Center for Global Indigenous Cultures and Environmental Justice to be created at Syracuse University, as part of Mellon Foundation grant
December 28, 2021
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a grant of $1.5 million over three years to strengthen Indigenous studies at Syracuse University. The grant will enable the University to create the multi-disciplinary Center for Global Indigenous Cultures and Environmental Justice. The grant will also expand and enhance curriculum and course offerings in Native American and Indigenous studies.
Scott Manning Stevens, associate professor and director of the Native American and Indigenous studies program, will serve as executive director of the new center. He is a 2021-22 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Stevens says, "Even though there is tremendous diversity among Indigenous peoples, there are global Indigenous issues that span places like Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, Canada and the United States and some parts of South America, there are common experiences of settler colonialism and common environmental challenges with a global reach."
Provost Gretchen Ritter says, "I congratulate the Syracuse University team that created this compelling proposal for the Mellon Foundation's highly competitive grants process. The project addresses all aspects of teaching, research and service in global Indigenous studies. It will create opportunities for faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students to explore how Indigenous cultures can add to perspectives from across academic disciplines and provide insight into solutions for some of the world's most pressing problems."
Stevens says that the center will explore options for Indigenous communities to take on common challenges such as cultural heritage preservation and language revitalization, defending political sovereignty, and climate change and the environment.
"Today's students realize that they are on the front lines of climate change and environmental justice issues. They have a sense of urgency because they know that they will witness real life situations in communities in the Arctic, the Andes and other marginal climates throughout the world."
"This generation and, in particular, our Indigenous students recognize that their cultures and others from around the globe offer wisdom that can contribute to solutions for these very urgent problems," says Regina Jones, assistant director of the Native Student Program.
Student engagement is at the heart of the center's design. Kishi Animashaun Ducre, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion in the College of Arts and Sciences and associate professor of African American studies, whose research and teaching focuses on race, gender and environmental justice, will contribute to the center's efforts as faculty advisor. In this role, she will support curriculum development, facilitate student engagement activities and lead assessment of the center's research framework.
"I want to thank everyone involved in this proposal for their tremendous efforts to help us realize this exciting goal," says Karin Ruhlandt, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "We're so energized about the opportunities that the new center will bring our students, faculty and the whole campus, as well as for meaningful collaboration with our Native and Indigenous neighbors. Professor Stevens has the vision and relationships to make the center a wonderful academic and cultural asset and will work across disciplinary boundaries to facilitate opportunities in Iroquois linguistics, art history, museum studies, environmental science and policy, food studies and more."
Stevens says, "Students minoring in Native American studies tell us that it helps them stand out in the job market in all kinds of fields. It gives them a whole set of talking points and perspectives that can be interesting to a future employer. We have also found that museums, galleries and cultural institutions are specifically asking for individuals who are trained in Indigenous issues and have experience working with the source communities regarding appropriate display and preservation of cultural artifacts."
He adds, "Now, more than ever, is the time we can reach people who are concerned about and involved in these pressing issues. I am excited to get started."