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University releases report on outreach, inclusion for Native Americans

Tyler Pager, Breaking News Editor

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Northwestern’s Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force released its report Monday outlining a series of recommendations for the University, including establishing an Indigenous Research Center and renaming programs and buildings named after NU founder John Evans.

The report, now in the hands of University President Morton Schapiro and Provost Daniel Linzer, outlines suggestions on how the University can improve its relationship with Native American communities. It offers more than 50 recommendations and suggests hiring a staff member within Multicultural Student Affairs to support Native American students.

The University originally planned to form the task force after the John Evans Study Committee released its report, investigating Evans’ role in the Sand Creek Massacre, which killed about 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho people. However, the task force was fast-tracked after administrators decided, regardless of the report, that NU had progress to make in inclusionary efforts for Native Americans.

The task force, which met nine times between February and October, comprises 21 members including NU undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, professors and members of the Native American community in Chicago. Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs, and Phil Harris (Weinberg ’80), a vice-chair of NU’s Board of Trustees, chaired the committee.

“There are a lot of recommendations, and I think it’s going to take time to absorb them,” Telles-Irvin said. “I think we really took a more comprehensive approach about what would be helpful in reaching out and strengthening our relationship with the Native American community.”

The recommendations are divided into five categories, each addressing a different area where the University can improve.

Psychology Prof. Doug Medin, who served on the committee, said the report is a good first step.

“The recommendations are both concrete and quite extensive,” he said. “I think that indicates the seriousness with which Northwestern is beginning to address its relationship with Native nations and Native American people.

The proposed Indigenous Research Center, which the task force recommends the University explore creating, would focus on researching the needs of Indigenous populations. The center would encourage collaboration with other Native American scholars, offer tenure-track to faculty involved in the center, establish a postdoctoral program and offer a certificate or minor in Indigenous studies for undergraduate students.

The committee also suggests the University make efforts to improve outreach programs for Native American students by bolstering support for the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance and creating programming around the experiences of Native American students.

The report further addresses the representation of Native American students, faculty and staff on campus. Recommendations include hiring a Native American recruiter, developing partnerships with organizations designed to support Native American high school students and creating a scholarship initiative for members of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Nation, among other Native American groups.

In addition, the committee details ways in which the University can build relationships with Native American nations, institutions and communities. Recommendations include ensuring the Native American population is “visibly represented” in NU’s diversity strategic plan and identifying an office to serve as the Native American liaison to develop relationships with Native American communities. The task force also urges the University to re-engage Native American alumni through purposeful programing.

In shaping their recommendations, the task force studied nine peer institutions to see what student groups, academic opportunities and other programs they offer.

“(Schapiro and Linzer) asked for our recommendations,” Harris said. “I’m confident they will look at what we recommended and determine what makes the most sense for Northwestern.”

The recommendations come amid campus events celebrating Native American Heritage Month. NAISA is holding events observing the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre. They also come two weeks after the John Evans Study Committee at the University of Denver released its report about Evans and the massacre, which disagreed with parts of NU’s own committee’s report on the issue, released in May.

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Twitter: @tylerpager

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