Native peoples have lived in the Western Hemisphere since time immemorial. Since then, Indigenous communities throughout the American continent have been custodians of the land, air, and waterways in which they live. Native peoples have rich diversity and achievements in what Western culture would conceive as mathematics, physics, astronomy, art, poetry, and other realms.

In 1492 CE, Europeans began sustained efforts to settle Native people’s lands in the Western Hemisphere, and to destroy Indigenous views and practices. Despite these efforts, Native nations persist, and their sovereignty and cultures continue.

On April 15, the Virginia Tech Department of History hosted a panel featuring five experts on Native resistance to settler violence, including physical, ideological, and environmental violence. Panelists included Crystal Cavalier-Keck, Desiree Shelley, Melissa Faircloth, Amanda Lee Keikialoha Savage, and Nizhoni Tallas.

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After watching the panel discussion, the panel suggests visiting these sites:

Additional reading:

  • Deloria, Vine. Spirit & Reason: The Vine Deloria, Jr., Reader. Fulcrum Publishing, 1999.
  • Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States. Vol. 3. Beacon Press, 2014.
  • Grinde, Donald A. 2004. “Taking the Indian Out of the Indian: U.s. Policies of Ethnocide through Education.”
  • Wicazo Sa Review 19 (2): 25–32. Tayac, Gabrielle. 2009. “Eugenics and Erasure in Virginia.”

Crystal Cavalier-Keck is a co-founder, with her husband, of Seven Directions of Service. She is a citizen of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in Burlington, North Carolina. She is also chair of the Environmental Justice Committee for the NAACP, a board member of the Haw River Assembly, and a member of the 2020 Fall Cohort of the Sierra Club’s Gender Equity and Environment Program and Women’s Earth Alliance Accelerator for Grassroots Women Environmental Leaders.

Desiree Shelley (Monacan), originally from Baltimore, Maryland, moved to the Roanoke area in 2017, where she now works as a climate justice organizer with Mothers Out Front. Shelley holds a degree in natural resource management from the University of Maryland and has worked in the fields of environmental education, natural resource management, community greening, and environmental restoration in Baltimore City.

Melissa Faircloth serves as director of the American Indian and Indigenous Community Center at Virginia Tech and advises the university’s Indigenous student organization, Native at VT. Originally from North Carolina, she is an enrolled member of the Coharie Tribe and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at East Carolina University before enrolling in the doctoral program of the Virginia Tech Department of Sociology.

Amanda Lee Savage, an instructor and academic advisor in the Department of History at the University of Memphis, has delivered numerous talks around the state addressing Indigenous issues in American culture and the work required to decolonize civic and academic spaces. Her current project, Decolonizing Memphis, aims to create a decolonized history of the city, one that centers Indigenous and immigrant narratives, embraces Indigenous epistemologies, and generates new types of Native-authored sources for academics and activists to incorporate in their work.

Nizhoni Tallas, a member of the Navajo Nation, is a senior studying natural resources and conservation at Virginia Tech. She is a part of Native at Virginia Tech, an organization that successfully advocated for Indigenous People’s Day to be recognized by Virginia Tech, the first university in Virginia to do so. Tallas is a Udall and Gilman Scholar and most recently received the Environmental History Award for her project “10,000 years on Bent Mountain.”

For more information, email Edward Polanco at