This area university will host series about colonialism’s impact on Native Americans

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(WYDaily/Courtesy of ODU)
(WYDaily/Courtesy of ODU)

During the fall semester, Old Dominion University’s College of Arts and Letters will showcase a groundbreaking pictorial collection of contemporary Native American life.

The three-part series will examine the enduring ramifications of the Mayflower’s landing in the New World.

“The 400 Years Project,” which makes its debut at ODU, depicts the evolution of Native American identities, rights and representation since the Mayflower’s arrival 400 years ago this November. The project features the work of eight artists who have created complex and original stories of identity through the voices and visuals of Native American photographers.

“It is critical to provide a narrative that both recognizes the devastating effects of colonization for Native nations and also celebrates resilience and cultural diversity of indigenous populations through North America,” said project co-producer Sarah Stacke, a photographer and writer from Brooklyn whose work looks at places where borders were created during periods of colonization. “The Mayflower voyage, carrying the colonists who would establish the first white settlement in New England, forever changed the course of history for every Native American. Yet this history, recorded in countless books and media and taught in schools, is told narrowly through the lens of the colonizers.”

“Who is telling stories about Native nations is really important,” added Alaska-based photographer Brian Adams, who is also co-producing the project. “The 400 Years Project lets Native photographers tell the stories of their communities without any middle person explaining anything.”

The first event, “400 Years: Native American Rights and Rulings since Mayflower,” scheduled for 4-5:30 p.m. Sept. 10, is an overview of the importance of reimagining the Mayflower through the lens of Native American rights.

It will feature the work of Adams, whose photography documenting Alaskan Native villages has been featured in national and international publications and galleries, and Erika Larsen, a multidisciplinary storyteller who works in photography, writing and video.

A National Geographic Society Fellow, her Women of Impact portrait series documents some of the most prominent change agents across the world. She will share her work on the Standing Rock movement’s integrated struggle for Native American rights and environmental protections.

Up next is “Cultural Rituals under COVID -Virtual Native American Pow Wows” from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 1. This discussion takes a close look at how Native American communities have been impacted by COVID-19, and how their resilience is reflected in the adaptation of rituals in a virtual form.

Tailyr Irvine, whose photography focuses on providing in-depth representations of the lives and complex issues within the diverse communities that make up Native America, will share her work and host an online discussion.

The final event, scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Nov. 5, is “A Conversation with the Artists and Two Longtime National Geographic Editors.”

This preview of the project’s national release will include prominent women editors Elizabeth Krist and Sarah Leen, who became the first woman photo editor at National Geographic. The discussion will focus on their work with six featured artists in the project – Adams, Larsen, Irvine, Stacke, Ash Adams and Madison Hye Long.

You can follow the project on Instagram @400yearsproject.

The ODU program was created by the Women’s Studies Department, with the support of Friends of Women’s Studies. The series is co-sponsored by the Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs, Institute for Jewish Studies & Interfaith Understanding, the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, The Women’s Center and the Humanities Institute.

All events will be video-streamed with opportunities for audience engagement. Recordings will be available following the events for classroom usage.

Joe Garvey is a PR and marketing specialist for Strategic Communication & Marketing at Old Dominion University

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