set a schedule for monthly meetings throughout the Spring semester. Much good work has been accomplished this past year and the Haskell Foundation is proud to be a part of the HCJ vision. Please support the further development and activities of the HCJ by sending a donation to the Haskell Foundation.

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