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UNC Student, Meredith McCoy, has always had a keen interest in learning the rich histories of her American Indian People and sharing her knowledge with others. She did just that at this year’s American Educational Studies Association (AESA) Conference in Seattle, Washington. McCoy presented a research paper she wrote, entitled: “Love, Labor, and Learning in an Indian Boarding School: Teaching Historical Trauma and Structural Oppression through Film” as part of as panel that focused on “Critical Encounters With Violence Through Educational Media”.

In her presentation, McCoy spoke about how film can help teachers learn about boarding school histories, while also discussing methods for teaching with film. She shared that, “Boarding school histories matter. They matter for the students whose families have been affected and for the students who are unaware of this dark period in our country’s history. They matter because in many ways they foreshadow the school policies we continue to enact upon our children today. Not telling these stories erases the ugliness of American assimilationist efforts and limits the complexity of how we present the many histories of Indian-white relations.” McCoy used her presentation to amplify the voices of her ancestors who went through the boarding school system, in addition to sharing strategies for making education more just and equitable for students today.

McCoy’s noted that her presentation was one of the few panels at the AESA conference related to Native People and was extremely proud to contribute to the representation of Indian education for the conference. McCoy’s presentation was based on her academic research and was also personal for her. She had the opportunity to read aloud the letters her great-grandfather wrote home from school and explained the relevance and importance of boarding school stories for education today. “My research on boarding schools (though unique to an Indigenous context) resonated with the other speakers’ ideas. I was excited by the creative ways in which other graduate students are looking at film and photography as tools to help teachers in their classrooms and am thankful to have been part of the conversation.”, McCoy said. This panel was particularly meaningful to McCoy since her Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indian family in Washington traveled to Seattle to hear her share their family stories and give her thoughts on teacher education programs.

Throughout the conference, McCoy was introduced to new theories to explore and met several faculty with connections to Indigenous Education in Canada and Australia, among others. Perhaps, these connection will foster the growth of her studies.

McCoy is a 3rd-year PhD student in American Studies, with her dissertation focusing on Federal Indian education policy. She currently co-teaches a class entitled, “Colonialism, Power, and Resistance”. On campus, she serves as the Co-President for the First Nations Graduate Circle is a member of the American Studies Graduate Student Association.

The American Indian Center is proud of the work Meredith McCoy has produced and looks forward to witnessing further impact made through her presentations and studies.

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