December 7, 2021
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Native American Heritage Book Display and Land Acknowledgements

The JKM Library is honoring the cultures and history of Native Americans through a book display. Native American and Indigenous Peoples’ Heritage Month may have already passed (please take a look at our related resources page), but we should continue to reflect on the past, present, and future of these communities and their relationship to of the United States of America: how Indigenous people were colonized, how they were almost decimated, and how they are still oppressed. We recognize that we occupy the unceded, ancestral land of many Indigenous peoples, including the Seneca Nation of the Haudenosaunee (hoe-dee-no-SHOW-nee) Confederacy (who had a profound influence on the area), Delaware, and the Shawnee. As recently as the 1960s, nearly one-third of the Seneca’s tribal lands were taken by the U.S. government to build the Kinzua Dam northeast of the Pittsburgh (for more on land acknowledgments, see this handout).

Located in the first floor, the display offers a curated selection of more than 40 books with an interdisciplinary focus, ranging from literature and history to environmental studies. Part of our goal is to make these resources more visible, which often remain hidden in the stacks. In addition, we wanted to center texts by Indigenous voices. In the case of books by non-Native American authors, we have tried to include works that are inclusive in their approach and do not reproduce problematic stereotypes.

For instance, we excluded a critically acclaimed book, S.C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon, because of its description of the Comanches as “primitive” and “barbarian.” Such language harks back to the racist discourse of past centuries, but the book was published only ten years ago and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. We also did not choose to share most of our Native American art books because they perpetuate the colonialist idea that Indigenous cultures are to be collected by white institutions without any attention to Native American perspectives. It is therefore urgent to share correctives to these narratives, especially from the perspective of institutions like ours, which not only occupy unceded land but also play a role in the formation of collective memory. In addition, the library’s DVD collection does not include any films directed by Native Americans except for Reel Injun, a documentary about the depiction of indigeneity in Hollywood movies, which is part of the display. We hope to be adding more items to our collection that reflect these concerns.

We invite everyone to experience the exhibit and check out any books that might interest you. Some books that we would like to highlight because of their importance for Native American history and cultures are:

  • Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (history)
  • Two-Spirit People: Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality(gender and sexuality)
  • Natalie Diaz, When My Brother Was an Aztec (poetry)
  • Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves (fiction)
  • The Book of Elders: the life Stories of Great American Indians (testimony)
  • Terese Marie Mailhot, Heart Berries (memoir)
  • Native Americans and the Environment: Perspectives on the Ecological Indian (environmental studies)
  • David J. Silverman, This Land is their Land: the Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled history of Thanksgiving (history)
  • Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen (cooking)
Khalila Chaar-Pérez (she/they) is Reference Associate at the JKM Library and also works at the People’s Media Record, a grassroots video archive in Philly. She’s a proud trans Puerto Rican committed to cultivating transformative justice, antiracism, and a world without capitalism. She is also an avid hiker, a film nerd, and a trekkie.

November 12, 2019
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Joy Harjo: 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo

On June 19, 2019, Joy Harjo, member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, was announced as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States. She is the first Native American to be honored with this title. Harjo is a celebrated author, poet, teacher, activist and musician. She has been awarded multiple high-profile honors and awards in addition to Poet Laureate, including (but not limited to) the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award.

She has received fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rasmuson Foundation, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the Ruth Lilly Prize in Poetry. Her memoir, Crazy Brave, was awarded both the PEN USA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction and the American Book Award.

Harjo has written nine books of poetry, a memoir, two award-winning children’s books, several screenplays, three plays, and a number of prose interviews. Harjo often centers native storytelling, histories, myths, symbols, and values. She also focuses on autobiographical, feminist, and social justice themes throughout her writing.

“I feel strongly that I have a responsibility to all the sources that I am: to all past and future ancestors, to my home country, to all places that I touch down on and that are myself, to all voices, all women, all of my tribe, all people, all earth, and beyond that to all beginnings and endings. In a strange kind of sense [writing] frees me to believe in myself, to be able to speak, to have voice, because I have to; it is my survival.” (The Poetry Foundation)

Service is important to Harjo in practice as well as in her art. She is the director of For Girls Becoming, an organization focused on arts mentorship for young Muscogee women. She is also is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.

Harjo does not restrict her creativity and art to writing. She is also an accomplished saxophonist, flutist, and vocalist and has released a handful of award-winning albums. Like her writing, her music draws from her native roots and collaborates with other native musicians. She tours regularly with her band, Arrow Dynamics.

Read more about Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo on the Poetry Foundation’s website and on her own website. You can check out a number of her works through the JKM Library. We recommend beginning with her acclaimed collection She Had Some Horses. Browse here!

November 20, 2017
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Indigenous Heritage Month, Euripides, and the Chatham University Archives

Some may wonder what the Euripides and Indigenous Heritage Month have in common.  Others might ask what Chatham’s University Archives, which collects and preserves the history of the university, could have to help to connect the Athenian tragedian and campus-wide Indigenous Heritage events.  Well, look no further than the Drama Department records from 1992 when students and faculty member Patricia Montley performed an adaptation of Euripides Trojan Woman set in Central America as Cortes seizes control of the Aztec empire.

Publicity Photo, 1992 Chatham Theatre

According to Dr. Motley’s program notes, a Euripedes’ The Trojan Woman is one of the most frequently performed of all the classical tragedies, particularly for audiences affected by war and in eras when war is celebrated.  The decision to set the play in Central America in 1992, the 500-year anniversary of Columbus’ journey to the “New World,” allowed for reflection on “the foolishness of waging aggressive war and the transience of military might.”

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November 13, 2017
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Connect with the Library on Instagram and Spotify

There are so many opportunities to connect and interact with the Jennie King Mellon Library online and in person, and we recently added two more: Instagram and Spotify! Our new Instagram account (@jkmlibrary) features library news, updates, and shenanigans. Be sure to follow us for #NewBookTuesdays and #BookfaceFridays. You’ll also get to know our staff and librarians better, as we post fun pictures of our recommendations, displays, and exciting library life.

And yes, you heard correctly, the library has a Spotify account. What is Spotify? It’s a music streaming service that allows those with accounts to listen to over 30 million songs for free and create and share playlists. Library staff members love music of all genres and styles. We’re hoping to share our love of music with the rest of the Chatham community in a way that enhances your experience at the library and allows you to get to know us better.

Our playlists are specially crafted by librarians and library staff, and while they are certainly educational, they’re also a lot of fun. We create new playlists regularly for different purposes. A playlist could correspond with one of our in-library displays, be a Staff Spotlight playlist of recommendations put together by just one staff member, or something that our student workers have crafted!

Our Native American Heritage Month book display is on the first floor of the JKM Library.

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