Indigenous Peoples Day

A project by The Daily Princetonian

To commemorate this Indigenous Peoples Day, The Daily Princetonian has worked to amplify the voices and experiences of Indigenous peoples on our campus. This project could not possibly exhaust the stories of Native peoples at Princeton, nor does it aim to. Instead it marks a re-commitment by the ‘Prince’ to welcome Native and Indigenous Princetonians into our paper, on their own terms.

The opening words of this project are written in Osage; Graduate student Rodrigo Córdova Rosado’s essay is grounded in a Native language that is undergoing revival. This project features profiles of Gustavo Blanco-Quiroga ’25 and Jessica Lambert ’22, two Indigenous students who have worked to innovatively use University resources to serve their own Native communities. And in a special podcast, the ‘Prince’ highlights the history of Dr. Alfonso Ortiz, an anthropologist at Princeton in the 1970s whose study of his own community — the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo — and staunch advocacy for Indigenous scholarship continues to have effect.

Through powerful opinion essays that grapple with the legacy of Princeton-affiliated Sheldon Jackson and exploitative tourism to Hawai’i, a photo essay featuring perspectives of members of Natives at Princeton, and interviews with Native scholars, artists, activists, and community leaders, we hope to spark conversations that go far beyond the confines of this brief web project.

We hope that this effort may be one of many: Each story we are honored to feature here may lay the groundwork for another yet to be told.

— Marie-Rose Sheinerman


Tierra y memoria

By Rodrigo Córdova Rosado

𐓰𐓘𐓲𐓘 𐓵𐓘𐓻𐓪𐓲𐓟​​​​, I hear the crashing ocean in the rustling of leaves along the limbs of the ginkgo north of Prospect House. I hear finches chirp as the morning dew moistens my shoes as I pass Lewis Library. And I remember the humidity of my island and the smell of petrichor as the rain pelts my window in Forbes. 

Land and memory are a reflective combination. They have defined the Native experience on this land — now known as the United States — long before Jefferson inked his quill. The land we stand on was stolen from the Lenape — the memories ripped from it like a sapling from its roots — for us to live with the consequences. To live in Princeton as a member of an Indian Nation, Tribe, or “domestic dependent nation,” as the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs defines federally-recognized Native communities, is to be keenly aware of this history and the responsibility of the present to address the consequences of the past. It is to be aware of the exposed roots rotting for lack of care on the land and in our memory.

Courtesy of Rodrigo Córdova Rosado

I am a guest on this land. I come from people who lived on Borinquén (now known as Puerto Rico) before the historical record begins, from people who built cities along the Middle Waters (the Mississippi River Valley), from people who were uprooted to Indian territory in Oklahoma, and from people who sailed the Atlantic in search of spices but arrived to find conquest.I am 𐓷𐓘𐓻𐓘𐓻𐓟, Osage, and have arrived on this land made of soil foreign to me. In sharing this feeling with all of our communities, we must ask: How do we grow in this unfamiliar place? How do we tend the roots ripped from the earth in the place we seek to grow our own?

Being a part of the Indigenous community here is one of the highlights of my time at Princeton. Whether we’re discussing water rights in the Southwest, or the push and pull in our communities over the sacred and how it impacts people and projects like mountaintop telescopes, or feeling like your identity is reflected by folks in a new and strange place: communities have the power to build new homes. They are the mycelial network that ties us together. This is the ongoing project of revitalization: a reaction to the centuries of physical and cultural genocide that took place here. From Indigenous language courses to the engendering of Indigenous studies in academia, we are attempting to re-seed what boarding schools, forced assimilation, land allotments, and the destruction of our environments took away from us. And yet, we still do not have an Indigenous studies program at Princeton, a dedicated space for Native peoples, nor do we discuss what the purpose of a land acknowledgment truly is. Like many things in Native communities, perhaps these will come with time. Unfortunately, time is running out.

I was a junior in college when Hurricane María blew through my home. The last thing my dad told me before I lost contact with my family for a week was “no te preocupes (not to worry), la casa está hecha de ladrillos, no de ramas o paja (the house is made of bricks, not sticks or straw.)” Last week we had the same conversation. Last week my family in Florida, land of the Seminole, Calusa, and Myaamia, was struck by such a hurricane as María. Last year the forests around the world burned. This year our forests have burned. Will there even be a forest next year?

Accelerating climate change poses an existential threat to land and memory, the core of who we are. Rising to the challenges we have been given means starting with recognition of our responsibility to the land, and each other. We who were born of stars that exploded billions of years ago, given form on the Earth made from that stardust: we are made of this land, and we must relearn how to live on it. Eighty percent of the world’s biodiversity is cared for by Indigenous communities, contained within 20 percent of the land, held by five percent of humanity. We have grown with the land as it grew with us, and it is time to return the land to its caretakers. Not only because it was wantonly and savagely stolen — just read how Andrew Jackson’s soldiers made horse bridle reins from Native skin — but because our track record of caring for the land is a few millennia long. As a recent anthropology paper put it, Indigenous Peoples hold essential knowledge for the conservation of our planet’s biodiversity, so partnership, rather than endless cycles of ecological impact studies, just might avert the ecological collapse ahead of us. In the rapidly changing landscape of the future, I see a need to interrogate what we intend to do to seek justice alongside survival. 

To walk on this campus is to know there is the potential for amazing, transformative action. It is also to know these walkways cover the land and the blood spilled on it. To hold both of these truths is the responsibility of our communities. To see land and memory intertwined, the physical world and our experience of it, is perhaps one of the greatest lessons my communities have taught me. It guides my path in wanting to research the cosmic past and our human perception of it, and it reminds me how unlikely I was to be the one to ask these questions.

On rainy days I remember afternoons at my grandparents’ watching “Plaza Sésamo” — Big Bird’s role is played by a colorful parrot named Abelardo. The campus leaves are turning the color of the warm sunset I watched over the ocean after eating some of the day’s catch with a side of coconut arepas from Don Candi in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. On cloudless nights we observe planets at the Peyton Hall telescope, almost like the moments back home, after I sat on a beach and saw the Milky Way for the first time. The water was cool and the rising Moon was yellow.

Author's Note: This essay intentionally does not include a translation in the text for the first two words in Osage to reflect my desire to center a Native perspective. For transparency, 𐓰𐓘𐓲𐓘 𐓵𐓘𐓻𐓪𐓲𐓟 translates to “[The] wind blows,” while 𐓷𐓘𐓻𐓘𐓻𐓟 is the autonym for the Osage, meaning “[people of the] middle waters.”

Rodrigo Córdova Rosado is a graduate student in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences and guest contributor to The Prospect. He can be reached at

Self essays at The Prospect give our writers and guest contributors the opportunity to share their perspectives. This essay reflects the views and lived experiences of the author. If you would like to submit a Self essay, contact us at 


‘That’s why I’m here at Princeton’: Gustavo Blanco-Quiroga ’25 serves home community in Bolivia through Pace Center grant

By Sydney Eck

For Gustavo Blanco-Quiroga ’25, a Princeton education presents first and foremost an opportunity: “I wanted to redirect the privilege and education I have to my community.” 

The John H. Pace Jr. ’39 Center for Civil Engagement’s Projects for Peace program awards $10,000 to University undergraduates to “implement an innovative service project anywhere in the world — or right in their own backyard.” The award, for Blanco-Quiroga, became another key chance to give back to his Indigenous community back home in Bolivia.

Gustavo Blanco-Quiroga ’25 with participants and team leaders for the ChaCha Emprende Project.
Courtesy of Gustavo Blanco-Quiroga ’25.

“I am from the Aymara Indigenous community, which is one of 36 communities we have in Bolivia. It’s a beautiful community where we practice reciprocity and service,” he said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.

Seeking to emulate that tradition of “reciprocity and service” this past summer, Blanco-Quiroga used the Projects for Peace funding to start the Chacha Emprende Project, a two-pronged approach to bringing education and resources back to his community. 

“The project is based on workshops for gender equality and supporting entrepreneurship for Indigenous leaders,” Blanco-Quiroga explained. 

Stephanie Guarachi, a Bolivian youth mentor and a friend of Blanco-Quiroga’s, helped develop the original concept for the project. 

“We were really looking at these big issues and how the project could help,” she told the ‘Prince.’

The Chacha Emprende Project addressed the issue of violence against women in Bolivia by hosting “new masculinity” workshops for male Indigenous community leaders.

“We wanted to create a project that not only attacked the problem of gender inequity but addressed the ones who produce it, which is often men,” Blanco-Quiroga said.

“The participants are all leaders within their Indigenous communities,” he explained. “I think after having been in these workshops they have already started changing their behaviors. And they will inspire others.”

Pace Center Assistant Director for Engaged Pedagogy Matt Lynn worked with Blanco-Quiroga to support him as he organized and executed the project. When discussing Blanco-Quiroga’s project, Lynn told the ‘Prince’ that “some of the most pressing issues that I think Indigenous communities in Bolivia face are those social forces that Gustavo’s project really dug into, such as violence that is rooted in colonial structures of gender.”

“Working with young men specifically is quite revolutionary for Bolivia,” said Lynn, who previously lived in Bolivia for 15 years.

The second part of the Chacha Emprende Project focused on developing and financing entrepreneurship projects for Indigenous leaders.

“Communities in Latin America have been hit very hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and Bolivia is trying to recover [its] economy,” Blanco-Quiroga said. “That’s why we have that entrepreneurship piece.”

“I am so proud of everything they did,” Guarachi said when discussing the entrepreneurship initiatives that were developed and ultimately funded through the Chacha Emprende Project.

“It was a challenge to pick which projects would receive funding,” Blanco-Quiroga said. “We got so many really amazing proposals.”

The projects that were selected by Blanco-Quiroga and a team of judges all aim to serve Indigenous communities in Bolivia. One initiative is dedicated to providing marketing services in Indigenous languages in addition to Spanish. Another initiative works with Indigenous artisans to advertise and sell their products at a fair price in cities. 

“Gustavo did a really good job identifying a community need in his own context, in his own community,” Lynn said. “I don’t think there was anything major that he didn’t contemplate before going down there because he knew the context so well. He knew the needs so well.”

Guarachi agreed: “Gustavo was the right person to plan this project for his community.” 

To Guarachi, Blanco-Quiroga’s dedication to his home community felt particularly impressive because of her own experience with many young Bolivians who feel separated from their history and culture.

“I’m part of the second or third generation to live in the city. Sometimes I feel like I am Bolivian by nationality but not by culture,” she said. “I think something a lot of people feel about their history and their ancestors is this idea of ‘you are not entirely, but you are still.’ Gustavo brought that experience of being in the Indigenous community.”

“This project, though it was a lot of work, has filled me with energy,” Blanco-Quiroga said. “Seeing how there are so many talented young people in Bolivia has inspired me to keep working to help them after I graduate from Princeton.”

Blanco-Quiroga discussed how communities at Princeton have further shaped his views on Indigenous rights issues and supported him in his advocacy.

“A big part of my freshman experience was with Natives at Princeton. I think it is such a beautiful community that I am very happy to be a part of,” Blanco-Quiroga said. “To get to meet other people from different Indigenous communities made me feel more welcome on campus.”

Lynn reflected on Blanco-Quiroga’s advocacy initiatives beyond being a Projects for Peace winner.

“From the moment I met him, there was just this expression of ‘I’m dedicated to working within my community and that’s why I’m here at Princeton.’ I am just blown away every time I speak to him,” he said. “His humility and his ability to connect with many people around an issue he is dedicated to is so incredible.”

Blanco-Quiroga reiterated that he sees the Chacha Emprende Project as a starting point for more work to be done in his community and within the University. 

“There is still so much work to do, and I feel I can contribute to that,” he said.

“Princeton is investing in Indigenous studies and Indigenous students,” Lynn said. “I am excited to see that commitment deepen and grow. There are so many possibilities to engage with Indigenous rights and Indigenous students, faculty, and staff that would be attuned to the rights and needs of Indigenous people and communities right here in New Jersey, such as the Ramapough and Lenape.” 

Lynn went on to discuss his time living in Bolivia, comparing community organizing there with Indigenous advocacy in the United States.

“I think that it’s important to note that there are 36 languages spoken in Bolivia. They are all recognized officially in the constitution,” Lynn said. “Not that everything is perfect in Bolivia, of course, but I think the West and the United States have a lot to learn from Bolivia in terms of how Indigenous frameworks can be part of our national story moving forward.”

In Lynn’s view, Blanco-Quiroga’s project has helped further that goal by contributing to a culture of service at Princeton that is based on understanding and true community needs. 

“Gustavo worked towards relationship building and community engagement in a way that expressed his commitment to his own community and his own reality,” he said. “That’s what we hope to see more of at the Pace Center: students speaking and working from their own positionalities. I think we can all engage that way.”

Sydney Eck is a Head Features Editor. She can be reached at


In Photos: What does Indigenous look like to you?

By Jun Choi and Manisha Khakoo

For Rodrigo Córdova Rosado, “To an extent [the moccasins] connect [me] to a way, to an artisanship, of one side of my heritage.”
Manisha Khakoo / The Daily Princetonian

Less than one percent of Princeton students, staff, and faculty identify as Native American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and Native Alaskan, according to the University. We asked three Indigenous students about their experiences at Princeton and beyond.

The responses have been lightly edited for clarity and concision. 

“This has been and will always be Indigenous land.”

—Noah Collins

The Daily Princetonian: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? 

Noah Collins: I’m from Claremore, Oklahoma and the Cherokee reservation. I am an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. I’m also White Mountain Apache Tribe. I’m a geneticist by training, but I am a graduate student in the anthropology department. I study bioethics, genomics, and Indigenous communities — Indigenous inclusion in science in general and the intersection between pharmaceuticals and genetics.

Jun Choi / The Daily Princetonian

DP: What were some moments when you felt like your Native identity stood out the most?

NC: It’s always present to me that I am Indigenous. A lot of society and a lot of my interactions are framed in opposition to something that is not necessarily by my choice. Being Indigenous and going through society, you are constantly thought of as less or incapable. I think it is a blessing to be Indigenous and to be in spaces that were not meant for me and to navigate them in a way that we’ve always been capable of doing.

DP: What’s a message you have for other Native students at Princeton? 

NC: Be unapologetically Indigenous. I think there’s a lot of fear around being vocally Indigenous in classes and research in politics broadly. And we’ll never get the foothold that we need to support other Natives if we’re quiet when we should be supported.

Jun Choi / The Daily Princetonian

DP: If you could have just one sentence, what would your message be?

NC: This has been and will always be Indigenous land.

DP: Anything else?

NC: A question for the administration: Why aren’t there more Native students here? Why are Native students not more visible? And why is Indigeneity sort of boxed into one day or into one month?

Also, there’s an event happening at 4:30 p.m. on Monday for Indigenous Peoples Day, open to the public. Dr. Corey Still is speaking about indigenizing academia and Native research methods. 


“I believe that respecting the land and the Earth, as well as the people who live on it, is far more important than the scientific discovery of faraway stars.”

—Leilani Bender ’24

Jun Choi / The Daily Princetonian

The Daily Princetonian: Can you describe your indigenous identity?

Leilani Bender: I'm Native Hawaiian/Kanaka Maoli.

DP: What's the significance of your red protest t-shirt?

LB: It refers to Mauna Kea and the plans for a thirty-meter telescope to be built on it. Mauna Kea (Mauna a Wakea) is linked to the name of Wakea, the father of the Hawaiian islands. Thus, it is very sacred and important to Hawaiian culture. Many Native Hawaiians believe that a telescope on top of Mauna Kea would desecrate the sacred land, especially when there have been multiple instances of mismanagement from other research projects on Mauna Kea, dating back to 1998. I feel like people may expect me to be in support of the thirty-meter telescope being built, as I am majoring in civil engineering here. However, I believe that respecting the land and the Earth, as well as the people who live on it, is far more important than the scientific discovery of faraway stars.

DP: Do you face those same dilemmas in your studies or with possible future jobs given your major and your connection to your indigenous culture?

LB: I would say it’s not applicable since I want to be a teacher.

DP: How do you connect with your Hawaiian culture, both at home and at Princeton?

Jun Choi / The Daily Princetonian

LB: Listening to Hawaiian music, playing the ukulele, and I am learning Hawaiian. The land and the natural world are also very important to me, and although Princeton's nature is nowhere near the same as Hawai'i's, I still feel connected to my ancestors when I look at the same moon and stars as they did when they navigated across the Pacific Ocean. 

DP: What is one thing you want Princeton as a community to learn about for Indigenous People's Day?

LB: Hawai'i is a sovereign nation — the United States illegally overthrew the Hawaiian government and annexed Hawai'i. 


“What does it mean to be this body within a system that doesn’t necessarily care about me or doesn’t necessarily know about this part of me?”

—Rodrigo Córdova Rosado

Manisha Khakoo / The Daily Princetonian

The Daily Princetonian: Can you describe your Indigenous identity?

Rodrigo Córdova Rosado: Through my grandmother, I’m a citizen of the Osage Nation, Oklahoma.

DP: You brought your moccasins with you today. What’s the significance of them to you, in terms of Native culture or for the Osage?

RCR: For the Osage, like most of the Plains tribes, it’s just about … they’re just shoes. They’re just shoes, but I have really come to appreciate them. To an extent it does connect you to an artistry and an artisanship of one side of my heritage, and getting to appreciate that through the walk of every day really comes to be pretty nice.

DP: What’s one thing you want Princeton to learn, as a community, about what it means to be Native?

RCR: To be Indigenous is a pretty serious claim about what the nature of our relationship as people is, not only to the land, but to the past and in America as a whole. The past is present in a lot of ways. There are these consequences that I think we live through today by the nature of how reservations have much lower access to health care funding compared to Medicare, compared to other social welfare programs; the way that communities still don’t have the same access to education to see themselves in a fast changing world.

DP: Do you think it is students’ responsibility to learn about Indigenous culture and the land they’re inhabiting?

RCR: It’s certainly not their fault in any way, shape, or form, that they don’t know about these things. But it is, I think, a sadness that so few of us know about the history of the continent known as the Americas before the Europeans got here. I think it’s unfortunate that we have not cultivated a curiosity for learning the history of the land that we consider our right when the history is a little bit more complicated than that.

DP: You’re part of Natives of Princeton ... What is the role of that community in your life here?

RCR: So far, my relationship with Princeton has been one of connecting with a community that I didn’t have access to when I was in the UK, and a community that I didn’t really have access to when I was in Puerto Rico. I guess it’s been quite nice to see students who are thinking through these ideas of, “what does indigeneity mean in a world that is predominantly not learning about Indigenous people?” Being this voice of, “What does it mean to be this body within a system that doesn’t necessarily care about me or doesn’t necessarily know about this part of me?” has been an interesting twist of my life. Going from interrogating these questions personally and without many answers, to now trying to facilitate those questions for others.

Manisha Khakoo / The Daily Princetonian

Manisha Khakoo is a contributing photographer and can be reached at

Jun Choi is a contributing photographer and can be reached at

Julian Gottfried / The Daily Princetonian


Jessica Lambert ’22 reflects on indigenous studies, advocacy at Princeton

By Isabel Yip

For her senior thesis, Jessica Lambert ’22 decided to write about the land and people where her “heart really lies.”

As a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, Lambert wanted to write about environmental contamination on native lands. Without a clear path for pursuing this passion at the University, she sought out faculty members and mentors in Indigenous studies at Princeton particularly focusing on environmental justice. In the end, the anthropology major would go on to work with two advisors — one in her department and another in geosciences — and win the 2022 Center for Digital Humanities Senior Thesis Prize, using her humanities and science backgrounds to speak with residents and conduct environmental sampling on Choctaw reservation lands.

“It was this really cross-disciplinary project that at its core was looking at how Choctaw human and environmental health was being impacted by this pollution,” Lambert said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian. “I was figuring out how to integrate natural science and its quantitative data with social science and the qualitative understanding of what impact this facility was having on the environment.”

The town of McAlester, which Lambert focused on in her thesis, has been the site of a U.S. military facility where old bombs are detonated and decommissioned. As a result, harmful chemicals and pollutants are released into Choctaw air, water, and land — a key way in which settler colonialism and ongoing Native land theft continue to materially impact the community.

After graduation, Lambert interned at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, focusing on environmental justice in the Office of the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer. Currently, she is at The Wilderness Society doing Government Relations, where she works on protecting and providing access to public lands.

Lambert’s interest in Indigenous studies connects back to the beginning of her time as an anthropology concentrator, with her junior paper. Her paper focused on young Native women in anthropology, like herself, as well as early Indigenous anthropologists and the effects that American anthropology has had on Indigenous populations. 

“I wrote about this to really ground myself and better understand what discipline I’m coming from,” she said.

Outside of the classroom, Lambert led advocacy for Native students at Princeton. In co-leading the Princeton Indigenous Advocacy Coalition, Lambert pushed for Indigenous studies to be expanded on campus, including through a partnership with the Native American Alumni Association that secured a $5 million grant for an endowed chair of Indigenous studies.

“We did a ton of advocacy related to the gaps that Princeton had in terms of Indigenous studies, in terms of institutional support for Native students, making sure that Princeton’s recruitment strategies for admission are efficiently and actively targeting Native students to make sure that Native students know that Princeton is a great place to come,” she said.

The Princeton Indigenous Advocacy Coalition was well received by the University administration, Lambert said.

She also helped develop the Native American and Indigenous studies Initiative at Princeton (NAISIP) webpage, which presents information about events, associated faculty, and courses connected to Indigenous studies for interested students. Associated staff of the program belong to a wide array of departments. 

“I helped develop the Indigenous studies website,” Lambert said. “One of the really core things that I identified as a barrier to recognizing how much Indigenous sites infrastructure we already had going on at Princeton was just that it wasn’t in one place.”

During the beginning of her time at Princeton, Indigenous studies were an independent venture. “Back then you really had to seek out a professor who was doing it, and it was very much on your own,” she said.

While Indigenous studies is not currently a concentration or certificate at the University, Lambert said she hopes that it will become a formal program at the University in coming years and that the groundwork for that has been laid down during her time on campus.

A formalized program of study, in Lambert’s view, would encourage more students to explore Indigenous studies, even through exposure to one introductory course. 

“I think that helps, not only people who come in wanting to do Indigenous studies, but having a program there makes it so much more visible for every student,” she said.

Specifically for Native students, the creation of a program involves “structures or supporting Native students who are doing Indigenous studies,” Lambert said.

Throughout her time at Princeton, she also focused on community building in student groups. When she started in 2018, Natives at Princeton, a student organization providing Native students with support and community, “didn’t have a lot of visibility and it was hard for people to find,” she said. When she was one of the co-presidents of Natives at Princeton, the group obtained an affinity space in Green Hall for students to meet, work, and talk with one another.

“Having a space where we can be ourselves has been just so life-changing in terms of how tight-knit and close the Native community is on campus,” Lambert said.

Looking toward the future, Lambert’s biggest hope is that the progress she helped spark will only lead to more advocacy and promises kept by the University.

“Hopefully, soon we will have a certificate or a concentration in Indigenous studies to help more formally solidify and grow all the progress that’s happened over the last few years,” she said. “I think there’s a lot more to come that I’m excited for.”

Isabel Yip is an Assistant News Editor who typically covers University Affairs and student life. She can be reached at or on Instagram at @isaayip.


Colonizing Alaska: Confronting Sheldon Jackson's legacy at Princeton

By Genrietta Churbanova

Katelyn Ryu / The Daily Princetonain

Content Warning: The following column references settler colonialism and violence against Alaska Natives and their cultures. 

Sitka, Alaska, a tiny, waterfront town situated on the west coast of the Alexander Archipelago, is over 2,800 miles away from Princeton, N.J. Yet despite the distance between them, Sitka and Princeton are inextricably linked through the actions of one man: Sheldon Jackson. 

Although often memorialized (in the process of writing this column, I found that most of the sources I consulted celebrated Jackson’s legacy) as the person who brought Western education and Protestantism to Alaska, Jackson was in fact a key agent in the denial, destruction, and appropriation of Alaska Native cultures. 

In 1877, Princeton Theological Seminary graduate and Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson arrived in Sitka on his first mission to Alaska. By 1878, he had founded the Sitka Mission, which sought to “assimilate” Alaska Native boys in the vicinity, who were primarily Lingít and Haida. The school, which changed names many times and eventually became the Sheldon Jackson College, was the first American boarding school for Alaska Natives where children were separated from their parents, punished for speaking their native languages, and denied access to their cultures.  

In large part due to his efforts, Jackson was appointed the first General Agent of Education in Alaska, a position he held from 1885 to 1907. As General Agent of Education in Alaska, Jackson helped implement a plan to divide Alaska among various Christian religious denominations, so that missionaries representing different Christian faiths would have an assigned area in which to proselytize in the territory. Jackson’s efforts were pivotal in the establishment of American boarding schools for Native children across Alaska. 

Although Jackson was not a Princetonian himself, his legacy is deeply tied to the University. During his time in Alaska, Jackson collected nearly 5,000 items belonging to Alaska Natives across the peninsula. While the majority of these items are housed at the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka, Jackson also sent Alaska Native goods (in addition to Native goods from Washington and Arizona) to the Princeton Theological Seminary. These goods eventually were transferred to the Trustees of what was then Princeton College. Today, they are ‘owned’ by the University’s Department of Geosciences and are currently on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum. The majority of the material acquired by the University through Sheldon Jackson remains unknown or unidentified in its origin.  

I, like many Princetonians, was unaware of the connection between Sitka and Princeton until this May, when I had the opportunity to visit Alaska through a trip sponsored by Princeton’s Program in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies

Before arriving in Alaska, I was prepared to confront Russia’s colonial legacy there. After all, one of the key objectives of the trip was to help students reach a deeper understanding about the history and lingering influence of the Russian Empire’s colonization of Alaska, whose 100-odd year stint as a Russian territory often goes overlooked. I did not, however, expect to find that Princeton — the municipality and University alike — remains connected to American colonization of the Alaskan peninsula.

As members of the Princeton community, it is time we collectively acknowledge that Sheldon Jackson’s legacy is tied to our university and that the Department of Geosciences holds objects he ‘collected.’ To do so would mark a key step in scrutinizing the University’s connection to the systemic racism and settler colonialism that characterizes the past and the present of the United States. As for the items held by the Department of Geosciences, whether they should be returned to the descendants of those who made them or kept in scholastic institutions is not for me to say: only the people to whom they rightfully belong can speak on what their future should hold.

Genrietta Churbanova is a junior from Little Rock, Ark in the Anthropology Department. She is Head Opinion Editor. Genrietta can be reached at


The Legacy of Professor Alfonso Ortiz

On this special episode of Daybreak, we explore the impact and legacy of award-winning anthropologist Dr. Alfonso Ortiz, who served as an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Princeton in the 1970s. A member of the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, Dr. Ortiz studied and wrote about his own community, and staunchly advocate for Indigenous scholars during his time at Princeton and beyond.

Explore the full issue


Sitting down with Elizabeth Ellis, Indigenous history scholar

By Simone Kirkevold


Princeton sells most holdings in Lithium Americas, Protect Thacker Pass argues not enough

By Lia Opperman and Miriam Waldvogel


A reminder that Hawaiʻi is not and will not be your vacation ‘paradise’

By Gisele Bisch


‘What is America? Who is America?’: Q&A with Art Museum Curator Mitra Abbaspour

By Kerrie Liang


Marianne Nicolson on Indigenous art, community, and visibility

By Isabella Dail

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