In recent years, the Catholic Church has made a concerted effort to apologize to Indigenous communities for decades of abuse and neglect, most notably in residential school settings. Jesuit colleges and universities are among the Catholic institutions and organizations that have become more intentional in their work to support Indigenous people and find a path toward reconciliation.

In advance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day next week, this issue of Connections examines the relationships and partnerships between Jesuit institutions and Indigenous communities. In addition to featuring five Jesuit institutions in the United States (College of the Holy Cross, Gonzaga University, Loyola Marymount University, Marquette University and Santa Clara University), we are proud to feature our associate member institution in Saskatchewan, Campion College, to provide a closer look at Pope Francis’ historic visit to Canada this past summer, where he made an in-person apology to Indigenous people for past abuse committed at Catholic residential schools.

Finally, a note to our readers: this fall, we are experimenting with a new bi-monthly version of Connections, the online magazine of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU). Instead of publishing nine issues per year, we will be publishing five, beginning with this issue on Jesuit partnerships with Indigenous communities. We welcome your feedback on our new model! Please send me your questions or comments by writing to

We hope that the 2022-23 academic year is off to a strong start for you!

By Deanna Howes Spiro, Vice President of Communications, AJCU

Pope Francis with a Canadian Indigenous Community Member (photo courtesy of Campion College at the University of Regina)

On April 1, 2022, Pope Francis offered an apology to a group of Canadian residential school survivors who were visiting the Vatican. Three months later, from July 24 to 29, the pontiff traveled to three locations in Canada (Edmonton, Québec City and Iqaluit) to deliver a fulsome apology on Canadian soil that fulfilled #58 from the Canadian government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. It was a visit that stirred up many emotions for survivors, but also brought hope that it would signal a positive step toward reconciliation.

In June 2021, the Canadian Parliament created the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a federal statutory holiday, which falls on September 30 every year. This day is also known as Orange Shirt Day, which has the mandate of “Every Child Matters.”

Shortly before the Pope’s visit to Canada in July, Susan Beaudin, Co-Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) for the Archdiocese of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada (and a survivor of residential schools) sat down with Campion College alumna and TRC advocate Leah Perrault (BA’02). They discussed the significance of the event and what it means to many Canadian Indigenous peoples.

Perhaps we should first introduce ourselves and explain why we have become invested in TRC work:
: I am a member of the Cowessess First Nation. I am a survivor of residential school abuse, as were my parents and grandparents. I am an educator who speaks and writes about the great harm experienced by Indigenous children who attended Catholic-run residential schools. This has created immense trauma that continues to negatively affect the lives of Indigenous people. I am currently a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee at the Archdiocese of Regina.

Leah: Each of my great-grandparents came from a different country than their partner. Seven came from different parts of Europe and one was from the Cree nation in Canada. Overwhelmingly, the settler experience is what was passed along to me. Then, I pursued a life and career deeply invested in faith in the Roman Catholic Church, and it didn’t take long for me to realize how the Church hurt Indigenous peoples and communities past and present. I want to be a part of the truth-telling and reconciling that is necessary for our respective communities and for my own healing.

Susan Beaudin (photo courtesy of Campion College)  

What was the main purpose of the papal visit to Canada?
Susan: In May 2021, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc used ground penetrating radar to discover the buried remains of an estimated 215 children in unmarked graves at the site of the former Kamloops Catholic-run residential school in British Columbia. News of the discovery (including in The New York Times) caused the general public to demand answers from the Catholic Church. Soon after, Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan revealed it had found 751 unmarked graves on the site of the former Marieval Residential School. The numbers have continued to grow. Indigenous people knew about many children who never returned home and have repeatedly asked the Church to provide documents that show what happened to them. The Church worked with the Canadian government to take children from their homes against the will of their parents. These children were subjected to many abuses, neglect, and unsafe living conditions. They could not speak their native languages or practice their cultural traditions.

The purpose of Pope Francis’ visit was to apologize to Indigenous peoples for the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of Indigenous children in Catholic-run residential schools. Indigenous peoples want more than an apology. They want real actions on how the Catholic Church is going to make reparations to Indigenous peoples for healing and the revitalization of their languages and cultures.

Leah: My faith has taught me that our actions are as and often more important than our words. When survivors tell us what is needed, I believe it is imperative to listen. The calls to action asked for a papal apology on traditional lands: this visit fulfills the call and shows leadership and expectation for Catholics to show up for the relationships and work of reconciliation.

How will the apology promote a better understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples?
Susan: The public apology from Pope Francis confirmed the central role that the Church played in the atrocities, the recognition of the trauma, and negative impacts that continue today. This will promote a greater understanding about Indigenous peoples, which will lead to a path toward healing and reconciliation.

Leah Perrault (photo courtesy of Campion College)  

Leah: I hope that Pope Francis’ example will inspire Catholics across the country to make a commitment to walking together. Too often, the work is left to just a few; the harms have impacted all of us, and so the healing work is essential for each of us, too.

Why is this understanding important to the work of TRC?
Susan: The work toward reconciliation will be a hard but rewarding journey. Education is a key component to reconciling. We must be open-minded and have good hearts to journey together. Reconciliation will happen if people are committed to developing right relationships with Indigenous people for the betterment of all Canadians.

Leah: Reconciliation is a relational reality. We need to hear each other’s stories, see where we have benefitted from others’ suffering, where we ourselves have suffered, and face what has been destructive. Then our relationships can be marked by a reconciled way of walking and working together in creation. We have a long way to go after an apology.

How can we offer support?
Susan: We can begin by educating ourselves about the Indian Residential Schools and how the harmful effects continue to impact Indigenous individuals, families and communities, and why it was important for survivors to hear an apology from the Pope. We must also educate ourselves about Indigenous history, languages, cultures, and the beauty of their spiritual beliefs, values, and cultural traditions.

Contributed by Shannon Kotylak, Director of Marketing and Communications, Campion College at the University of Regina

Claire Alford ‘25 (photo courtesy of Santa Clara University)


When Claire Alford ‘25 looked around the St. Ignatius Lawn during Santa Clara University’s second annual powwow last April, she was overcome with immense joy. There, on the ancestral land of the Muwekma Ohlone and Ohlone people, were dozens of tribal members from across the Bay Area in California, leading ceremonial dances, prayers and songs. There, amongst the many vendors selling crafts and the attendees who stopped to chat with Alford about the significance of the powwow, she felt at home. She felt seen.

Months of planning had led to that moment, the first powwow held on campus since the pandemic hit in March 2020. For Alford, it marked a unique opportunity to celebrate her heritage, while educating peers and community members on treasured Native traditions, and the sacred land that once belonged to Native people.

“Though we are a Mission campus, there is sometimes a lack of knowledge about what that means, or what Native communities are,” says Alford. “Sometimes, it’s not enough to simply explain things with words—it’s better to show people. I think the powwow did a really great job of that.”

As a descendent of the Absentee Shawnee tribe and president of Santa Clara’s Native American Coalition for Change (NACC), these are the meaningful moments that Alford hopes to celebrate and support on campus. Like many Jesuit campuses across California and beyond, Santa Clara has a complex and painful history with the Native peoples who once occupied the land on which the University sits today. For thousands of years, the Muwekma Ohlone and Ohlone tribes thrived on the land that is now Santa Clara and beyond. That ended with the arrival of Spanish explorers and missionaries in the 1700s, who forced them to labor long hours, without pay, to build the University’s Mission Santa Clara de Asís and confined them to crowded, disease-ridden living quarters, ultimately resulting in their death.

In an era where many institutions are working toward acceptance and reconciliation, Santa Clara has made strides to mend those wounds. Much work remains to be done, and students like Alford are helping the University move forward by strengthening its relationship with Native students and local tribes.

“As an institution of higher learning located on a Mission site on ancestral land, this is our legacy,” says Lauren Baines, interim director of the de Saisset Museum and co-coordinator of Ohlone Implementation at Santa Clara, which focuses on how the University can better honor Ohlone heritage and support Native students. “This is how we came to be and to ignore or not address it is to deny part of who we are. It’s our responsibility to do so. As a University, we have an incredible environment to have those really complicated conversations and be very transparent about our history.”

University administrators created the Ohlone History Working Group in 2019 after students challenged leadership to support Indigenous students in more significant ways. Santa Clara’s efforts needed to go beyond reading a land acknowledgement at University-wide events, they argued. The working group’s objective was to examine Santa Clara’s existing historical monuments and create deeper, more genuine and accurate ways to depict Ohlone heritage and mission colonization. As a result, the University removed a statue of Junipero Serra from campus in 2020. The Spanish priest had established some of the first Catholic missions across California and colonized thousands of Indigenous peoples who occupied the land on which the missions were built. If the statue is someday reinstated, it will be better contextualized and paired with greater Native interpretation and representation, according to the working group.

The group expanded its work to include several recommendations beyond physical markers, including establishing a scholarship for Native students and partnering with Ohlone community members in major University events and programs. Though the working group has since concluded, Baines and Ray Plaza, co-coordinator of Ohlone Implementation and director of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, are continuing this work, and hope that the establishment of an Indigenous Advisory Council will help move the needle further in the years to come.

Photo of April 2022 Powwow courtesy of Santa Clara University


Other educational efforts on campus include annual programing marking Indigenous Peoples’ Day; a library resource guide focused on the study and research of the Ohlone in Santa Clara; the Native History Tour (a virtual walking tour that details Santa Clara’s Indigenous history on Google Earth); and historical exhibits at the de Saisset Museum depicting Native culture at Santa Clara. These educational opportunities that help educate students on the ancestral land that they stand on today are critical, says Shá Duncan Smith, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Santa Clara.

“It can be difficult for students from minoritized and marginalized populations to come into institutions of higher learning because they sometimes feel isolated, or a bit of erasure when they’re stepping into these spaces,” says Duncan Smith. “Carving out a space where they can find community, where they feel affirmed and like their culture is uplifted—not just in a single space, but infusing and integrating it throughout our campus culture—is extremely important.”

Also critical to the success of Native students on Jesuit campuses is providing financial support, e.g., through scholarships, says Catherine Moore ‘20, a former NACC president who was instrumental to the creation of the University’s powwows. “A lot of times, I think Native students, specifically, if they’re coming from a reservation life, don’t know the opportunities that they could have,” says Moore. “Scholarships really show Native students that they can come to a university like Santa Clara and be part of a supportive community. Providing them funds would speak volumes to their educational aspirations and abilities.”

In addition to her work with NACC, Alford, a public health major, says she celebrates her ancestors each day by pursuing her aspirations and educating her peers. She recently spent a grueling two weeks in Arizona for EMT training in hopes of serving on campus this year. After graduation, she hopes to go to medical school to become a doctor and help reduce health disparities in Latinx and Indigenous communities.

“There are definitely a lot of feelings and thoughts that go along with being on a mission campus,” says Alford. “Walking by the mission every day, there’s not a day where I don’t think about what happened here. But the best thing for me has been turning that sadness into something positive and using this as an opportunity to grow and increase visibility for Native populations. I want to do the best I can to turn this into something positive without losing respect and acknowledgement: to take back the campus and use it to further Indigenous people.”

By Tatiana Sanchez, Assistant Director of Storytelling, Santa Clara University

Sarah Luria’s students often tell her that fourth grade is the final time they hear about Indigenous communities in a classroom. While the sentiment likely carries a bit of exaggeration, Luria, a professor of English at the College of the Holy Cross, believes there’s more truth than hyperbole in the statement.

“I’m hoping [for that], and my sense is that’s beginning to change,” said Luria. “There is so much great material for education and citizenship for younger students, but also college students, that should be part of being an American.”

Last year, a new asset was developed through a partnership between Holy Cross and its local community to help educate students of all ages about Indigenous populations. Luria, Thomas Doughton (a senior lecturer in Holy Cross’ Center for Interdisciplinary and Special Studies), Colin Novick (executive director of the Greater Worcester Land Trust), and filmmaker Ian Kaloyanides (of Holy Cross’ Media Resource Center) created a film documenting the history of Mount St. James, land that since 1843 has been home to the Holy Cross campus. Located in Worcester, MA, the land was originally known as Pakachoag (“at river bend”) Hill and was home to the Nipmuc people.

The documentary, “Pakachoag: Where the River Bends,” is a little more than 40 minutes in length and follows Doughton and Novick as they walk through the Holy Cross campus and surrounding areas, highlighting important sites to the Nipmuc. One of the film’s key points is the idea that while there are historical narratives of the Nipmuc people in the area, history often describes the tribe in the past tense, although they still are very much a part of the community.

In the film, Doughton explained, “Our purpose here is to make visible the relationship between the indigenous people of Pakachoag Hill, Quinsigamond Village, and the College of the Holy Cross. Our native people are often imagined as either disappeared or romanticized, and we hope this work will problematize both of those notions.”

Pakachoag, according to the film, was the largest of three indigenous communities in the area, composed of about 20 families, or 100 people. The nearby Blackstone River was known as Kattatuck or the Great River by the Nipmuc people. It provided the group with an avenue to connect with commerce south into Rhode Island, as well as a means to provide sustenance through fish. Not far from the river and campus, a spring offered fresh water.

Since the documentary’s release, the Quinsigamond Band of Nipmuc, in partnership with the Greater Worcester Land Trust, have purchased the land associated with the spring. The film prompted the sale as the landowner saw new value in the property going back to the Nipmuc. “He saw the film and the film made him think, ‘This has historic value,’” said Luria.

The film’s influence has trickled through campus as well. Christian Bachez, a senior at Holy Cross, worked on the film and carries its lessons each time he walks through campus. “There’s a new perspective,” Bachez said. “When I’m reading Holy Cross Magazine or looking at new pictures, I’m always, like, ‘Whoa, I wonder what [the Nipmuc] used to use that spot for.’ It’s having a new lens and new appreciation for it. I wish there was more documentation.”

To continue to tell the Nipmuc story, Luria and Doughton are working with Holy Cross to create a website to document the Nipmuc on Pakachoag Hill. The website will not only educate users on Pakachoag, but also hopes to support further research into the two other Nipmuc villages of the Worcester region, Quinsigamond and Asnebumskit.

“It’s great because what you got from the film is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Luria. “People don’t actually know how much is out there that you can research. Our goal is to share the rich archive of documents and images on which we based the film.”

In the past, Holy Cross students have utilized summer research projects to further investigate the relationship of the Nipmuc with Holy Cross and Pakachoag Hill. Now, Luria hopes the film sparks even more student interest.

Bachez shared the documentary with his friends on campus, which immediately sparked a thirst for more discovery. “The reactions were really cool. It was really moving to see that,” he said. “For me, it’s just something you never consider. It’s sad now that they are kind of forgotten. It’s moving that others also felt bad and now want to know more about it.”

On-campus screenings of the film have generated different ideas for ways to expand upon its work, including the possibility of scholarships for Indigenous communities, specifically Nipmuc people. The producers of the documentary also edited down the film to a 7-minute version meant for first-year student orientation at Holy Cross.

Faculty have already started showing the documentary in its entirety to their classes; some have also included in their syllabi a statement acknowledging that Holy Cross resides on Pakachoag Hill and an appreciation for the Nipmuc people. “I think it’s always important to know the place that you’re at,” Bachez said. “Why do you learn about history in general — to move forward and not make the same mistakes, and right the past if there were wrongs.”

By Michael Bonner, Writer, College of the Holy Cross

Members of the Spokane CORE gathered at St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville, Montana, home of the Bitterroot Salish people who originally requested that Jesuits come west in the mid-1800s (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)


Located in the Inland Northwest, Gonzaga University resides on the unceded homelands of the Spokane Tribe and is within an hour’s drive of three reservations. But Native students at Gonzaga come from many states, from Alaska to Arizona.

“Gonzaga has so much potential to be the go-to place for Native students in the area,” says Wendy Thompson (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes), director of Gonzaga’s Office of Tribal Relations.

Thompson was the sole Tribal Relations staff member for 17 years until 2021 when the department moved to the Division of Mission Integration. That shift, defining the critical role of this work in living the University’s mission, resulted in the addition of two positions, filled by Leah Simeon and Jeremy Rouse, both of whom have experience in educational settings with Native students. The trio works out of a home on campus named scintxw, also referred to as the Native American Cultural Center and “The House,” where students gather to foster a sense of belonging at a predominantly white institution. Native students have referred to it as their cura personalis (“care for the person”).

Thompson’s team also works with partners across campus to bring a greater awareness to and understanding of Native peoples and issues. “There have been many decisions made for Native people based on good intentions that have had very tragic outcomes. For example, we have a very complicated relationship with Western education,” Thompson says. “Many Native children were forced to attend boarding ‘schools’ that were intended to strip away our culture and assimilate us into Western culture. Children were prohibited from speaking their languages and practicing their cultures. I believe it’s a moral imperative that we provide Native students with the opportunity to maintain their sense of identities during their time here at Gonzaga.”

With that comes a responsibility to ensure that the campus community – faculty, staff, students and alumni – can begin understanding more about the history of the University’s founding and the broader impact of the Jesuits’ work among Native peoples.

It is no secret that many universities – Gonzaga included – have troubled histories pertaining to the lands on which they sit and the impact on the Native communities displaced by colonial settlers who sought to add Western education to the list of industries that would hasten economic development. With guidance from Thompson’s team, the University has begun to learn more about the Jesuit Rocky Mountain Missions in Montana and Idaho that served as the prelude to the Gonzaga’s origin, to help create a better context of the relationship between the school’s Jesuit founders and local Native communities.

Indigenous alumni on an immersion trip (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)


Connecting to the CORE
In the Jesuits West Province, Annie Fox, provincial assistant for justice and ecology organizing, recently led a Faith Doing Justice discernment series that resulted in twelve regionally-based Collaborative Organizing for Racial Equity (CORE) teams. Spokane’s CORE group (led by Molly Ayers, assistant dean for Gonzaga’s Center for Community Engagement, Liz Slamkowski of Gonzaga Preparatory School, and Thompson) identified tribal relations work as a priority.

To provide some historical and contemporary context for Gonzaga’s tribal relationships, Thompson and Ayers developed a unique plan to send participants from each institution on an “immersion” experience that would follow the steps of the area’s early Jesuits, beginning with a stop at the site where Rev. Pierre DeSmet, S.J., began the work among the Bitterroot Salish, the people who invited the Jesuits to come West.

Tribal Relations staff members prepared by traveling to Montana and the Flathead Reservation, and to where the Bitterroot Salish people were eventually removed, to meet with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council and seek support for the visit. They also sought community engagement by inviting Gonzaga alumni and tribal council members to a dinner that the tour group hosted during the visit. Tribally-owned and tribal member-owned businesses were supported when possible. Thompson says, “We tried to be good visitors by being intentional about everything.”

The immersion group (comprised of staff and faculty from many schools and programs within the University, a member of Gonzaga’s Board of Regents, and a member of the Jesuit community) set out in May for a two-day journey. They visited the St. Mary’s Mission Complex in what is now known as Stevensville, Montana, followed by a stop at the Flathead Reservation – home to the Bitterroot Salish, Upper Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai people – where the St. Ignatius Mission, the former site of a Jesuit-operated boarding school, is located. The group hosted a dinner for community members, spent the night at the Tribes’ hotel on Flathead Lake, and visited the mission in St. Ignatius the following day. The final stop was the Sacred Heart Mission, built by members of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and missionaries, at Old Mission State Park in Idaho.

Participants listened to Native community members share their own histories at St. Mary’s Mission and St. Ignatius Mission and viewed an exhibition titled Sacred Encounters: Father DeSmet and the Indians of the Rocky Mountain West at the Old Mission State Park. Importantly, they discussed and reflected on the complex dynamics between the Jesuit missionaries and the tribal people among whom the priests settled.

Processing this history between tribes and Jesuits required a commitment from participants in advance to learn how to think critically about these relationships and how our organizations might move forward in relationship with the tribes that the Jesuits originally came to serve. A pre-immersion workshop provided an overview of the Flathead Reservation community, stories of some of the early Jesuits, and a discussion about listening and centering community voices.

Acknowledging all of those complicated facets is critical, says Ellen Maccarone, ethics professor and interim vice president for Mission Integration at Gonzaga. “It’s an imperative that we do this, or we fall down as an institution and we elongate our complicity through time.”

This fall, the Spokane CORE team will continue to build upon its learning through reading about and discussing guidelines and practices for ethical and respectful engagement with Indigenous peoples to re-imagine possibilities for this work.

By Kate Vanskike, Senior Director of Content Strategy, Gonzaga University

Photo courtesy of Loyola Marymount University


The process of deciding how to leave a legacy can take months, even years, of soul-searching. But for Michael O’Sullivan, Ph.D., the decision to commit a $3 million bequest to Loyola Marymount University was straightforward. As a former clinical psychologist and an integral member of LMU’s Department of Psychological Science for more than 30 years, O’Sullivan has built a career of studying the nuances of understanding and behavior. He knows himself – and the human brain – better than most.

“I’m a great believer in the Socratic principle, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living,’” explained O’Sullivan, during one of his regular visits back to the LMU campus in Los Angeles. “That’s the gift of a transformative education: the capacity to question, to be constantly curious over the course of a lifetime. Just walking from Sacred Heart Chapel along the bluff on campus, I might hear five or more different languages being spoken – there’s so much we can learn from each other, so much that might spark and carry our attention.”

As a former vice provost for academic affairs, chair of the Department of Psychological Science, and interim dean of the LMU Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts (BCLA), O’Sullivan has carefully observed the evolution of LMU from the 1980s to the present. Through his bequest, he hopes to further advance opportunities available to faculty and students, with a focus on research quality and diverse representation on campus. With these goals in mind, $1 million of O’Sullivan’s gift will be directed toward University-wide scholarships for Native American and Indigenous students, and another $2 million will support faculty and student research within the Department of Psychological Science and BCLA as a whole.

“Michael O’Sullivan’s gift to LMU and BCLA is a profound reflection of his personal values,” said Robbin D. Crabtree, dean of LMU’s Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts. “Throughout his academic career, Mike demonstrated an exceptional commitment to faculty-student collaboration and meaningful mentoring relationships. He knows that supporting undergraduate students’ independent inquiry will create stronger psychologists and researchers in the long term. I am also moved and impressed by the ways that this gift will pay tribute to the Gabrielino-Tongva peoples, the original caretakers of the land upon which LMU is built, by establishing authentic connections to Native and Indigenous peoples through the recruitment and support of students from those communities.”

The allocation of the gift maps onto O’Sullivan’s own life story. Before joining LMU as an assistant professor in 1985, he had trained as a Jesuit and was serving Native American populations as a clinical psychologist. That mutual commitment to academia and social justice guided him toward a career in higher education, and his dedication to the care of the whole person motivated him to take on roles of increasing responsibility. As department chair, O’Sullivan paved the way for exponential growth in the psychology major, hiring many new faculty members and boldly raising awareness of the costs involved in publishing and presenting world-class research. He continued to be a staunch advocate for faculty and students as a member of the provost’s team, emphasizing high-impact teaching practices such as faculty-student research.

Those experiences as an impassioned professor and a stalwart administrator gave O’Sullivan an insider’s perspective on what it really takes for a university to thrive. Crabtree credits O‘Sullivan with encouraging her to apply to her current role as dean of BCLA; both share a vision for a rigorous liberal arts education in the Jesuit and Marymount traditions. “Mike has a deep familiarity with the nuts and bolts of university infrastructure – all the hidden costs and behind-the-scenes commitments that allow us to achieve our goals,” she said. “His planned gift is a moving example of what faculty legacy giving can do, and we’re grateful beyond measure for his philanthropic spirit.”

As O’Sullivan has recognized through his many years of teaching, that spirit of giving isn’t unique to philanthropists. It’s an instinct that is central to Ignatian pedagogy, a grounding in the shared responsibility to serve the common good. “I’ve seen so many of my students go out into the world to do wonderful things, fueled by that drive toward global solidarity. By taking the form of an endowment, this bequest is intended to keep giving long after I’m gone – and by investing in our faculty and students, that magnifying effect will continue to increase far beyond what I can predict or imagine. For me, that’s one of the greatest benefits of a Jesuit education – not only to expand the limits of our understanding, but to continually work to achieve what we don’t yet know is possible.”

By Matilda Bathurst, Senior Writer & Editor for Advancement Communications, Loyola Marymount University

Marquette University student researchers, who took part in the Marquette Indigeneity Lab, pose with certificates after being honored with the 2022 Student Activist Award from the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (photo courtesy of Marquette University)


Like its fellow Jesuit, Catholic colleges and universities, Marquette University cherishes the dignity of all people: fittingly, its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion transcends a single office on campus. It permeates the University and is embedded in its mission and values.

It is also represented in new programs like the Marquette Indigeneity Lab, which welcomed its first student cohort last fall. The Marquette Indigeneity Lab promotes Marquette’s Indigenous undergraduate students’ experiential learning through high-impact, faculty-mentored interdisciplinary research. In addition to promoting respectful partnerships and outreach with Wisconsin’s Indigenous communities, the program activates research topics that have significant implications for increased awareness and understanding of Indigenous history and culture in Milwaukee. According to the 2020 Census, more than 7,500 American Indian people live in Milwaukee County — one of the largest populations of American Indian people in the Midwest.

The student cohort worked on three projects overseen by Dr. Samantha Majhor, assistant professor of English; Dr. Bryan Rindfleisch, associate professor of history; and Dr. Michael Schlappi, professor of biological sciences — all in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences. The projects included a study on the potential for reintroducing wild rice seed varieties to the Menomonee River Valley (and how traditional ecological knowledge informs restoration efforts); archival research on Catholic Indian Boarding Schools; and an interactive data visualization map of Indigenous Milwaukee.

The mapping project received attention on and off campus, as it aimed to create a platform where all Milwaukeeans can learn and connect with the history that served as the foundation for the area where they live. Led by Rindfleisch, it put into perspective Milwaukee’s large populations of American Indian people and the Indigenous history of popular locations today, like American Family Field, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Mitchell Park Domes, which were built on native lands.

The project was designed in response to an observed erasure of Indigenous people throughout history. By identifying the places where Indigenous histories and cultures run deep in Milwaukee, Rindfleisch and the students quite literally put those important elements on “the map” for viewers to visualize, appreciate, reflect upon and learn from.

All three Marquette Indigeneity Lab projects have received interest and praise from the local community. The founding cohort of Marquette student researchers were honored with the 2022 Student Activist Award from the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (WIPCS): Danielle Barrett, Bailey Birenbaum, Clare Camblin, Rebecca DeBoer, Cameron Fronczak, Alex Liberato, Sir Lawrence Tender and Will Egan Waukau.

WIPCS, of which Marquette is a member, is a group of private and public colleges and universities that aim to spread awareness on the issues of peace and conflict. A valuable resource for institutions looking to globalize their curricula and co-curricular programs, WIPCS encourages debate on topics such as foreign policy, areas of conflict, intercultural communication, and gender relations.

According to the WIPCS website, the Student Activist Award is presented to college students in Wisconsin who have made “an outstanding contribution to activism related to peace and justice issues and demonstrated commitment to peace and justice issues through participation in activism either on the home campus or in the larger community.”

Nominators for the award described the Marquette research and activism as effective efforts to “radically attend to the erasure of Indigenous Peoples in Milwaukee and more broadly the United States. It is clear these eight Indigeneity Lab students activated the Marquette mission in their discovery of truth and sharing of knowledge. But as great an impact was their personal awakening, not just around their research, but their identity and how they can give back to honor those cultural affiliations.”

As the Marquette Indigeneity Lab geared up for its dynamic research, Marquette also developed and issued its land and water acknowledgement: a way of offering respect to Indigenous citizens, both those who have come before and those currently living on said land; correcting the practice of erasing Indigenous people’s history; and recognizing that Indigenous peoples continue to be a vital part of the country’s lands now and in the future.

Marquette’s land and water acknowledgment is a statement that developed over weeks of reflection and conversation led by Indigenous student leaders with key faculty and staff. The statement recognizes the long history of Native peoples and nations that lived on and stewarded the land and water where the University now resides. It also celebrates the unbroken connection that Native people and nations still have to this land and waterways, their traditional territories.

By Shelby Williamson, Marquette University

Last month, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) welcomed representatives from ten member institutions to Washington, D.C. for the 23rd AJCU Government Relations Network and Financial Aid Directors Conference. This meeting, held in-person for the first time since 2019, provided an important opportunity for discussion at a critical moment for higher education policy.

On the first day of the meeting, attendees heard from AJCU’s president, Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J. In his remarks, Fr. Garanzini talked about the recent Assembly of the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU), which was held at Boston College in August. A key focus of the Assembly (attended by representatives of Jesuit institutions across the world) was the role that Jesuit higher education can play in preserving and protecting democracy and global citizenship. His overview of the foundations of Jesuit engagement in education served as a launching point for a discussion on ways that Jesuit colleges and universities can articulate and live out their value and mission today. He urged our participants to think about how our institutions can form students who are global citizens, eager to take on the challenges of the day and ready to advance the greater good.

Following this introductory conversation, leaders from the financial aid and government relations community (Susan Teerink from Marquette University’ Jim White from Gonzaga University; Kate Grubb Clark from Loyola University Maryland; and Gerry Zaboski from The University of Scranton) guided us in a deep dive into AJCU’s advocacy priorities. What should our focus be, on behalf of our students and institutions? What are the issues most central to our mission? What other issues are important to our Jesuit family and, finally, what issues are percolating on our campuses that AJCU should be aware of and involved in? For this session, we were joined by Tom Mulloy, Director of Government Relations for the Jesuit Conference’s Office of Justice and Ecology. How can we work in concert with this office and other partners to advance policies related to justice and mission?

Thanks to the hospitality of the office of U.S. Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), an alumnus of Santa Clara University Law School, the second day of our conference was held in the majestic U.S. Capitol. We heard from expert panelists who shared the most current policy information on several key topics, including: the diversity in college admissions cases currently under review before the U.S. Supreme Court; the U.S. Department of Education’s regulatory agenda for the coming year; pending Title IX regulations and the higher education community’s recent comment letter; Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations; and prospects for “community funded projects” in the next Fiscal year (post-election). Finally, our group met with senior staff from the U.S. Department of Education, including Dr. Nasser Paydar, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Post-Secondary Education; Maggie Siddiqi, Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships; and Antoinette Flores, Special Advisor. These discussions gave us candid insight into the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities for the next two years.

In the immediate months ahead, AJCU will continue to call on Congress to adopt the highest possible investments in student financial aid for FY23, and will not back down from our call to double the Federal Pell Grant. We have much work to do before the end of the 117th U.S. Congress and much to plan for as we ready for the 118th Congress.

Last month’s gathering was energizing and impactful. Being together in person created a renewed enthusiasm for building support for Jesuit higher education. The sharing of ideas and the spirit that comes from community had a propelling effect, urging us to explore how we can advance the greater good through our advocacy work. How can Jesuit colleges and universities make a difference in the world, through their students? How are we called to form leaders and global citizens who are prepared to meet the challenges of our day with solutions that advance the common good? These are tall orders for our institutions, but worthy aspirational goals that are grounded in our Jesuit mission.

By Jenny Smulson, Vice President of Government Relations, AJCU