Native American Heritage month film and discussion

Mackenzie Zent, Opinion Editor

On Nov. 9 from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Mercy Heritage room the History department and the Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics and Society (ELIES) held a showing of the film “For the Rights of All.” The film highlights the history of the Alaskan Native Americans after the United States purchased the Alaska territory. In the beginning, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution did not apply to the Natives living there, and the film depicts their fight for justice and rights.ELIES at Mercyhurst is a group that was created in fall of 2008 to raise awareness for different ethical issues affecting people and society. They look to Mercyhurst’s Core Values as a basis for their practices and how to educate others on ethical problems and solutions for combating them. The organization focuses on the Core Values of socially responsible business practices, science and emerging technologies and ecology and sustainability. They also provide many programs throughout the duration of the school year to provide information on current events as well as global challenges. History professor, Ben Scharff, Ph.D., hosted the showing of the film and led a discussion with the group of students afterwards. “Turnout was strong, about 30 people or so,” said Scharff. This made for a very active and engaging discussion with many voices to hear from. The History department wanted to show the film because they run an event for Native American Heritage Month every year during the month of November. Scharff was adamant about bringing awareness to the Native American history and population today especially because of the recent election that occurred. He explained that most politicians will talk about hot topics such as women’s rights, African American rights and LGBTQ+ rights. “Think about the last time you heard a politician discuss Native Americans. It might take you awhile. This is because Native Americans are a forgotten and often overlooked population in our country,” said Scharff. He hopes that the annual event during Native American History Month will help to bring awareness to the population.At the conclusion of the film, they held small group discussions and then came together as one to share their thoughts and what they talked about. The students were told to not only reflect on the film, but also try to put themselves into the shoes of Native Americans in the film and present day. This is a great exercise in understanding the perspective of others and how they view the world because of the discrimination they face. Another topic the group discussed is not having role models that look like those in different marginalized communities. The standard of beauty and success is likely engraved into people’s minds as white, skinny and upper class. Even if this is not meant to happen, kids in minority groups grow up thinking that they are less likely to succeed or be beautiful because of that. It is so important to have role models from every background so that kids can grow up knowing that they have the ability to succeed just like everyone else. Society must remember the history of the land we live on today before our ancestors even founded the United States. Keep an eye out for future events from the Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics and Society as they normally host a couple of events each semester!