Chen-Chun (Kevin) Yu.

Cultural Survival - Cambridge, MA

Project Description

Peter Buck Internship Fund Recipient

Tap, tap, tap. I impatiently tapped my fingers against the table, waiting for the perfect moment to speak. Sweat dripped down my back and my pulse banged in my ears. I couldn’t believe it; thirty-six elite college students were debating about international land rights, yet no one mentioned a single word about “them”. The classroom was a political microcosm. A room filled with well-educated individuals who often times fail to see and hear the indigenous peoples and their voices; a room where national goals were prioritized over the precarious reality facing the indigenous peoples around the world. They, the indigenous peoples, were again forgotten from the very debate pertinent to their lives.

The experience in “Comparative Environmental Politics” class consolidated my desire to advocate for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and to support Indigenous communities’ self- determination. One can count the number of times the phrase “indigenous peoples” was coined in the class on the fingers of one hand. Many discussed the injustice in powerful countries exploiting resources of weaker nations, yet disregarded the nation states’ unlawful occupation of indigenous lands. This trend in discussions to overlook the existence of indigenous peoples was also observable in my “Contemporary Arctic Environmental and Cultural Issues” course. Discussions around indigenous hunting rights often became polarized debates between the aspiring anthropologists and scientists. With one arguing for the protection of certain subsistence rights, while the other highlighting the importance of species preservation. By the end of my courses, it was clear that the indigenous communities need more allies who would speak up for and with them.

I hope to use my research and writing experiences, as well as my social media skills, to become an effective ally for the indigenous communities. This past summer, I interned at a startup called Tappytoon where I not only conducted quantitative and qualitative research in digital databases and libraries from numerous countries, but also managed social media networks on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. On campus, I work regularly as a tour guide at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, highlighting in my tours the major cultural, economic, and political challenges faced by the northern indigenous peoples. Moreover, I would be enrolling in the Arctic Studies Program at the University of Lapland for study abroad this September to further my understanding of Arctic indigenous populations.

The opportunity to work in two internship departments – Research & Publications and Social Media – at Cultural Survival, one of the largest indigenous advocacy organization in the world, would help lay the groundwork for my future endeavors in the field. I would not only learn ways to research and write articles about Indigenous people but also help implement social media campaigns to promote Indigenous issues to a global audience. The fund provided by the Career Planning Center would allow me to stay in the United States to pursue this exciting opportunity. Without the grant, I would be returning to South Korea to work as an English tutor for a private academy.

Currently, there is a skewed dynamic of decisions affecting indigenous communities being made by people far removed from their realities. It is time to change the status quo. It is time to re-imagine infrastructure as if indigenous communities and their voices mattered.

Project Details

  • Date October 16, 2017
  • Tags 2017, Buck, Communications, Social Service, Sophomore, USA

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