Theme: Indigenous Rights
The Oak Institute for Human Rights, established in 1997, annually brings a prominent human rights activist to campus. While in residence, Oak Fellows get a chance to reflect, recuperate, and educate the Colby community about their work.
The 2022 Oak Human Rights Fellows are Michelle Cook and Ana Lucía Ixchíu Hernández. Both will join the Colby community for the Fall 2022 semester to raise awareness on issues of indigenous rights, and share the ways colonialism and the formation of modern nation-state borders have created mass human rights violations for indigenous peoples and made cultural survival increasingly difficult. Both activists will spend the semester reflecting on their work and sharing their perspectives on the human rights abuses that indigenous communities have endured for centuries.
In addition to using journalism as a powerful means to combat the injustice and violence inflicted upon her people, Ixchíu is also in charge of organizing Solidarity Festivals as a powerful alternative to fighting so indigenous peoples can simultaneously resist and heal with joy.
Lucía Ixchíu is an Indigenous K’iche woman from Totonicapán Guatemala. She is a journalist, artist, and activist with a focus on the rights of Indigenous peoples. She was called to action after witnessing the army of Guatemala, the country where Ixchíu was born, massacre her people for demonstrating against the rise in privatized electricity, controlled by a foreign transnational corporation. The racist media coverage of what happened made her realize that it was time for her people to tell their own story. For this reason, Ixchíu decided to become a journalist to “denounce, write and theorize the various realities” that they had to live as indigenous peoples.
In addition to using journalism as a powerful means to combat the injustice and violence inflicted upon her people, Ixchíu is also in charge of organizing Solidarity Festivals as a powerful alternative to fighting so indigenous peoples can simultaneously resist and heal with joy. This multidimensional and radical approach will be invaluable to share with the Colby community, both on campus and beyond. In 2019, Ixchíu earned the Gisela Paz y Paz award for her work as a young, Indigenous woman.
Ixchíu and Cook are no strangers to the personal risk that human rights activism poses on practitioners, particularly when they identify with the groups they intend to help. Due to the insurmountably taxing nature of their work and livelihoods, they must make the work sustainable. Both Cook and Ixchíu look to their respective indigenous practices to heal, seek answers, and pursue justice. While their contributions to the Colby and extended community will be invaluable, we must also be diligent in maintaining reciprocity, as a previously underscored necessity in these relationships. For instance, we must commit to bettering our relationship with Maine’s Indigenous people, the Wabanaki, by truly listening to their hopes and needs. As a final benefit for the Colby community, we hope that the Indigenous pedagogies Cook and Ixchíu share this fall will challenge our Western and Eurocentric paradigms of learning, communicating, storytelling, and overall living.