Northwestern professor offers Native American studies class amid John Evans debate
January 15, 2014
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Despite the creation of an Introduction to Native American Studies course, members of the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance are continuing their push for the creation of a specific Native American studies department or program at Northwestern.
The course, taught this quarter by Prof. John Marquez, is listed under Latina and Latino Studies and will examine a broad range of topics related to indigenous people.
However, Marquez said his class will not focus on NU founder John Evans or the Sand Creek Massacre, an attack that killed more than 100 Cheyenne and Arapaho people in the Colorado Territory during Evans’ time as the territory’s governor.
“I did provide a space in the syllabus for students to propose materials that they’d like to discuss and perhaps it would come up then, but at this point it’s not really something that we’re covering,” Marquez said.
Provost Dan Linzer formed a study committee last year to investigate whether Evans played a role in the massacre. A second committee dedicated to making recommendations to improve the current campus climate for Native Americans was supposed to be formed once the first committee finished its research in June 2014.
However, following a John Evans Study Committee open forum in October, which University President Morton Schapiro called “productive,” NU began soliciting nominations for people to sit on the second committee.
Heather Menefee, NAISA co-president, said she appreciates the effort Marquez is making to include Native American studies in the curriculum, but she is looking for a more concerted effort from the University.
“We’re looking for a permanent program or department in Native American studies with its own faculty,” the Weinberg junior said. “Of course this isn’t what we’ve been asking for, so we are going to keep asking for it, but it’s a wonderful thing that Dr. Marquez is teaching this class.”
Menefee said she thought it was the first survey course in Native American studies at NU. A visiting professor taught a course two years ago, but it focused on American Indian history.
Marquez decided to teach the class because of his interest in the topic, the absence of Native American studies courses and students’ involvement with issues of indigenous people.
“From what I have witnessed, students have a passionate interest in these types of topics and want these types of courses, so why not provide them with want they want?” he said.
Weinberg junior Kaitlin Hansen is one of about 30 students enrolled in the course this quarter. Hansen said she enrolled because she wanted to learn more about Native American studies, as she had no prior knowledge of the subject.
“I was hoping we would talk about Northwestern’s involvement with John Evans and just given our geographical location in the Midwest — Chicago has one of the highest populations of Native Americans,” she said. “I think it’s very, very important that we talk about this issue because it is not something that has gone away conveniently.”