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This exhibition examines the histories, stories, and lived experiences of early Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nih (Haudenosaunee, formally referred to as Iroquois in previous literature) women at Cornell University. The Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nih Confederacy are an alliance of six sovereign nations located across the upper region of what is colonially known as New York State and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The Confederacy is comprised of six nations who share common cultural and political goals: Onyota’a:ka (Oneida), Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk), Gayogo̱hó:nǫ’ (Cayuga), Onöndowa’ga:’ (Seneca), and Onoñda’gegá’ (Onondaga), and the Skarù·ręʔ (Tuscarora).

From 1914 to 1942, the New York State College of Agriculture and College of Home Economics received federal, state, and private funding to create extension programs and scholarships for Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nih women. This began with the dissemination of war-time food programs on the Onoñda’gegá’ Nation in 1916, which instructed Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nih women within the areas of food preservation and conservation. In 1919, Cornell’s Indian Extension Program brought Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nih youth to Ithaca, NY where they received an education in agriculture and home economics during Cornell’s winter session. Upon founding the New York State College of Home Economics in 1925, Martha Van Rensselaer and her co-director, Flora Rose, worked with the lineage organization known as, Daughters of the American Revolution, to create a scholarship program for Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nih women. From 1929 to 1942, the Olive Whitman Memorial Scholarship supported five Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nih women who enrolled in the College as full-time students.

The various educational programs and scholarship funds Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nih women took part in from 1914 to 1942 were shaped by the conditions under which the University was founded. As the largest benefactor of the Land Grant College Act of 1862 (also known as the Morrill Act), Cornell University was built on and with stolen land. In addition to occupying Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ territory, Ezra Cornell acquired 990, 000 acres of scrips from New York governor, Edwin D. Morgan that generated nearly $6 million in return. According to a 2020 High Country News investigative report, it would have been more if 14 pieces of scrip weren’t lost in the mail. While the University sold all parcels of land acquired through the Morrill Act by 1935, they still retain mineral rights. In response to the investigative report, Cornell faculty, staff, students, and alumni have formed the Cornell University and Indigenous Dispossession Project (CU&ID) and begun to investigate the University’s origins and the specific Indigenous communities that were impacted. In addition, they address why this requires action today. This exhibition contributes to these discussions by positioning the field of home economics in relation to U.S. settler colonialism. This exhibition also addresses the various strategies Hodinǫhsǫ́:nih women used to negotiate and direct their engagement with home economics research on and off Cornell’s campus in the first half of the twentieth century.

Image: Members of the Onondaga Conservation Club standing in front of Temperance Hall on the Onoñda’gegá’ Nation from Division of Rare and Manuscript Collection, Cornell University Library, Onondaga County Cooperative Extension, #3437, box 2.

CURATOR: Lynda May Xepoleas, Ph.D. '23

PHOTOS: Cornell University Library Rare and Manuscript Collections; Jill Pierce Long; Daniel E. Guilfolye Jr.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Jill Pierce Long, Juanita Poodry, Daniel E. Guilfoyle Jr., Daniel Guilfoyle III, Denise N. Green, Jolene Rickard, Andrew Moisey, Natasha Raheja, Kaja McGowan, Rachel Dunifon, Eileen Keating, Eveline V. Ferretti, Mathew Kopel

LAND ACKNOWLEDGMENT: Cornell University is located on the traditional homelands of the Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ (the Cayuga Nation). The Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign Nations with a historic and contemporary presence on this land. The Confederacy precedes the establishment of Cornell University, New York state, and the United States of America. We acknowledge the painful history of Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ dispossession, and honor the ongoing connection of Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ people, past and present, to these lands and waters.

This land acknowledgment has been reviewed and approved by the traditional Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ leadership.

In addition to the Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ land acknowledgment but separate from it, the AIISP faculty would like to emphasize: Cornell's founding was enabled in the course of a national genocide by the sale of almost one million acres of stolen Indian land under the Morrill Act of 1862. To date the university has neither officially acknowledged its complicity in this theft nor has it offered any form of restitution to the hundreds of Native communities impacted. For additional information, see the Cornell University and Indigenous Dispossession website.