Panel discusses reparations and reconciliation at Notre Dame and beyond

Close to 150 attendees gathered on January 22, 2020, for a panel discussion on reparations and reconciliation at the University of Notre Dame. The event was convened by the Mediation Program of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, with support from other campus departments including the Black Faculty and Staff Association; the Center for Social Concerns; the Department of Africana Studies; Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion; the Institute for Educational Initiatives and Native American Initiatives; and the Provost's Office, Academic Diversity and Inclusion.

Speakers included:

  • Jefferson Ballew IV, indigenous culture awareness and inclusion advocate with the Pokagan Band of Potawatomi;
  • Brian Collier, director of the American Indian Catholic Schools Network;
  • Savanna Morgan, Notre Dame senior and spokesperson for the End Hate at ND movement;
  • Gary Morseau, citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi and chair of the Food Sovereignty Committee;
  • Laurie Nathan, professor of the practice of mediation and Mediation Program director; and
  • Debra Stanley, executive director of Imani Unidad, Inc.
  • Susan D. Page, visiting professor of the practice at the Keough School of Global Affairs, served as moderator for the discussion.

In his opening remarks, Laurie Nathan framed the discussion, saying,

"Reconciliation is dependent on three prior steps: truth-telling; acknowledgement and apology for harm done; and reparations, which can be material, symbolic and systemic. We need to approach all these steps, and judge the quality of reparations and reconciliation, in light of our commitment to justice. This applies as much to Notre Dame as to broader society."

Each panelist offered short opening remarks, followed by nearly 45 minutes of commentary, questions, and discussions with the audience gathered for the event.

Speakers (clockwise from top left): Susan D. Page, Jefferson Ballew IV, Debra Stanley, and Brian Collier.

In his remarks, Gary Marseau emphasized the ways the University has failed to follow through on its commitments to the Potawatomi community following the ceding of their land.

"Through the years, we've watched the University cut themselves off and not live up to their obligations to the Potawatomi people. The history has been changed and rewritten to benefit the University."

He also highlighted lapsed commitments by the University to provide free tuition to Potawatomi students.

Savanna Morgan encouraged attendees and all Notre Dame students to pay attention to the "gap between belief and practice" at the University, especially related to the relationship between the campus and broader South Bend community and the treatment of students of color and LGBTQ+ students on campus.

"Instead of asking what can I do for my country, we must ask, what is our responsibility to our neighbors? ... In merely embracing a feel-good-about-yourself diversity, we fail to address deeper systems. Not enough has been done to promote cultural consciousness and awareness of power dynamics in the world and on campus."

Laurie Nathan closed the event with an invitation for more engagement on the topics discussed.

"I hope this is not simply a forum for talking, but a platform for action," he said. "What is to be done? Everyone of us can do something."

The full panel discussion is posted below. You can also click here to review Laurie Nathan's PowerPoint presentation from the event.

About the Kroc Institute

The University of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, part of the Keough School of Global Affairs, is one of the world's leading centers for the study of the causes of violent conflict and strategies for sustainable peace.