“But First A History Lesson”

On Sunday I tuned into a webinar featuring a former colleague from my art college days talking about his lifelong art making life. It was hosted by a university art museum and delivered on its promise of being well done and in depth. But before the talk started, the moderator began with a speech which I saw as a disclaimer, though I am not sure of its original intent. She explained that the university was built on land formerly inhabited by an indigenous group who had been dispossessed of the land in the mid 1800’s. She went on to say that descendants of that people still lived in the state.

After the webinar I remembered how much I had loved working with the featured artist and felt renewed gratitude for my twenty-five years teaching among artists. But this morning I began to ponder that opening talk by the moderator. It had nothing to do with my friend, by the way. He neither works for the university nor does he live on that land. It was a history lesson which may or not be told before every university talk. But to what end, I wonder. For some reason on this morning in Oregon the moderator felt the need to tell us the history of the land under the school hosting the webinar. I continue to question why.

I don’t want to get into a rancorous discussion about this, but I am curious about other times any of my readers have encountered this kind of announcement. Do you have any insight about its value?

14 thoughts on ““But First A History Lesson”

  1. Elizabeth, this is strange indeed. The only time I have seen something like this is in the midst of something in the news, an ongoing or feared lawsuit, etc. Have you tried to Google for any recent articles?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It is an element of ‘political correctness’ that seems to be intended to excuse the ‘occupation’ of the Native American lands. If they really cared about that, it would be easy enough to sign the land (or its value) over to the Native American people who still live there.
    But they don’t care a jot of course. They are just ‘playing’ the PC game to appear to be concerned.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is sad. It seems to me she was covering her you-know-what for fear of not being politically correct. What does that even have to do with the purpose of the webinar? Nothing. You should have felt that it was odd, because it was.


  4. I don’t have any insight per se, but I suspect that the moderator’s comments have something to do with being “transparent” and “accountable” in today’s climate; or, as beetleypete wrote, “political correctness.” Many people feel they should acknowledge histories that have been “hidden” and obscured, which has contributed to people’s lack of historical understanding. So, for instance, many of this country’s churches and universities have slaveholding in their origins, or, like the institution that hosted your webinar, an historical connection to removing and displacing indigenous people from their homelands. I am curious to know if that moderator was speaking on behalf of the university, or on her own?


    1. I certainly appreciate the need for more accurate historical backgrounds for people. Oregon has, in general, a dreadful history towards non-whites. The University has added this comment throughout. I am not sure why they have singled out this particular issue.


  5. I’ve been in one meeting where the moderator did this. I found it to be consciousness-raising and appreciated it. We do well to be mindful of history – it broadens our understanding of the world today.


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