[BELLS RINGING] SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
SPEAKER 2: President Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant Act during the dark days of the Civil War. Three years later with the founding of Cornell University in 1865, obligations to the people were implicit in the university's designation as New York State's land-grant college.
Written more than 60 years ago and rereleased by Fall Creek books in 2013, Ruby Green Smith's book The People's Colleges is essential reading for anyone working in higher education with a commitment to strengthening public engagement. Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension Helene Dillard, Professor of Education Scott Peters, and Professor of Horticulture Jane Mt. Pleasant review Smith's writings highlighting the impact and significance of the extension's mission, critically assessing historic tensions between Extension Service and New York's Native American communities and suggesting lessons for Cooperative Extension's future in New York State.
SCOTT PETERS: I wrote a lengthy preface to this book, so I'm not going to talk a lot about my view of this book. I do want to read you, in the spirit of a book reading, two paragraphs from the book that are particularly important to me, and then we will turn to hearing from Helene and Jane.
But before I even do that, I just thought telling you the story of why this book is on the table here is worth telling. And I wanted to do this. And the person who's responsible is actually not here. But many of you know her, so I want to say, reveal, that the reason this book is on the table is because of Celeste Carmichael.
She was doing an independent study with me. And one of the things she said she wanted to know about was the history of extension. And I said, well, have you read Ruby Green Smith's book? And she said Ruby Green who? And I thought for somebody in her responsibility and position that she should know about that book.
So we read it together, and we're talking, and she said to me at one point, why isn't this book in print? And I asked myself the same question and talked to Elaine Engst in the archives about it. And she gave me the name of an editor at Cornell University Press who also couldn't be here today because he got sick at the last minute.
And that is why this book is on the table because he said, that's a good idea. And so it's part of Cornell's 150th anniversary. So thank you, Celeste, for suggesting that. And thank you to Cornell University Press for being willing to bring this back into print.
I have read every single history of extension that has ever been published, as far as I know, in all the states. This is my favorite by far. Many of these histories are rather dry, full of lots of facts and names. She tells a story. She tells many stories. But there's a big story she tells.
It's captured in her title, The People's Colleges, one of my two favorite book titles. The other one that's one of my favorite is called Teaching With Your Mouth Shut, which I think is an excellent pedagogical strategy.
So the reason why this book is so great is partly because the history of extension work in New York State is really, truly amazing. The men and women who pioneered in the 19th century and who built the work in the 20th century and into the 21st have been some of the most amazing people that you would ever want to meet.
As Andy knows, they often think of themselves as missionaries. They thought of themselves as missionaries in a positive sense, people who cared passionately and deeply about the mission of extension, the work of human and community development, of linking, of making real this notion of there being people's colleges.
So the history is fabulous because she brings a lot of those people to light. But I think it's really fabulous because of this amazing woman named Ruby Green Smith. And I really want to find out more about her. I'd like to write a biography of her. If certain things change in my life, I might be able to do that.
But let me just say a few words about her, for those of you who might not know. There's a sketch of the author in the back of the book. But just briefly I'll tell you-- she grew up on a farm in Indiana. Her father was a doctor. Her mother was a teacher. I think it was about 1878, somewhere around there.
Her father died when she was young. Somehow-- they must have been relatively well off because they were able to send two daughters to Stanford and one son to Cornell when Stanford was very new. Ruby Green was her name. She went off to Stanford.
There she met Albert Smith, who, after Ruby had finished undergraduate and masters, was selected to be the Dean of Engineering at Cornell. So that's how she ended up here in Ithaca. She did a PhD, I believe in entomology. She was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a very accomplished person.
And she led Cornell's home demonstration work for several decades and was a person who not only was a leader in New York State and issues related to that but she was actually on the international stage as quite a strong leader related to women's rights and women's roles in politics and public life, one of the only American women who gave a speech in London right before the bad bombing started in World War II.
And interestingly, Cornell does not have all her papers together. And I'm working with Elaine and other people to see if we can piece together the papers that I know she must have left behind here. So she is an amazing person.
I want to just read two paragraphs that gives you a flavor of her perspective. And one of the reasons I like her is because she's not embarrassed about talking about the philosophy of extension work and really expresses in this book a philosophy of life that I think is very powerful.
I first came to know her-- I've had this book for a very long time, the previous edition. I think I first got it in 1994 probably. And I had always just read one paragraph. And this is the paragraph. It's in her preface, her original preface.
This was written in about-- this was published in 1949. She wrote it probably in '48 or '49. And when I read this paragraph, I can't imagine anyone writing it better today for speaking to the kinds of ideals that we have, those of us who think about universities, public engagement work. So I'll read this one paragraph.
"There is a vigorous reciprocity in the Extension Service because it is with the people as well as of the people, by the people, and for the people. It not only carries knowledge from the state colleges to the people, but it also works in reverse. It carries from the people to their state colleges practical knowledge whose workability has been tested on farms, in industry, in homes, and in communities. In ideal extension work, science and art meet life and practice."
I always read that sentence twice. It is such a remarkable sentence.
"In ideal extension work, science and art meet life and practice. Mutual benefits result for the people and for the educational institutions they support, thus the Extension Service develops not only better agriculture industries, homes, and communities but better colleges."
Now, this is exactly the spirit that people today think they're discovering for the first time.
What if universities were engaged with communities? And wouldn't that improve our learning, student learning? And wouldn't that improve our teaching? And imagine if we could figure that out. How many conversations I've been in where people think they've just discovered that idea.
My favorite paragraph in this book comes in a chapter that she titled, "Philosophy and Future." And she outlines a whole list of philosophical principles for extension work, 16 of them. This is number 13, and this, to me, encapsulates-- I think if we could bring her into the room, we would feel what she's expressing in this paragraph.
This brings out the dimensionality, I think, of Ruby Green Smith as a human being. And it also speaks to my own sense as a historian of something that's echoed across the history of extension, a set of values and commitments that are still in this room here today. So this is principle number 13. The name of the principle-- don't want to frighten people in the room too much here, but the name of this principle is spiritual values. And here it is.
"Extension workers need to have faith in spiritual values and to recognize the human relationships that contribute to what the ancient Greeks called the good life. They should believe that in the kind of homes, farms, and industries which are the goals of the Extension Service, man cannot live by bread alone, that it is not enough for people to have food, shelter, and clothing, that they aspire also to find appreciation, respect for individuality and human dignity, affection, ideals, and opportunities. These are the satisfactions that belong to democratic living."
1949. Very powerful. I spent a summer reading this book in preparation to writing the preface. I felt different after that experience. I wish I could have met her. So I want to turn now to Helene and begin our conversation here by asking you how your reading of this book struck you, what if anything surprised you, what you take from it that you think has a relevance for today. Any other thing you want to comment about this book?
JANE MT. PLEASANT: Better give her this.
HELENE DILLARD: So I read the book. When I started reading the book, I started on this old version, so I sort of have stuck with it because I've got my little stickies and things in there. But when I read the book, I think the first thing that struck me was the writing style and how she brought to life these individuals.
And most history books, as Scott kind of said, some of them are pretty dry. And she really kind of brought out the characters, Isaac Roberts, to me, was just Roberts Hall. He's got something named after him. But then she brought out quite a bit more about his character and what his passions were.
And she not only focused on what they were doing on the job but also their home and private lives as well, so I thought that was kind of interesting. It just made it, I think, more real for me as I read through.
I think the things that surprised me, right off from the beginning, was chapter 2 and chapter 4 where she talks about how it was difficult getting extension started, that the farmers weren't that interested in hearing from these professors who were book-learned. And some comments were made. Well, when's the last time you plowed, that kind of thing. And so I just didn't expect that. So I found that rather surprising.
The other thing that she brought out was she made sure she talked about each dean. And I wasn't expecting her to cover the deans of the colleges, but she talked about the deans and their influence on extension and what they did to promote extension.
And I think one that I guess I didn't pick up on her being sort of a women's rights thing, but there's a part in there on the chapter about home bureaus, where she says the men came out and supported developing the home bureaus, not just the farm bureaus, but making sure that we had the home bureaus and that they would get funded. So those were kind of the surprising parts to me.
I thought the other one that I didn't expect it to have formed as well as it did was about the Department of Rural Sociology. I guess I thought that they came in much later in the history. But they were pretty early on. And so that also surprised me in the book.
And then the last one that I considered kind of a surprise was that the extension faculty did not have faculty ranking and that that took some time to get. And I've always thought-- so it sounded almost like a California system with separate ranks for the extension people and for the professorial faculty that were teaching on campus. And so it was interesting to see that that division had been there and now it's not there.
So I thought about a couple of places that-- Scott read the ones that I liked too. But--
JANE MT. PLEASANT: Oh, Scott.
HELENE DILLARD: But Scott-- but he didn't get this one. So there were a couple that I thought were pretty interesting that I thought that the group would enjoy. And this was about Isaac Phillips Roberts. And the quote was-- he had died in 1928, and so they got excerpts from people that knew him. And this was one that they said, "the master talked not to but with us."
And I thought that goes right back to that whole thing of extension. They called it extension teaching, but really it was a two-way engagement. And so I thought that that was an interesting one. And then they went on for some more quotes. But he truly engaged.
The other thing that struck me because of my position now was consistent, constant difficulty in getting the funding. And I just thought, oh, I can relate to page after page of some of these things that they were going through.
And they didn't use the same words we use now. But at the end of the day, what they were saying was that the extension field staff needed to go out and tell the decision-makers at the local level what they were doing. They didn't say the word "impact," but it was implied what the impacts were.
And there was one quote in there about how what they were doing for a few affected all. We would call that our public value statements today. And so I kept thinking a lot has changed, but a lot has not.
They also talked about how budgets got cut at the federal level during wars. And I thought, we're kind of there. We got sequestration. We got a government shutdown next week. And so I felt like I could just change the dates and put 2013 on some of these things that they were going through.
There was a part in there that really did surprise me. And I thought I'd read this to the group. And I'm sure the people in Mann Library would say, well, Helene, you should have known that, but I didn't. And that was she really called out Albert Mann as-- and I'll read what she said.
"The State Extension Service was strengthened by Albert Mann's stout loyalty and rich experience. He participated for 32 years in furthering the development of Cornell's extension teaching. As dean, he secured increased funds for extension work, encouraged the development of country and city extension organizations, promoted the change in the status of Home Economics at Cornell when the department became a school and when the school became a state college, approved the recognition of home bureaus as coordinate in rank and name with the farm bureaus, and strengthened the interrelationships between research, resident teaching, and the Extension Service in the colleges of Agriculture and Home Economics."
I thought, wow, I didn't know he did all that. And so to me that was a surprise and also something that I enjoyed because she really did a nice job of describing Albert Mann and several of the other deans.
I think the other thing, though, that throughout this book she talks about extension being adaptable and nimble and tailoring things to the local needs. And certainly, we talk about that. We just had the executive directors on campus, and we often talk about the local needs and making sure that we're addressing things at the local needs as well as at the statewide needs.
And then finally, I think the thing that I found-- and I said it to Scott earlier-- was-- at the beginning, especially, she talks about people who were called to Cornell. It was a calling. And she really passionately describes these individuals and their dedication to the work.
And when I look at some of our best extension field staff and our best extension faculty, they would probably not want me to say they were called to this, but they are dedicated to a level that you just don't find in most other job positions. And so to me, a lot of what was happening then is still happening now.
And it's a very interesting book. There's some great photos. There's one of a train. I don't know if people saw the Cornell train. I forgot what page it's on. 274, I think it might be. Yeah. 274. And what it says was it was Cornell's traveling university and that when World War II postponed their farm and home week, that the state colleges of Agriculture and Home Economics brought science to the people in a farm and home special train.
And so it's a nice picture of the train. But it made me think of the Cornell University bus that goes down to New York City and how it's got the thing on it now. But this was kind of expensive. And I thought, well, how can they afford that during the war? But they did it. And they made sure things kept going.
And then the last thing I'll say is I remember emailing to Mann Library, getting help on what did Cornell Cooperative Extension do? What did any extension system do during the Great Depression? And she only just surfacely covered it here. And she alludes to something shut down, but then they all came back. And that was kind of the end of it.
But when I was working with folks at Mann, they helped me find some stuff in other states. And what it became clear was that in many states, those dedicated extension people kept doing the work, even though they weren't getting paid. They just kept having these meetings and bringing the cars out when they could get gasoline and do it.
And then when the wars were over, the Depression was over, they came back to their work, and they had their jobs again. But it was very interesting to hear how people would close the doors but then come back and do those demonstration projects and kept their things going. And I thought, wow, that takes incredible dedication that-- we probably would do it now, but we'll see next week.
So it's a really interesting book, and I know people haven't had a chance to read it all. But if you do, at least the first half to the pictures, to me, was really exciting. And then the end, at the chapter that Scott talked about, with the philosophy and the future where she talks about those qualities of extension, I think, are really, really exciting.
SCOTT PETERS: Thank you. There's so much to talk about in this book. We could really share quotes and stories, I think, the whole afternoon. One of the things, I guess, I didn't express as fully as I want to is the deep sense of humility that I had in reading this book for the work of the women and men who were here previously and also for the sense of vitality.
By the 1940s, early '40s, late '30s, early '40s, there were as many as 14,000 folks from New York showing up on this campus for a week for Farm and Home Week. And there would be dinners where they would be sitting next to the provost and president, and there would be plays performed in Bailey Hall that were written about the lives and communities from New York State.
And the level-- the vitality, the energy of that sort of work is humbling, I think, for us today. As much as we've gained with everything we have today, it feels like we've lost something with that. And this is where the cultural dimension, I think, comes in, the human piece.
And this I want to use to transition to Jane. And so let me tell you another part of the story here, which is that when this book was in production, we were asked, what about the cover? What would you like to do for the cover?
And so Elaine Engst and I from the archives were assigned to go see if we could find a photograph. We talked about it. Helene and I talked about it. And of course, there are tens of thousands of photographs. And we found some that we kind of liked, and the press didn't like any of them.
I was very busy. We were all very busy. And so I just said, go ahead and pick it. And that turned out to be a mistake-- I'll say that-- because as eager as I was for this book to show up and for me to be showing it to all kinds of people, when it did show up and I saw the cover photograph, I was first very sad and then angry.
And one of the very first things I actually did is I went down to Jane's office. And I showed the book to Jane. And as I recall, your answer was, oh, I know that photograph. I think that was basically the way you said it. I know that photograph.
And now I'd like to pass to Jane for her to talk about her-- what you want to speak to this book. But before I do that, I want to say that the photograph is troubling, from my own perspective. But it is also useful in the following way.
And I'm sorry. I'm doing a little soapboxing here. I'm a scholar. I'm a historian. I take that work seriously. But I also actually care about all this stuff and have particular beliefs about it.
As much as we think that the land-grant mission and extension is all about science and information and technology transfer and those sort of things-- and of course, those things are all very, very, very important-- when you read the history of extension work, when you meet people like Ruby Green Smith, at least virtually, at least through a book, what you learn is that extension work is fundamentally about relationships.
It is the work that happens, the educational work, the public work of people coming together to work together, to learn together. It is relational. It should, therefore, be no surprise because we're all in relationships with human beings. We're all imperfect folks. We don't do that all that well all the time.
There are problems with the way we're in relationship or out of relationship. And there is a history of trouble in our country and in this institution that has to do with things like gender and race and class, those sort of issues. And so this cover usefully shows us that, and I will stop my soapboxing and turn to Jane. Oh, you have a mic.
JANE MT. PLEASANT: I'm going to go up to the podium. I do have a PowerPoint this afternoon, but I thank Scott and Dr. Dillard for inviting and for the Mann library for arranging this. But I want to say first off that I also thank the Cayuga peoples on whose land Cornell sits and where we are being hosted this afternoon.
When Helene and Scott and I spoke about how to address the cover and what they wanted me to do, it seemed to me that it was an impossible task when I sat down to address it earlier this week. And I got really kind of panic-stricken.
So what I've done is-- I'm going to show you 12 maps, 12 photos and a couple of slides with texts that I hope will give you a sense of why the photo on the front page of this book is troubling to so many people, me first. And it's a very complicated story, and it needs a much longer timeline and a much wider lens in order for you to understand what I see in this photo.
So we're going to go, and we're going to go fast. All right. The first one is a picture of what North America, our section here in the Northeast, looked like before Europeans came. And this map is even inaccurate in that it supposes that there's a boundary between the United States and Canada that existed before the establishment of either one of those countries.
But what I want to point out to you is that dark purple is predominantly native peoples who speak Iroquoian languages, of which the Haudenosaunee and the Iroquois Confederacy in New York State are predominant.
If we look much closer at New York State, the homelands of the Iroquois, not only the area, their area goes much wider into Canada and south into Pennsylvania and west over into the Ohios, but we see these five nations as the lands that they controlled around 1650, the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas, and the Senecas.
We can look at another map in 1720. And this is more or less what Haudenosaunee nations looked like right up until the eve of the Revolutionary War. You see, now we have-- one extra nation has joined, the Tuscarora, but we still have the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas, and the Senecas. And the Tuscarora is kind of stuck there in the middle of Oneida and Onondaga territories.
So this is the picture of New York State, of what was not then New York State, but the area that today we call New York State on the eve of the Revolutionary War, land that was held by Iroquois Haudenosaunee peoples almost in its entirety, except for this lower section, the southeast corner of present-day New York State.
But in 1779, a dramatic change occurs. And this is Sullivan's campaign, part of the Revolutionary War. John Sullivan is sent up under the orders by George Washington to do as much damage as he can to the Senecas, the Onondaga, and the Cayugas. And he comes up from the south across the New York border, comes right through Elmira and Ithaca, and begins to slash and burn Cayuga, Onondaga, and Seneca villages and agricultural fields.
At the end of the Revolutionary War, these communities, these nations had supported Great Britain in that Revolutionary War. We know Britain lost. And when they lost the war, they abandoned their allies and made no provisions for them when they sued for peace with the American revolutionaries about what was to happen to the people that lived here.
So there was an incredible dispossession that occurred after 1779. And what I'm showing you here is that basically this long path across the center of present-day New York State-- this was prime land held by Haudenosaunee nations. All of those people there, whether they were allies of Great Britain or allies of the American revolutionaries, the Oneidas and the Tuscaroras supported the American revolutionaries.
They all lost their land. Why? This is prime agricultural land. These are our Alfisols in New York State where we grow our best crops. And this becomes the site of the Erie Canal, which is the major transportation corridor from New York City down in the Hudson Valley to the western states to the Great Lakes.
But I want you to pay special attention to this one, the new military tract. This is where we are today. And this was an area that was divided up into 600-acre blocks that were then given by lottery to soldiers that had participated in the Revolutionary War on behalf of New York State. So every one of those little boxes is a 600-acre piece of land that then gets lotteried off to Revolutionary War soldiers.
Two things to note here-- first, the Onondagas get a nice, large reservation over here. They get to hold on to some of their land. And the Cayugas do it well. Here's Cayuga Lake, Ithaca down here, Cayuga Lake here and the reservation. So the Cayugas end up and the Onondagas end up with some significant areas of land, termed reservations.
But almost all of this land that was given by lottery to Revolutionary War soldiers is purchased by land speculators and wealthy, powerful New York politicians. And all of the people's names that we see in Ithaca today, DeWitts, the Clintons, all of those-- the Vanderbilts-- all of those people were wealthy speculators who rushed in and made a fortune off of this land. So very few Revolutionary War soldiers actually end up here.
Shortly after, by the early 1800s, this is what Iroquois people are left with in terms of the lands that they control in the early 1800s. So we see the Onondagas, the Oneidas, the Cayugas, a bunch of Seneca stuff, Tuscaroras. That's what it looks like in the early 1800s.
This is what it looks like today. And these red dots, the red squares, are not even in scale. What did the Oneidas end up with? 32 acres. And they were the allies of the American revolutionaries. The allies ended up with 32 acres out of the 5 million that they controlled before the Revolutionary War.
You see now that there are Iroquois or Haudenosaunee communities all over New York State, small reservations, also in Canada, in Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. So this is what we look like today.
But I want to go back to that military tract, particularly, because it concerns Ithaca and Cornell University. So in the early 1800s, we see Cayuga Lake at the top. This is a blowup. This guy, Simeon DeWitt, is the general surveyor for New York State. He's also part of a powerful New York State family, political family, related to the governor. He is the surveyor general. He's in charge of making all of those boxes.
And what does he do? He participates in the land speculation, and he begins to accumulate bunches of land in Ithaca. He's the one that forms the city of Ithaca. He also buys this lot 94. You can just barely see it. It's in three partitions at this point, A, B and C. That's where Cornell University is today, lot 94.
Ezra Cornell buys 300 acres of that lot 94 from Simeon DeWitt's estate. By the time he bought it, DeWitt was dead. He buys it from his estate, and that's where Cornell University is formed. We are on lot 94, 300 acres donated by Ezra Cornell, 300 acres of Cayuga land.
Cornell University today, we sit right at the edge of Cayuga Lake. We occupy Cayuga territories. So now we kind of situate ourselves, Cornell University and our relationship to indigenous lands in this area.
Now we come to Ruby Green Smith's-- Ruby Smith Green-- Ruby Green Smith's book, right? And one small chapter in this book concerns Cornell's extension efforts with Iroquois communities. And the person that was responsible for this is this guy Erl Bates, who was here at Cornell basically from 1921 to 1964. And the picture on the left the photo is him as a young man, and then in 1964 when he retired.
This is Smith's-- a paragraph which summarizes beautifully the work of Bates. Bates would have been alive while she was writing this. And it wouldn't surprise me at all that she interacted, interviewed him. But I want to read this just because I think it's really important.
It says, "Achievements in the extension work on New York's Indian reservations suggests fine potentialities, chiefly because after decades of understanding friendships with Indian men, women, and children, Dr. Bates has won their confidence in education. Fundamental educational progress has been made with the first Americans.
"Belief in science has replaced Indian superstitions, prejudices, and customs. Before Dr. Bates taught Indian farmers to respect the state colleges, the Indians had planted diseased corn hopefully, only to produce meager crops. Now disease-resistant seed corn, recommended by the College of Agriculture, produces more food with less work.
"This change is noteworthy because the good seed replaced the ancestral seeds that had been passed from generation to generation to the accompaniment of an Indian ceremony. Since Indian farmers have used corn seeds approved by science with such fine results, they have been receptive to suggestions for scientific replacement of their ancient stocks of other seeds and of animals."
This captures Bates's work. But let's look at some pictures of what actually went on. This is Bates over here with his hat. And these are Iroquois farmers and homemakers that come for short courses. And you can see they're in front of Rice Hall, poultry science. So they come in for short courses, men and women. Good work being done.
There's also people from Cornell going out to Iroquois communities. Once again, Bates with the hat and the suit coat. He's at Hamilton Mt. Pleasant's Orchard. Yeah, a relative. Tuscarora, right? Yes.
He's there. I always thought I was the first Mt. Pleasant at Cornell. But little did I know, Erl Bates was out meeting my relatives at Tuscarora. So this is in the Cornell Countryman in about 1928 I think. Here, up at St. Regis, Akwesasne, Mohawk, Alex White, dairy farmer, he is the president of the St. Regis Mohawk Dairyman's League and chairman of the Mohawk Cornell committee.
Indians select the first chief to enter the college. 26 students from reservation include 12 maidens. They're coming to Cornell, young people. Bates and Iroquois students. What is that? Six. Bates right here with six men. The dog, I'm not sure.
But now watch what happens. Can we go back? Notice the guy in the middle with the headdress. What in the world is going on? This is not Iroquois. This is from the west. This is traditional regalia, head stuff from the plains.
Then we see this. He's got now not just men, women dressed in regalia from western native nations. He's given them wampum belts from Iroquois. They have false face masks, which are never supposed to be seen in public. There are pestles and mortars. And it's hard to tell. To me, the students look stricken.
I don't know. Maybe they were really having a great time, and this was the way that people posed for photographs. But when I see this, I want to do something violent.
All right. So now we begin to get to some more pictures, very close to the photograph on the cover. This is in 1918, I believe. It's a canning demonstration. The African-American woman is the Cornell expert, from what I can determine. And they're at the Onondaga Nation School.
And notice what's here-- an American flag. They're getting a demonstration, and these are Onondaga women.
This is the photograph from the cover. And we see, again, an expert from Cornell in front of women and children, Onondaga women, in a pretty rundown Onondaga Nation schoolhouse. The flag is there. Over to the left, it says, we believe in Uncle Sam. I want to cringe.
I want to try to bring this together by giving you two contradictory views of Iroquois people. The first is from the Sullivan campaign. And these are journals from two of the officers in the Sullivan campaign. These are American soldiers. And they report what they see when they come up into Seneca territories.
And the first one says, we found 200 acres of exceedingly good corn intermixed with beans and squashes, pompions, and a few potatoes. This is Shute. I think he's a lieutenant. August 28, 1779.
And then Beatty, another officer, says, our brigade destroyed about 150 acres of the best corn I ever saw. 150 years later, this is what Ruby Green says about Iroquois agriculture. That's the same one, but I want to read it again. Make sure you get it.
"Before Dr. Bates taught Indian farmers to respect the state colleges, the Indians had planted diseased corn hopefully, only to produce meager crops. Now disease-resistant seed corn recommended by the College of Agriculture produces more food with less work. This change is noteworthy because the good seed replaced the ancestral seeds that had been passed from generation to generation to the accompaniment of an Indian ceremony."
So my question is, how do we go from Iroquois being these tremendous farmers to these people who can't feed themselves who have to be taught by Cornell experts how to can food or how to feed their children healthily? How does that happen in 150 years? What is going on?
So I say, how do we make sense of this, of these pictures, of these views of who and what Haudenosaunee people were and are? So these are my sense of where we get to.
A series of statements that I think accurately describe what's going on-- the Iroquois in present-day New York had complex, functioning communities with extensive productive agriculture and trade until the Sullivan campaign in 1779. They were displaced by military force, by New York land speculators, by government officials and settlers and today reside on very small parcels of land scattered across New York and other regions of the US and Canada.
Cornell University was established on Cayuga lands, but there is no mention of the Haudenosaunee in any Cornell history until Smith's book in 1949. And even today, Cornell administrators only reluctantly and infrequently acknowledge the Cayugas as the original inhabitants of this land.
Cornell's original extension work with Iroquois was a complex mixture of well-intentioned attempts to improve the conditions within the Haudenosaunee communities and paternalism, racism, and colonizing actions that further damaged Iroquois capacity to maintain and assert their political, cultural, and economic sovereignty.
In order for us to understand this, to have a conversation, to decide what does Cornell Extension do about this, we first have to acknowledge that history and then engage with it and figure out, well, what do we do now?
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Cornell Cooperative Extension director Helene Dillard and faculty members Scott Peters and Jane Mt. Pleasant discussed Ruby Green Smith's book "The Peoples Colleges: A History of the New York State Extension Service in Cornell University and the State, 1876-1948" Sept. 26, 2013 as part of the library's Chats in the Stacks series.
Written more than 60 years ago, the book was re-released by Fall Creek Books in 2013 to celebrate Cornell's sesquicentennial.
Dillard, Peters and Mt. Pleasant review Smith's writings, highlighting the impact and significance of the extension mission, critically assessing historic tensions between extension service and New York's Native American communities, and suggesting lessons for Cooperative Extension's future in New York State.