Local Native Americans highlight own plight

By Emily Hull and Jordan Jarrett

Paige Bethman poses with the Iroquois flag.

Paige Bethman poses with the Iroquois flag.

As November marks Native American Heritage Month, Indigenous members of the Cornell University and Ithaca College communities are collaborating to challenge stereotypes about Native American identities, with a “Re-Thinking Thanksgiving” presentation on November 18 and 20.

Perry Ground, a traditional storyteller and project director of the Native American Resource Center for the Rochester City School District, will present research on the origins of Thanksgiving and its reference Native Americans. The first presentation, sponsored by the Ithaca College Native American Student Association (NASA), will take place on November 18, followed by another at The Space at Greenstar on Nov. 20 which will be co-sponsored by the Ithaca Children’s Garden, the Multicultural Resource Center and Cornell University’s American Indian Program.

“I work with students all the time and nearly every day a student will ask me in November, ‘do you celebrate Thanksgiving?’” Ground said. “They have the misconception that we live in the same way that we did hundreds of years ago.”

Ground said his research confirms that while Native Americans and English settlers did share a feast at the time, the “pilgrim and Indian” story as it is known today was founded as a religious celebration with no relation to the feast.

A lack of proper acknowledgement is one issue Native Americans are faced with today, said Cornell University sophomore Jamie Peterson, of Ottawa heritage, on Thursday at a Native American Identities Panel hosted by NASA.

“There’s a stigma that Native Americans are a dying breed,” Peterson said. “We’re still here. There’s still so many people identifying with it.”

In addition to misconceptions, contemporary Native Americans face poor access to education, Ithaca College Anthropology professor Michael Taylor, who is Seneca, said during the panel.

“Sometimes there isn’t a large enough pool of young Native people who are ready to attend college,” Taylor said, adding “we can see a paradox here that many of the New York State or SUNY and private schools do have Native American studies programs, where you can take courses on these cultures and peoples.”

Of the 3,261 first-year students enrolled at Cornell for Fall 2014, only .6 percent identify as Native American or Hawaiian. At Ithaca College only nine of the 6,587 undergraduate students identify as Native American.

 Although few Native American students are present in local higher education institutions, New York State is home to eight federally recognized nations, including the Cayuga Nation that occupied central New York.

Currently, there are almost 600 indigenous nations in the United States. Despite the variety of ethnicities, Native Americans are thought of as having the same culture, Ground said.

“We have different languages, different histories, different cultural heritages and different religions,” he said. “When we say Native Americans we are really talking about a race of people, when we say someone is Onondaga, Cherokee, Navajo, Hopi or Lakota, then we would be talking about their ethnicity.”

Through the upcoming presentation and discussions, Ground and other Indigenous community members hope to represent Natives and shed light on their contemporary issues.

Click this link to see an interactive map of the tribes of New York State.

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On-demand app, Minibar, delivers alcohol to Ithaca customers

By Emily Hull and Lyndsay Isaksen

Elliot Castillo, 22, orders from Top Shelf Liquors via the Minibar Delivery app.

Elliot Castillo, 22, orders from Top Shelf Liquors via the Minibar Delivery app.

It’s happy hour on a Wednesday night. Sitting in his Ithaca apartment, Elliot Castillo, 22, is craving some Pinot Grigio. He pulls out his Android smartphone and touches his finger to a recently downloaded app in the bottom right-hand corner of his home screen. With a simple touch, Castillo is brought to the entire inventory of Top Shelf Liquor Store on Ithaca’s South Hill.

Castillo is a weekly visitor of Ithaca’s liquor stores, but now the liquor store is being brought to him. On October 6, Minibar Delivery app launched in the Ithaca community, making alcohol an “on-demand luxury consumable.”

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According to itunes.com, Minibar was ranked 149th of more than 10,000 ‘food and drink’ apps available in the app store, as of Oct. 13, 2014.

Minibar Delivery was co-founded by Lara Crystal, a 2003 graduate of Cornell University, and Lindsey Andrews after receiving their master’s together at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

“We saw an empty space in alcohol where there really wasn’t a go-to destination online to shop for wine and spirits,” Crystal said. “It’s one of those industries where people still have to go to the store.”

The startup launched in New York City in February 2014 and according to Crystal the company has been growing exponentially each month. With its rapid success, Minibar is ready to expand beyond the city, starting with Westchester and now in Crystal’s college town.

“I spent four years in Ithaca and thought it would be a great test of a suburban market. There’s more driving, it can be really cold and people don’t necessarily want to drive around to their local liquor store,” Crystal said.

Although, the app only launched this past winter the company saw an increase in use in New York City during inclement weather.

Crystal said talks of expansion to the Ithaca market began about a month ago, when Top Shelf Liquors approached Minibar. She said they hope to eventually add a beer store to the platform as well.

“We’ll definitely learn a lot as we go about the drinking habits of Ithacans versus New Yorkers,” Crystal said.

The app requires customers to make a $25 minimum with no additional delivery fee and guarantees the order will be at your door within an hour.

Christopher Kusznir, owner of Top Shelf Liquors said he had been pursuing a delivery service for his business for a couple of years. The biggest challenge was finding a way to have their inventory accurately displayed online. Top Shelf looked at other alcohol delivery apps, such as Drizly, to digitize their sales.

“We liked where Minibar was at as a company,” Kusznir said. “They were more adaptable and flexible for smaller stores.”

Kusznir said Top Shelf has hired two delivery drivers to accommodate the new partnership and the business plans on promoting Minibar through flyers, coupons and promotional material.

A current New York City partner, Atlantic Cellars, began working with Minibar upon its launch in February. General Manager, Guido Venitucci, said Minibar has helped increase revenue to the business.

“For any store like ours that has limited foot traffic, it has expanded the walls of our store,” Venitucci said.

Regardless of location, Crystal believes Minibar will fill a niche market for today’s generation.

“Millennials are looking for an easy way to get everything brought to them,” Crystal said. “They don’t want to spend time running errands. Having a conveniently, merchandised app that allows you to easily find what you want is something people are looking for.”

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Ithaca High School seeks replacement for principal

By Emily Hull and Christian Araos

The exterior of Ithaca High School on Monday, September 8.

The exterior of Ithaca High School on Monday, September 8.

The Ithaca City School District has begun its search to replace Ithaca High School Principal Jarrett Powers who will leave his position on November 1.

Powers is set to end his three-year tenure as principal in order to become the new Superintendent of Schools with the Union Springs School District in Union Springs. The Ithaca City School District will name an interim principal while it and the Board of Education begin a nationwide search process to replace Powers. Ithaca City School District Superintendent Dr. Luvelle Brown said the position of interim is just as important as the full-time hire.

“ICSD is seeking an interim high school principal who will be committed to the success of every child,” Brown said.

According to the job posting, the deadline for applicants passed on September 12.The posting first appeared on the Ithaca City School District’s human resource page in mid-August stating specific qualities the district is looking for in an interim candidate.

“The successful applicant will have the proven ability to build a community of educators devoted to instructional best practices including supporting a culturally responsive curriculum; inclusive classrooms; professional learning communities and differentiated instruction to engage the learning styles and needs of each student as an individual.”

The posting also stated the position’s salary would range from $110,000 to $125,000 and that the job would begin immediately. Brown stated in an email that although the district accepted applications from people outside of the district, an internal hiring is also possible. Brown emphasized that the greater Ithaca High School community, including students, would be involved in the hiring process.

“Like with other open principal positions, we will seek input from the community through surveys and information gathering sessions,” Brown said. “We expect to include students in the information gathering interview stages of the process.”

One internal employee who said is not interested in the potential promotion is Ithaca High School Associate Principal Tokinma Killins. Killins said she was not interested in the job citing both her desire to be a middle school principal and a wish to work in a much more intimate environment than the 1500-student Ithaca High School.

“I really enjoy being in a place where I know the names of every student who walks in the door,” Killins said. “I’m a relational person. I’d like to be a place where I can have genuine relationships with every single one of my students.”

The high school’s other associate principal, Martha Hardesty, was not available for comment. Killins said she would aid in the search for a new principal if the district and its Board of Education asked for it. Board of Education President Rob Ainslie did not answer repeated interview requests regarding the search process.

When announcing Powers’ departure, the School District credited Powers for expanding the high school’s curriculum to include more Advanced Placement courses as well as more electives in subjects such as: Math, Social Studies and English. Killins said she is expecting the new principal to continue the school’s academic progress.

“[The new principal] needs to make sure children are taking rigorous classes across the board,” Killins said. “I would want someone who is mindful of the different populations represented in the high school and how we can support and serve each of these populations.”

While Killins’ involvement with the district’s search process is yet to be determined, the PTA will be actively involved. Amita Verma, president of the Ithaca High School PTA, said parents would serve on the district’s interview committee, which is typically formed whenever the district is making significant hires. Verma will begin soliciting requests for parents to serve on the committee after the PTA Council meets on Tuesday. As a parent, Verma said the new principal needs to ensure the school betters the holistic experience for its students.

“It’s really important to make sure there is a balance between sports, art and music,” Verma said. “Sometimes schools tend to focus on sports and art and music but I think paying attention to the other arts and drama is equally as important.”

Although the district did not provide a specific timeline for the hire, Brown stated that an interim could potentially secure the long-term position if he or she meets the board of education’s standards.

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