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International Women’s Day talk features Michelle Schenandoah ’99

International Women's Day talk features Michelle Schenandoah ’99

Cornell's American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIISP) is marking International Women’s Day on March 8 with a talk by Michelle Schenandoah ’99. Michelle is a member of the Oneida Nation Wolf Clan of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an Einhorn Sgat ędwatahíne Fellow, and founder of Rematriation. Michelle's talk is titled, “Rematriation & Land: Addressing RBG, Papal Bulls & the Doctrine of Discovery.” She will discuss how Haudenosaunee women are taking action to address the centuries-long devastating impacts of the doctrine of discovery on Native peoples.

Two years ago, Michelle joined the First Nations Delegation to visit Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome. Their visit helped prompt the Pope's apology to Indigenous peoples whose children were forced to attend residential schools.

Michelle was designated to speak on behalf of the Haudenosaunee women. During her audience with the Pope, she presented him with a traditional cradleboard. The empty cradleboard was a powerful reminder of “all those babies who never came home,” she says.

“It was an empty cradleboard. It was empty. That cradleboard is what we put our babies in. That’s how we protect and love our children when they come into this world. So for him to have an empty cradleboard that he had to sit with overnight, speaks volumes for generations,” Michelle says.

The Pope returned the cradleboard the following day for the delegation to bring home. “That is symbolic of us bringing our children home to us,” Michelle explains.

On Friday, April 1, 2022, Pope Francis offered a formal apology to the Indigenous delegations at the Vatican, for “the abuses you suffered and the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture, and even your spiritual values.”

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