Today we celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, a day to recognize, acknowledge and give voice to the Indigenous communities in our area and to celebrate the contributions of Indigenous People’s in our country. Cornell University is located on the traditional homelands of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ’ (the Cayuga Nation). The Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ’ are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign Nations with a historic and contemporary presence on this land. The Confederacy precedes the establishment of Cornell University, New York State, and the United States of America. We acknowledge the painful history of Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ’ dispossession, and honor the ongoing connection of Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ’ people, past and present, to these lands and waters.
We invite you observe Indigenous People’s Day and learn more about the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ’ people and their culture by watching and listening to Steve Henhawk, a Cayuga speaker and historian, recite part of the “Words Before All Else” in the Cayuga language. The address is a giving of thanks to all living things that is recited at the beginning of community gatherings and events. We are honored to work with Steve, who has brought his people’s seeds home to be planted in the Pounder Garden at Cornell Botanic Gardens in the soil of his ancestors. Steve’s plantings are used in the first-ever Cayuga language class he is teaching at Cornell.
We honor, too, the enormous contributions and sacrifices of Indigenous Peoples in the advancement of our understanding of the healing and restorative powers of nature, the interconnectedness of all things, and the joy, hope, and power that results from the acceptance of “we.” It is our obligation, now, to do all within our power to work diligently to restore, preserve, and celebrate not just the endangered species and natural habitats of the world, but endangered cultures, languages, wisdom, and knowledge that enrich us all.