Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awards SU $1.5 million to improve Indigenous studies
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Syracuse University will receive $1.5 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand the new Center for Global Indigenous Cultures and Environmental Justice and strengthen Indigenous and Native Studies course offerings and programs.
Scott Manning Stevens, the director of the SU Indigenous and Native Studies program, will be the executive director of the center. Stevens said that when creating the grant proposal, he aimed to maximize resources across all departments to provide more resources not only to Indigenous students, but to all students interested in the field of study.
Stevens said he was aware that the Mellon Foundation gave grants for native studies programs in different schools with amounts ranging from $700,000 to $3 million. The League has a strong base of interest in such courses, he said, with a group of Indigenous students and others who share an interest in the subject.
“I just thought, why not us?” Stevens said.
Ivana Xie | Asst. digital editor
The SU is in a unique position to use grant money to learn from local Indigenous peoples and benefit local people, said Karin Ruhlandt, dean of SU’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“One of my thoughts has always been that Syracuse University is in a really fascinating geographic location. We have the Onondaga Nation very, very close,” Ruhlandt said. “Haudenosaunee culture is really fascinating in so many ways. I think it’s a great way to communicate that to our students and use that as a learning opportunity.
Part of developing a strengthened curriculum means hiring faculty whose primary training is Indigenous studies, Stevens said.
“We were looking for hires of a similar type and were able to benefit from one of the cluster hires on offer which dealt with the environment, environmental change and energy,” he said.
Ruhlandt said there are two new recruits to the Native American and Indigenous Studies program: Mariaelena Huambachano, from Peru; and Chie Sakakibara, who is a native Japanese from Okinawa. Huambachano has research interests in the areas of social justice and food sovereignty, Stevens said, and Sakakibara has research interests in indigenous peoples in Japan, including his own people in Okinawa.
Sakakibara explores how marginalized communities deal with environmental crises and environmental injustice, she said, as well as how they reaffirm their cultural identities and breathe new life into social customs, sovereignty, politics and cultural performances.
She said that at SU she will further explore the dynamics of Indigenous resilience and environmentalism in collaboration with Danika Medak-Saltzman, assistant professor of women’s and gender studies and a key contributor to the program. SU Indigenous and Native Studies.
Sakakibara said she and Medak-Saltzman were working on a proposal for the National Science Foundation to fund a collaboration with the Inuit people of northern Japan. She added that they aim to explore the revitalization of Indigenous culture and form global Indigenous alliances at SU.
“Both (Huambachano and Sakakibara) are very interested in environmental issues, and I don’t think you can really talk about Native American culture and people without thinking about the environment,” Ruhlandt said. “But it’s not just the environment, there’s so much more. It’s clearly an interdisciplinary undertaking, and that’s exactly what we want to do.
When it comes to food systems, health, environment and sustainability are all interdependent, Huambachano said. She added that she wanted to draw attention to the importance of addressing issues holistically.
“I can’t focus on healthy food systems if I don’t talk about the seriousness of the pollution of our lakes, the expropriation of indigenous lands, the extraction of oil and our natural resources – and that is linked to environmental sustainability, environmental humanities,” says Huambachano.
Although she is starting her position remotely, Sakakibara said she looks forward to collaborating with students and faculty.
“As much as I look forward to teaching there, I really look forward to learning from my collaborators and indigenous students,” Sakakibara said. “That’s why I say it’s so important to diversify the learning experience – it has to be a two-way, reciprocal relationship.”
Due to the multidisciplinary nature of Native Studies, Stevens said, it has been difficult to coordinate courses and establish a cohesive curriculum with collaborators housed in different departments such as religion and anthropology.
“Even before I had the idea for a center, I was concerned about the needs of students interested in Native studies,” Stevens said. “It was a real challenge for the students who were even trying to plan the minor, so one of my long-term goals was to find a way to do that without trying to invent something all fabric as we We already had so many resources on earth.”
Stevens said some approaches to a program as multidisciplinary as Native Studies are to create a single, centralized department. With so many disciplines involved, SU aims to collaborate across departments and specialties to best utilize the program’s strengths in faculty and staff, Stevens said.
“It’s not easily siled into the humanities, social sciences, or science. It encompasses all of these things in different aspects,” Stevens said. “We already have wonderful faculty affiliates, in areas like religion, art, history (and) anthropology.”
When you speak to indigenous and indigenous people, you speak to people who have been deeply traumatized.
Philip Arnold, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Religion
Philip Arnold, associate professor and chair of SU’s Department of Religion, will receive a grant from the Luce Foundation to conduct research on the impact of the doctrine of Christian Discovery on the commodification of the land, according to a Jan. 7 report. Press release of SU.
Collaborating with departments and individuals in the creative arts field helps achieve cultural transformation and make a difference in the world, Arnold said. One of the projects bolstered by the grant is a concert by Indigenous performer Buffy Sainte-Marie that addresses considerations of symbolic timing.
Arnold said he and his colleagues are planning the St. Mary’s Concert and Conversation with Oren Lyons at Hendricks Chapel, which will reflect on the doctrine of Christian Discovery. The event is scheduled between Good Friday and Easter this year, an important season for all Christians, he said.
“We’re very interested in what the symbolism of that might be, for Christians to look at their past to think about what has to die (with) Good Friday and what has to be reborn,” Arnold said.
Expression and education through art can promote healing on an individual as well as cultural basis, he said.
“When you talk to indigenous and indigenous people, you talk to people who have been deeply traumatized. And maybe generations before them,” Arnold said. “So the art becomes a way of working through their trauma.”
Ultimately, Stevens said, a turning point is occurring when it comes to Indigenous awareness and caring in the United States.
“I hope this marks a new period where Indigenous and non-Indigenous students realize the value this brings to their education in general,” Stevens said. “Whether it’s climate change and environmental issues, which are pressing on my mind, or just a basic knowledge of American history and how we got here.”
But there’s still work to be done when it comes to knowledge and learning about Indigenous peoples and cultures for many Americans, Stevens said.
“It’s kind of a mystery to me, and a mystery more, that we’ve gone on for so long as a country without studying and acknowledging Indigenous peoples,” Stevens said. “Like something you can’t talk about, like something you want to put in the attic or the basement because it’s too hard to watch – Indigenous history, conquest, genocide, residential school for assimilation – that’s all part of it, but so is Indigenous resilience, endurance and contribution to society.
Published on January 31, 2022 at 10:47 p.m.