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Northwestern University

University to Launch Native American and Indigenous Studies Center

The new center, funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation, will develop new scholarship, projects and programming

By Daniel P. Smith

Northwestern University has received a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the establishment of a Native American and Indigenous Studies Center on the Evanston campus.

With the grant, which will extend over five years beginning in April 2017, Northwestern aims to create a center that will develop scholarship and teaching in the area of Native American and Indigenous Studies. It will also broaden and deepen the University’s connections and collaborations with external partners, particularly those that serve the needs and interests of Native American and indigenous communities in Chicago and the upper Midwest region.

“This multidisciplinary research center will help establish Northwestern as a hub of scholarly activity in Native American and indigenous studies,” says Ann Bradlow, the College’s associate dean for academic initiatives.

The center, which Bradlow describes as “a Weinberg-led initiative, but University-wide opportunity,” will develop fellowships and grants for faculty and students, host visiting scholars and artists-in-residence, and lead collaborative projects and programming. The center will foster an environment that produces new knowledge that is both cutting-edge in the field of Native American and indigenous studies and attentive to the concerns of local and regional Native American communities.

“We’re excited to bring new energy and ideas to this important and rich area of study,” Bradlow says.

Motivated by recommendations from the University’s Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force, Northwestern has in recent years committed itself to enhancing the inclusion of Native Americans.

Weinberg College, for instance, launched an Indigenous Studies Research Initiative, which included the hiring of three new assistant professors and a postdoctoral fellow who, together with existing faculty, are helping build an intellectually exciting and supportive environment in which indigenous studies will flourish at Northwestern.

The One Book One Northwestern program, meanwhile, selected Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America as its title for the 2015-16 academic year, which spurred a series of on-campus programming exploring genocide and colonialism.

To date, however, the initiatives in Native American and Indigenous Studies have largely been a year-by-year incremental effort, Bradlow says. The Mellon grant changes that, allowing Weinberg College and the University to think more ambitiously.

“With its five-year window, the Mellon grant gives us an opportunity to plan for the long-term,” Bradlow says. “It allows us to identify the activities working best and ready them for additional development as well as provide us with an opportunity to experiment and build new relationships.”

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