History

Akwe:kon, (pronounced "a-gway'-gohn") is the first university residence of its kind in the country purposely built to celebrate American Indian heritage. In the Mohawk language, Akwe:kon means "all of us." The spirit of this Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) word is reflected in the inclusiveness that Akwe:kon offers to its residents and the community. Students from all backgrounds live in the house and experience a range of activities that reflect the philosophies and heritage of many Native cultures of North America and emphasize American Indian values, ideas and traditions. The goal of Akwe:kon is to educate its residents and the larger Cornell and Ithaca communities about the heritage and histories of the Native Nations of the Americas by emphasizing past and contemporary issues, values, cultures and traditions through thoughtful programming.

Akwe:kon is an integral component of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIISP) and serves as an American Indian/Native community center at Cornell. Akwe:kon serves as an educational and leadership development experience for residents, members of the Native community and any student, staff or faculty at Cornell. Akwe:kon also serves as a residential community on the North Campus of Cornell, and simultaneously honors the values and goals of Residential Programs.

Roughly half of Akwe:kon's 35 residents are of American Indian heritage, with the other half consisting of a diverse mix of cultures and backgrounds. Residents of Akwe:kon, no matter what cultural background or Nation, share a common interest in past and contemporary American Indian issues and the importance of community and extended family. Akwe:kon residents become a close-knit group, much like the extended families so valued throughout Native cultures. They are united by the desire to build a better future through awareness, leadership, and education.

Situated on Cornell's north campus, Akwe:kon's distinctive building and landscape were designed with extensive input from Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people, incorporating symbols that reflect the theme of communal spirit. Akwe:kon's presence on campus goes beyond the beauty of its structure, and includes activities and events that provide its residents and the entire Cornell community with ways to experience aspects of American Indian cultures and traditions.

In 1998, Akwe:kon was the first Cornell residence hall to win the James A. Perkins Prize for Interracial Understanding and Harmony for making the most significant contribution to furthering the ideal of university community while respecting the values of racial diversity. As part of Cornell’s American Indian Program, Akwe:kon functions as a student community center. Residents, in conjunction with faculty, staff, and graduate students, plan activities that include  faculty dinners, field trips to nearby Native communities and cultural centers, student organizational meetings, and other programmatic events and activities.

Akwe:kon is the only American Indian residential program house built on a university campus in the country. Akwe:kon is a testament to the balance of tradition and spirituality amidst a high-tech world of research, education, and technology at Cornell. This strong affiliation with both worlds results in a well-rounded education and a memorable living and learning experience.