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Dunbar-Ortiz addresses U.S. genocidal history

Harleigh Boldridge (‘18) listens to Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz speak at the Gjerset House.

Harleigh Boldridge (‘18) listens to Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz speak at the Gjerset House.

Olivia Enquist (‘19) | Chips

Olivia Enquist (‘19) | Chips

Harleigh Boldridge (‘18) listens to Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz speak at the Gjerset House.

Olivia Enquist, Staff Writer

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Author and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz delivered a lecture titled “The Doctrine of Discovery and U.S. Genocidal History and Policies” on April 25 in Valders 206 to an audience of students, faculty, and community members.

The lecture discussed the definition and terms of genocide, Indigenous People and American political relations of the past, and the current effects of the “Doctrine of Discovery.” In addition to her lecture, Dunbar-Ortiz attended four classes and held a reception in the Gjerset House during her stay.

Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Diversity Council Carly Foster said that bringing Dunbar-Ortiz on to campus was a timely decision.

“I had read some of Roxanne’s work back when I was in college and I am currently teaching American Politics and Women in Politics,” Foster said. “I saw that she had two bestseller books published in the last couple of years, both of the most recent ones were on issues that were related to native people. Since I am chairing the Diversity Council this year, and there was the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota that some of our students were traveling to and were interested in, it just seemed like an ideal opportunity to bring her in.”

Dunbar-Ortiz began the lecture by outlining the specific definitions of genocide as laid out by the United Nations in the Genocide Convention. She explained that the terms of genocide are much broader than people usually assume given the fact that the act works in part for the prevention of genocide. She then explained the ways in which the American government had committed genocide against Indigenous Peoples.

Olivia Enquist (‘19) | Chips
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz delivers her lecture in Valders 206 to a full audience.

Dunbar-Ortiz also explained the “Doctrine of Discovery” — a doctrine that still exists as part of the American legal system. This doctrine allowed the American government to take control of Native land due to their “discovery” of it. She emphasized that it is important to note that this doctrine still has effects on native people today.       

Anna Dewitt (‘19) said the lecture provided her with a lot of new information.

“I wasn’t aware of all of the different parts to the definition of genocide,” Dewitt said. “I was surprised by how broad the definition was. Even though I knew that a lot of [Indigenous Peoples] have been killed throughout the history of the U.S., I was also shocked and interested to learn about the forced sterilization of women. I don’t think many people had heard of that before. Just learning what I did during the lecture really made me think about other parts of our history that have been covered up or just aren’t talked about.”

Attendee Morgan King (‘19) echoed this sentiment.

“My eyes were opened to the implications of genocide throughout the world,” King said. “I was taught throughout my high school education about the genocides that happened elsewhere. I realized that our society continues to generate practices that are extending beyond mere oppression and into the global definitions of genocide.”

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