In cooperation with our indigenous brothers and sisters in Malama Hawaii, the Native American Council would like to respectfully present our case for a 114th Street brownstone under the pan-indigenous community to be called the “Manhattan House.”
With newfound strength, the NAC has added a strong indigenous voice to the campus conversation. We are constantly projecting our voices and engaging our fellow Columbians in events, the classroom, and everyday interactions. NAC events always encourage nonmember participation, and the same students who hear us on Low Steps and within the margins of Spectator can join us in song, dance, and friendship at our gatherings.
To ensure that these recent trends continue for future Columbians, the indigenous community requires a permanent home. First consider our history. Indigenous presence in North America was denied through the systematic removal of Native spaces. This occurred most obviously through the elimination and removal of many nations to reservations. It continued through the 20th century and into the present through the kidnap and exportation of Native children to residential and boarding schools, forced subjugation of age-old traditions to Christendom, and bureaucratic allotment and relocation programs designed to pry us from our land once and for all.
While many imagine this history happening somewhere else—perhaps out on the prairies or in the Southwest—Manhattan, like the rest of the continent, is party to this history. Indeed, “Manhattan” is a Lenape word. While the original inhabitants of this land have been marginalized as sparse and ancient occupants, we must insist that this prevailing view, which denies our history and strength, is incorrect and should not be recapitulated at the campus level. A brownstone—the Manhattan House, a space of permanence and legitimacy for indigenous students—is a necessary yet belated acknowledgement of our existence and importance in the history of North America, New York City, and Columbia University.
Furthermore, the indigenous student population has unique needs that should be considered. A brownstone, while it will serve as a locus of conversation between our groups and the rest of campus, will provide indigenous students with a comfortable atmosphere similar to that of households “back home.” Many of our members come from communities where the home is not limited to immediate family, and is a place where cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are living in the household or constantly visiting. Though we realize it is an unreasonable expectation for this to be replicated on campus, it is reasonable to hope that our community be provided a place where students of similar backgrounds and experiences can live together and create a home away from home. Other cultural groups on campus already have such a space—it is time our community’s needs be met in this dimension.
In turn, this will attract more indigenous students to Columbia. Many of Columbia’s competitors—Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, Cornell, and Penn—already offer a similar space to their indigenous students. While we understand that Columbia is limited in space because of its location, the opening of these brownstones is an opportunity for the University to provide its indigenous students with a home to foster their community.
Our good citizenship will continue should we be granted a brownstone. Conversations will be more spontaneous and frequent. Our guests will feel more welcome. The NAC’s and Malama Hawaii’s visibility at Columbia and in the national indigenous community will increase. While we look optimistically toward these possibilities, here is the issue: This community does not already exist because the administration has as of yet inadequately engaged, included, developed, and learned with its indigenous community. The Manhattan House has the potential to reconcile and rebuild this relationship.
With the University’s help, the Manhattan House will contribute to the work that our community already does for its own members, the greater Columbia community, and indigenous people of New York and beyond. The project will give true and permanent benefit to all parties involved, and we are thankful for the opportunity to apply.
We would like to thank our close friend, colleague, and suitemate Fantasia Painter who compiled the application as the chair of the Manhattan House committee as well as our friends and allies who contributed to our application and have supported us along the way. Kukwstéc-kucw Tqelt Kúkwpi7 te skectéc-kucw te xwexwéyt te stem. Tsukw. “We thank you creator for giving us all that we need. That’s all.”
The author is a Columbia College sophomore and the treasurer of Columbia University’s Native American Council. This op-ed was written on behalf of the Manhattan House committee.
This op-ed is part of a series providing an opportunity to each group applying for a brownstone to explain why it deserves a space.