Native American and Indigenous Studies minor is set to launch in the 2020-2021 academic year

Amy Li, Campus Editor

Weinberg introduced a Native American and Indigenous Studies minor, passed during an October faculty meeting and starting in the 2020-2021 academic year, according to Weinberg associate dean for undergraduate affairs Mary Finn.

The Center for Native American and Indigenous Research established the minor in response to recommendations from the John Evans Study Committee and the Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force. Its creation addressed a key NAOITF recommendation to provide undergraduates with a certificate or minor in Indigenous Studies, according to the minor proposal to the Weinberg Curriculum Committee.

Finn told The Daily that she hopes the minor will signal welcome to current and prospective Native American students and provide support for faculty members in Native American studies to help them receive leadership positions in college.

“I think it’s going to create a wonderful synergistic faculty community — which is really the most important thing — that we have a faculty presence in Native American studies that’s growing and strong,” Finn said. “That then helps us diversify our Weinberg college leadership, which is important.”

Most of the faculty who will teach courses in the minor are Native American, Finn said. The courses offered in the minor are already available for undergraduate students but are listed under different departments like anthropology, sociology and global health. The minor identified and organized all courses related to Native American and Indigenous Studies.

Though the minor will launch next fall, students who are interested in minoring in Native American and Indigenous Studies can begin taking the available courses now, Finn said.

In 2017, Weinberg Dean Adrian Randolph appointed professors Patty Loew and Kelly Wisecup as the co-directors of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Center, created after the Dean’s Office received a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support Native American and Indigenous studies.

Loew and Wisecup then began building a minor, which first requires enough faculty to teach the required courses, Finn said. The center’s co-directors hired into the minor across different departments, including sociology, English and history.

Loew, who is a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, said that in the process of creating the minor, she and her colleagues focused on achieving a set of learning objectives that they hope students achieve by the end of their minor courses.

“What should someone who gets a minor in native studies know at the end of his or her journey?” Loew said. “These are concepts like sovereignty, treaty rights, mobility. They should understand indigenous research and study methods, talking circles, reciprocity, respect, responsibility — values that govern indigenous research and studies.”

Loew said the minor is structured around foundational courses at the core and four cardinal directions emerging from the center. At the center, students will be able to choose between one of three foundational courses in sociology, history and English.

In the Northern direction, the courses pertain to creative expression, including topics in English literature and art history. In the East, topics cover the social sciences such as anthropology, law and history. The South will deal with global indigenous health and environmental science. The fourth direction is focused on global indigeneity, comparing and contrasting the differences between Native American and indigenous studies from a global perspective, Loew explained.

Loew said besides the work faculty and administrators have put into the minor’s establishment, “this was the result of student activism.”

“I don’t think Northwestern would have committed resources on its own without pressure from students,” Loew said. “This is a really successful story on the part of Northwestern students.”

Northwestern’s Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance and other student activists have advocated for the minor since the center’s establishment. Randolph also said students were the main catalysts behind the minor, as well as the John Evans report in 2014.

Randolph said he supported devoting a research center to support faculty studying Native American and Indigenous Studies since he assumed his role as Weinberg Dean in 2015. He said he hopes the minor is the next step in the college’s continuing support for these faculty members.

“My hope is that the minor is just the most recent, exciting result of hiring faculty and having them form an intellectual community,” Randolph said.

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