One Book selection continues Northwestern’s Native American inclusion efforts

Tyler Pager, Campus Editor

The subject of next year’s selection for the One Book One Northwestern program is focused on the history of Native Americans, following a recommendation from the Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force.

The task force released its report in November proposing a series of recommendations for NU to improve its relationship with Native American communities. The task force suggested NU select a book on genocide or colonialism for the One Book program.

Next year’s book, “The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America” by Thomas King, examines the troubling relationship between whites and Native Americans throughout U.S. history. All incoming freshman students will receive a copy of the book, and there will be a series of programs next year centered around the book’s themes.

“This is a very concrete step toward reconciliation, and it shows that this is something (administrators) are concerned about and is a priority of theirs,” said Forrest Bruce, co-president of the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance. “It’s really important to preface a student’s time on campus with the fact that Northwestern has had a terrible relationship with indigenous people.”

The SESP junior said NAISA was asked to give feedback on the book choice after the committee had narrowed it down to two books.

The book takes an in-depth look at Native Americans’ experiences since their first contact with white settlers, looking at how Native Americans have been depicted in pop culture and attempts at cultural assimilation. It also looks at present-day issues such as violence, stereotypes and failed treaties.

“The One Book committee came up with what they said was a great book that is really going to provoke great discussion,” University President Morton Schapiro told The Daily in March. “I’m looking forward to reading it.”

Medill Prof. Loren Ghiglione, the faculty chair of next year’s program, described the book as “history with humor, passion, perceptive analysis.”

“It will raise questions about American history as it is learned in schools, possibly suggest a different narrative about the colonial experience, settlers and American Indians,” he said. “I hope it will help diminish our ignorance about American Indian experience and contribute to a discussion that will go well beyond this year.”

In 2013, NU formed the John Evans Study Committee to investigate the role Evans, one of the University’s founders, played in the Sand Creek Massacre. More than 100 Cheyenne and Arapaho people were killed in the massacre, which occurred in the Colorado Territory during Evans’ time as governor. The committee concluded Evans was not directly involved in the massacre, but the University ignored his moral failures both before and after Sand Creek.

The task force, which was formed in April 2014, made more than 50 recommendations including establishing an Indigenous Research Center and renaming programs and buildings named after NU founder John Evans.

Eugene Lowe Jr., the chair of the One Book selection committee, said he was concerned the reports from both the study committee and the task force would just sit in filing cabinets.

“The committee saw this book as a way to reinforce the attention and continue to provide an opportunity to learn about this very difficult dimension of American history,” Lowe said.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @tylerpager