Northwestern begins implementing Native American outreach recommendations

Olivia Exstrum, Campus Editor

In response to recommendations from the Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force, Northwestern is planning outreach efforts for Native American students through the Office of Undergraduate Admission, among other initiatives, Provost Daniel Linzer said.

The task force submitted its report to Linzer and University President Morton Schapiro in November. It includes recommendations on how the University can improve its relationship with Native American communities.

“We’re moving ahead on pretty much all of these initiatives,” Linzer said. “The recommendations were a great list of things to look at and we’re working with the schools and the deans and faculty and admissions.”

The admissions office was “swamped” at the end of the year when they received undergraduate applications, Linzer said, but they are now beginning to plan outreach to Native American applicants for next year’s pool. He said those efforts will be implemented throughout the next six to nine months.

NU also funded a course on the oral history of Native Americans for Winter Quarter in response to the report. The course, “Telling the Stories of Native Americans: Oral History, Interviews and Politics,” is offered this quarter and taught by Medill Prof. Loren Ghiglione. 

Linzer said the University is also looking at proposals for next year’s One Book One Northwestern on the topic and is currently in discussion with the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences about faculty recruitment and training. However, Linzer said, it is “essential” a plan is held off until a new Weinberg dean is hired.

The University announced it was joining the Newberry Consortium in American Indian Studies in June 2014. Although NU joined the consortium before the recommendations had been released, Linzer said he consulted with the task force on the matter.

The report is in an effort to strengthen the University’s engagement with Native Americans after the University of Denver released a report in November that found John Evans, founder of DU and Northwestern, to be “deeply culpable” in the Sand Creek Massacre, an event in which American soldiers killed about 150 Native Americans. The University’s own John Evanston Study Committee released its report on John Evans’ role in the massacre in May.

“Northwestern should be as open as it can be about the full story on its history,” Linzer said. “That is why everything is out there for everybody to read. … It’s evidence of Northwestern taking it very seriously.”

The task force was formed in January 2014, Linzer said. Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin and University trustee Phil Harris co-chaired the group. The task force was disbanded after it submitted the recommendations.

Weinberg senior and task force member Heather Menefee said some of the recommendations the group discussed were left out of the final draft.

“Some of our recommendations were not as fleshed out,” she said. “There were a lot of very heated conversations, many things we never came to consensus on at all and many things left out of the final document. It was a still a valuable process, although it should’ve happened over a longer period of time.”

Menefee said the task force has been in little contact since the recommendations were released. She said the creation of the an Indigenous Research Center, listed in the report, was one of the “top priorities.”

“For me, the most important is doing a cluster hire of faculty to lead the Indigenous Research Center,” she said. “It would be a good department and a good number of faculty and supportive staff, and it would be responsible to recruit Native students.”

Linzer said students need to be aware that some plans will take more time to carry out.

“What I hear from some students is a sense that they have a different timetable in mind,” he said, “but you have to understand how things work in academia. I don’t go out and look for faculty to appoint. Schools have to put together hiring plans and all of that is a process that takes months to do.”

Telles-Irvin said Linzer asked her and Harris to co-chair the task force. She said one of the themes of the group’s recommendations is increasing participation, involvement and enrollment of Native American students on campus, as well as support once they arrive.

“Once students get here, what kind of support do they need, what could provide those resources for students of Native American background?” Telles-Irvin said.

She said the task force also recommended ways to establish a better relationship with the Native American community, which includes creating a council of elders from different Native American nations that would convene with Linzer and University President Morton Schapiro on an annual basis.

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Twitter: @olivesocean

Previous stories on this topic:

    University of Denver finds John Evans central to conditions for massacre
    Northwestern releases John Evans report