Cultivating a Sense of Presence in a Perceived Absence: Going Beyond Acknowledgment with “In the Round”

Jenn Stucker, Associate Professor & Heidi L. Nees, Assistant Professor from Bowling Green State University

How might we, as educators, change perceptions of absence in the communities around us? How might we go beyond an acknowledgment to more active inclusion within our campus and local communities? These central inquiries have guided our development of In the Round // a six-part guest speaker series featuring Native American creatives at Bowling Green State University.

In the Round seeks to render visible the artistry, activism, and presence of contemporary Native American artists. The series features Native American creatives who work in the areas of the arts at BGSU: Fine Art, Graphic Design, Music, Creative Writing, Film, and Theatre, and offers opportunities to enrich the learning, experiences, and perspectives of all members of our campus and local communities. We feel that this project is particularly significant because many, if not most, of our students, know little about the Indigenous histories and presence that shape their hometowns and the Great Black Swamp region in which BGSU is situated. This absence of knowledge fuels the proliferation of erroneous, stereotyped, and harmful images and narratives that continue to permeate American society. These damaging representations are especially vivid in Ohio as the state has the highest rate of “Indian” mascots associated with schools, sports teams, and communities and no state or federally recognized tribes despite the numerous Tribal Nations for whom this is homeland.

These concerns led to our work in developing Land Acknowledgement at the university, which inspired In the Round. In our commitment to go beyond the statement, we continue to seek purposeful and sustained practices that seek to decolonize our institution and increase the visibility of Indigenous cultures, issues, and histories. Furthermore, we hope that Land Acknowledgement and this speaker series lead BGSU to collaborations and relationships with Native individuals and tribes in the region and beyond.

In this session, we will discuss our process in developing this speaker series, paying particular attention to challenges (and successes!) in navigating the university system. Our session will elaborate on collaborations within the BGSU community and the surrounding Bowling Green community. Additionally, we will share our questions, concerns, worries, and modes of thinking as two white women seeking respectful and collaborative approaches to this endeavor and recognizing that we don’t always “get it right.”

Connect with Presenters: jstuck {at} bgsu(.)edu & hlnees {at} bgsu(.)edu