Discussion of Cornell University as a Land-Grab University – Professor Eric Cheyfitz

by Professor Eric Cheyfitz

Lecture given during AIIS 1100 on September 14, 2020.

My purpose in this lecture on the founding of Cornell University is to focus the historical reality of the university’s foundation in a national context. As Tristan Ahtone and Robert Lee made widely known in their article “Land-grab universities” published in March 2020, the founding of Cornell under the Morrill Act of 1862 was enabled  through millions of dollars of funding from the sale of Indian land stolen through coerced treaties and outright confiscation of which Cornell was the chief beneficiary. The national context for this dispossession was Native genocide. It is crucial to make this context visible, which has been erased both by the United States in its official histories and by Cornell in the history of its founding, for social justice is impossible without an honest accounting of the past and its continuing impact on the present.