The student sustainability initiative “Relearn Our Land” connects culture and nature
Winter the season may have just started, but for those already craving spring flowering, there’s a hint of light to come. Pitt’s Green Fund and the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion have teamed up to bring the “Relearn our land”Initiative on campus.
The initiative is part of the garden space outside Posvar Hall and will open in spring 2022. The project will focus on creating a garden space specifically with native plants from native cultures grown just in outside of Posvar.
Posvar’s Global Hub hosted a community learning session for students to stop and hear more information about the initiative last Monday. The session focused on student research into the Indigenous history of the Pittsburgh area and how students can get involved in the upcoming garden project.
A group of students enrolled in a sustainability course at Pitt created the ‘Relearn our Land’ project, which is funded by the Green Fund. The project is being led by Pitt students who are all environmental studies students – sophomores Juliana Hunt and Allyson Frantz, as well as junior Meghan Hammer.
Frantz said their goal is to educate students and the wider Pitt community about Indigenous cultures and history, such as their religious and medicinal practices, with roots in the Pittsburgh area.
“We discovered that we all have a common interest in environmental justice and I brought up the idea of creating some kind of garden focused on indigenous culture and history in this region, and the project grew from there.” , said Frantz.
The group stressed that while they hope that the garden space can be a place where students can come to honor the land and find peace, the project is not an attempt to speak on behalf of the original people or indigenous identity.
“We also think it’s important to make it clear that none of us have any Native American heritage and we don’t pretend to speak for those of Native ancestry,” Hunt said. “We really hope to serve as a link between the Pitt campus and local Aboriginal groups. “
According to Rachel Vertucci, a junior specializing in supply chain and global management and director of the Green Fund’s Allocation Council, the Green Fund was able to meet with the Relearn Our Land group and finance their project.
“Professor Ward Allebach encourages his student groups to apply for funding from the Green Fund once they have an idea for a sustainable initiative,” said Vertucci. “Relearn Our Land applied for funding at the end of October, and we were able to meet with the group and vote to fund their recycled material billboards. “
The Green Fund also encourages the group to reapply for funding when making plans to have a native plant garden in the future as a separate project.
Vertucci said the initiative will feature both medicinal and decorative plants, which will hopefully also be included in a garden and have historical significance.
Pitt students are encouraged to get involved with the Green Fund, either by running for the board, applying for internships led by the Green Fund, or seeking funding for their own sustainability project.
Ron Idoko, OEDI’s Diversity and Multicultural Program Manager, said students have the power to create and promote change on campus, like the garden, without the need for faculty or support. administrative.
“The students are more than capable themselves,” Idoko said. “A project like this, led and managed by students, is what OEDI always tries to create platforms for and improve on these projects.
He noted the challenge this project is based on, which is to create something that represents an under-represented culture while being sustainable, while preserving the original story.
“Some of the indigenous eco-practices that have been lost over time are reflected in this initiative,” Idoko said. “One of the things that we are always working on is to truly understand the history of the aboriginal and aboriginal communities in this region.
According to Idoko, OEDI always works to support student efforts to create a campus that fosters diversity. He said he hopes Pitt’s students will become more aware of their powerful ability to be this change.
“We want students to know that they have the capacity to drive change in this area,” Idoko said. “Whether it’s through their college education, extracurricular programs, or engagement, there are many opportunities to truly foster a very diverse and multicultural campus environment. “
Hunt said she hopes the project will have a lasting effect on the Pitt community, even after they leave Pitt.
“We hope this initiative continues even beyond the point where we are here,” Hunt said. “We want the conversation to last on campus and for people to think more about raising awareness of underrepresented cultures. “