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Humans of the U: Darren Parry

“The thing I enjoy most about my work at the U is meeting with grad students working on their theses and giving them advice and helping them work through some of the questions that they have. I enjoy the passion the students in environmental humanities have. These students care deeply about our environment and what we are doing to the environment. They are young. They are passionate. They are activists. They aren’t going to sit back and let the system dictate what our world is going to look like.

As a Native American person, we use land for everything. So the fact that I get to work with students who are earning an advanced degree in environmental justice is really important to me. The world we live in today is not sustainable and we’ve got to figure out a way to do it differently—not only for the environment but for our sake.

I value sitting down with grad students who want to hear about how Indigenous people look at the environment. My grandmother always referred to things like plants, water, land and air as our non-human kinfolk. Kinfolk are relatives, and I don’t look at my relationships with these elements of the world any differently than the relationships I have with my human relatives.

The study of environmental humanities is all about our relationship with the environment. In this relationship, one should not be superior to the other, although many of our systems have taught us we should be superior to the earth and everything on it. When we talk about environmental humanities, we are giving a voice and rights to the environment to have a say in its future. And since it can’t talk, someone needs to speak for it. The students who are trained in this program will absolutely take the reins and speak on behalf of the environment.

Looking forward to my time at the U, I am excited about motivating students and other faculty to look at the world from a Native American perspective. As it is often said, history is written by the victors. From a Native American perspective, we may not have won anything, but we have successfully stewarded this environment for thousands of years. I would like to see people slow down and learn from those voices, and I would like to be one of those voices at the table sharing a new perspective. We don’t always have to agree, but we should be able to share and learn from one another.”

— Darren Parry, visiting professor of history