KU Student Senate passes resolution supporting reconciliation with Indigenous communities

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The University of Kansas Student Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution supporting the needs of KU’s Indigenous communities.

In a vote of 37-0, the Student Senate voting members passed Senate Resolution 2023-302, which includes accountability actions, such as increased funding for Indigenous students and steps toward reconciliation after being in possession of Indigenous human remains.

“I feel elated, excited, and I almost cried … but very happy that we had the support,” said Kip Perry, Indigenous Studies Program student.

Members of the Indigenous Studies Student Association (ISSA) stood up front together and spoke during the meeting. They shared history and pieces of their culture as well as what the resolution means to them as students in the Indigenous Studies Program who endured learning that ancestral remains were stored in their program’s building — Lippincott Hall.

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times KU students and community members on Wednesday gathered in Alderson Auditorium in the KU Memorial Union for the Student Senate’s student assembly meeting.

“They were stashed like objects in boxes, stored in the same building as their descendants,” said ISSA member Matthew Beil, Potawatomi. “Who among us, gathered today in good conscience, could let this go on — could let the university ignore Indigenous students for another half-century?”

ISSA Co-Chair Yamina Sfiat later added that supporting Indigenous students contributes to an overarching goal of bettering KU’s campus as a whole.

“Human rights work in every corner of the world starts with a precedent — a positive precedent of change,” Sfiat said. “Together we are bringing about change through a common goal to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples and defend and support the rights of all people. This resolution is a blueprint in which to build upon and only enrich. This is a human rights issue.”

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Members of the Indigenous Studies Student Association stand together during Wednesday’s student assembly meeting. Yamina Sfiat speaks at the podium.

After the speakers concluded, Hollie Hall, graduate student body president, was quick to call a motion in favor of moving straight to the vote with no time for discussion or questions “that are harmful and hurtful,” she said during the meeting.

During past meetings, the resolution was met with pushback from some audience members.

“As a white person, it’s not down to me to say what Indigenous communities need or want, so that really frustrated me,” Hall said. 

“I just felt like somebody needed to say, ‘We should just vote. We shouldn’t be wasting people’s time when obviously if the Indigenous communities are asking for something, we as the KU Student Senate should tell the university we support the Indigenous communities, whether or not you think it’s feasible.’”

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Hollie Hall, graduate student body president, speaks during Wednesday’s student assembly meeting.

The motion was passed, and the Senate moved straight into a vote. Hall said she feels as an ally, she has a great responsibility to uphold.

“I guess the importance is rectifying the wrongs of your ancestors,” Hall said. “As somebody coming from England — the UK — my country had a lot of involvement in a lot of wrongs across the globe, and being an ally is important in making sure that you’re standing up for communities that need you, but also attempting to rectify the wrongs that were done to those communities.”

In addition to the resolution supporting Indigenous communities, a second resolution in support of Iranian students was unanimously passed during Wednesday’s meeting.

It states the university should fully support and provide resources for Iranian students at KU during the current women’s rights crisis in Iran, where Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, who died last month after being arrested and beaten by the Iranian “morality police” for wearing “improper attire.” It also states the university should condemn this brutality and call on the United States government to sanction the oppressive forces in Iran.

Both final resolutions will now be sent to university administrators and leaders, such as the chancellor and provost, for their consideration.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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