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Advocating for change

2023 Diversity Series highlights Indigenous environmental issues and immigration 

Kicking off the 2023 Diversity Series in conjunction with the Climate and Environment Club and the Associated Students of Yakima Valley College (ASYVC) is the noted Indigenous scientist and community advocate Jessica Hernandez for an author presentation on April 27. Hernandez, who earned her PhD in environmental and forest sciences from the University of Washington, will share key themes and research for her award-winning book, “Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science.”

Through case studies, historical overviews and stories that center the voices and lived experiences of Indigenous Latin American women and land protectors, Hernandez makes the case that, in order to recover the health of our planet, individuals need to stop the eco-colonialism ravaging Indigenous lands and restore a healthier relationship with the Earth, one that includes greater harmony and respect.

Hernandez isn’t the first Indigenous scientist the Diversity Series has brought to YVC’s campus.

“In Spring 2020 we hosted Robin Wall Kimmerer for a virtual lecture,” says English Instructor and long-time Diversity Series planner Mark Fuzie. “She’s an Indigenous botanist from the Potawatomi Nation. What both authors show is that Indigenous ways of knowing and scientific knowledge are synergistic ways of understanding the world. One does not exclude the other.”

Leading up to Hernandez’s campus visit, interested students will be provided free copies of ”Fresh Banana Leaves” and can participate in two hosted book discussions led by members of the Climate and Environment Club.

“I’m most excited to see students getting involved in Diversity Series and to share their thoughts and ideas what diversity means to them,” said ASYVC President Victoria Cardenas. “The reason I say this is because everyone has their own perspective [regarding] what diversity is to them, so within this you can learn and hear one another.”

Since 2005, Yakima Valley College’s annual Diversity Series has brought diverse perspectives to everyday topics and helped push the boundaries of the term beyond race, gender, social class and sexuality. This series, and others like it across the state and country, have been crucial in raising awareness and support of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

The series will continue in May with author and poet Reyna Grande. Grande will host two talks with students and a reception and public reading on May 18.

Grande is the author of the bestselling memoir “The Distance Between Us and its sequel “A Dream Called Home,” in which she writes about her life before and after arriving in the United States from Mexico as an undocumented child immigrant. Her other works include the novels “Across a Hundred Mountains and Dancing with Butterflies,” which were published to critical acclaim. Her books have been adopted as common readings by schools, colleges and cities across the country.

Further Reading

New courses elevate knowledge of indigenous peoples

For too long, the Indigenous peoples of North America have been overlooked or pushed to the side. Stereotypes of American Indians have been commonplace across media and even academic texts.

With the launch of the first of several new courses in American Indian and Indigenous Studies during Winter Quarter 2022, however, Instructor Jonathan Byrn hopes to contribute to a better understanding of Indigenous peoples and their roles in the United States and North American culture as a whole.