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Rhetorics of Erasure: Critiquing the Role of the U.S. Educational System in Indigenous Cultural Genocide

Year: 2023

Presenter Name: Alisen Allen Setoki

Indigenous communities in the United States have faced a debilitating history of erasure and violence, a history we can trace through policy and rhetoric. This history includes criminalizing the use of Indigenous languages and dances, boarding schools that aimed to "kill the Indian," and the unethical seizure of Native lands. Yet despite the immensity of these events, most non-Indigenous Americans remain ignorant of these historical injustices. This presentation will examine the role that educational systems played-and still play-in the cultural genocide and erasure of Indigenous peoples. My presentation will first examine the United States' removal of Native American children in the mid-1800s from their communities in order to immerse them in a westernized education which resulted in a devastating loss of culture and language. I will also examine this history in light of rhetorics such as the infamous slogan "Kill the Indian, save the man," Richard Henry Pratt's formulation for justifying the violent goals of institutions like the Carlisle Boarding School. This presentation will then examine how cultural genocide has been carried out through the erasure and whitewashing of Native history taught in public educational systems. I will articulate how the study of Indigenous people is often approached through an abstract lens rather than by studying the voices of those with lived experience. For example, Indigenous communities are further erased through the misrepresentation of their culture with mascots that purport to "celebrate" Indigenous communities, and through the insidious use of racial slurs in school marketing, such as the "Redmen." My presentation will close with an analysis of how Indigenous scholars have faced attempted academic suppression in higher education when engaging with difficult history and topics. Higher education-with its attention to history and rhetoric-can be a space to change the conversation around Indigenous communities and representation.
University / Institution: Southern Utah University
Type: Oral
Format: In Person
SESSION B (10:45AM-12:15PM)
Area of Research: Humanities
Faculty Mentor: Nicole Dib
Location: Union Building, PARLOR A (10:45am)