Kenyon College’s land acknowledgment statement goes beyond telling us to whom this land is homeland: It also claims that “as a community, we are committed to confronting this dark past [of forced removal] while also embracing through education and outreach the many Indigenous communities that continue to thrive in Ohio.” We as a community must be more proactive in living up to this commitment by building on current projects and starting new initiatives. When the strength of our words does not match the force of our actions, we fall victim to virtue signaling and loss of integrity.
My purpose here is not to argue why we need action; the College offers justification in its statement. Rather, my intent is to offer possible actions and to galvanize the Kenyon student body, faculty, staff and administration into living up to our promise to our Indigenous neighbors.
First, Kenyon should hire Indigenous professors and bring more Indigenous guest speakers to the Hill. This would not only help combat institutional barriers for Indigenous people in academia but also extend to students the expert insight of Indigenous scholars. A diverse faculty benefits everyone.
The unique expertise of Indigenous professors and speakers leads me to the important caveat that I am a white settler student — I am not qualified to offer advice on engagement with Indigenous people and history. Meaningful outreach and education can only be achieved when it is directed by and benefits Indigenous people. Kenyon should consult with Indigenous leaders when making decisions about the type of actions described here.
Second, Kenyon should uplift Indigenous knowledge. The College ought to offer more classes in more departments about Indigenous issues and ways of knowing. This holds true not only for departments that already offer courses on Indigenous issues such as History and Anthropology, but also for Modern Literatures and Languages, Astronomy, Political Science, Law and Society, Religious Studies, Environmental Studies and many other departments. To encourage and facilitate student engagement with the subject, Kenyon should offer an Indigenous Studies concentration, major or minor.
Third, the College should partner with federally recognized tribes to conduct research and projects like the current Three Sisters Project. Francine Gachupin, Ph.D, MPH (Pueblo) and Fatima Molina, B.S. (Navajo) offer guidelines for researchers on respecting Indigenous leadership in “How to Conduct Research in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities” (2019). Again, this initiative should apply to fields beyond those traditionally associated with Indigenous issues. For instance, many scientists are beginning to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into their work, as evidenced by the 2023 opening of the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Braiding Indigenous Knowledges and Science.
Fourth, the College should facilitate non-curricular learning and community opportunities for students. Kenyon could fund field trips to the many historical sites in the Ohio area such as the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks (recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site), give annual financial support to the Great Mohican Pow-Wow and fund infrastructure to support Indigenous Kenyon students.
Finally, the College should give back, share or allow use of some of Kenyon’s 1,200 acres. Alternatively, the College could give monetary support to the Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio’s Land Back effort. Taking the step to return some of this land to Indigenous peoples would be perhaps the most profound way Kenyon could achieve its goal of outreach listed in the College’s land acknowledgment statement.
Kenyon has the money and power to make reparations for the violence and injustice of its founding. Our land acknowledgment statement makes a promise to take steps in this direction. We must do not what is precedent but what is right: we must, unlike the U.S. settler institutions before us, keep the promise we have made to our Indigenous neighbors. I encourage administrators to use these suggestions as seeds that can grow with the guidance of Indigenous activists, scholars and leaders. Please, Kenyon, let’s keep our promise.
Maggie Potter ’26 has not yet declared a major and is from Worthington, Ohio. She can be reached at email@example.com