October 7, 2021

Dear HWS Community,  

On October 11, we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This day honors Indigenous peoples who, in spite of colonialism, have not only survived, but have done so while maintaining cultures, governance and communities. Recognition of this day is one way to counter the erasure of Indigenous stories, to contend with the past, and to affirm the power of Indigenous peoples to shape the future. Here in our Finger Lakes region, we are especially thankful to the Haudenosaunee who shaped the political, cultural and ecological foundations of our community. From the Haudenosaunee women who influenced early suffragists with a vision of society in which women had true political rights to the impact of the Great Law of Peace on the formation of our democratic system, we owe continued gratitude to the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee.  

As we prepare to celebrate the Hobart Bicentennial in 2022, we are reminded of the special connection Indigenous Peoples’ Day has to HWS heritage. Rev. Sherman Coolidge, who graduated from Hobart College in 1889, was Arapaho and an Episcopal priest. He served as President of the Society of American Indians and declared the first American Indian Day in 1916. We are proud of Coolidge’s contributions and of the many Indigenous HWS alums who went on to lives of consequence, beginning with Dr. Peter Wilson of the Cayuga Nation. Dr. Wilson was the first indigenous graduate of Geneva Medical College (Hobart’s precursor) in 1844 and is thought to be the first Indigenous person to earn a western medical degree. Dr. Wilson was the Assistant Surgeon for the U.S. Army and gave speeches to the New York Senate advocating for fair compensation for treaty cessions of land. In honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we are also celebrating this day as an extension of the work of these extraordinary alums whose forward-thinking intellects reshaped our world. 

We invite our community to consider this day not only as a time of celebration, but also as an opportunity to embrace a fuller vision of our past and future. Attached to this message is a 2018 correspondence from Professor of Anthropology Jeffrey Anderson regarding the forced removal of the Onondowaga (Seneca) from this region in 1779 that we encourage all to read. As a part of our continued learning, Community Education for Transformation will host an event during the November 11 Canandaigua Treaty Day Celebration, which commemorates the continued observance of this treaty by Six Nations people. Our learning is supported by our library’s recent acquisition of several digital archives comprising a diverse set of source material on Indigenous life and cultures. Finally, we are proud to announce that as part of our Bicentennial celebration, HWS is partnering with the Historic Site Manager of the Ganondagan State Historic Site, Peter Jemison L.H.D. ’20, on a donation of his papers and materials to HWS. Peter’s generous gift, as well as upcoming Bicentennial events, will further increase opportunities to expand our learning about the past, present and future of our Indigenous community members.  


Joyce P. Jacobsen

Khuram Hussain
Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The Rev. Nita C. Johnson Byrd
Dean of Spiritual Engagement and Chaplain

The Sullivan Campaign