by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
Dickinson was recently awarded an $800,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to support the development of a Dickinson center and program devoted to Native American and Indigenous studies. The three-year grant seeks to advance the national conversation on, and contribute to scholarships relating to, the study of Native Americans and Indigenous peoples, with a focus on the complicated history of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.
“The creation of the center and enhancement of our curriculum in Native American studies will enrich our academic program, address the college’s legacy regarding the Carlisle Indian School and place Dickinson in the heart of national discussions on Native American futures,” says Neil Weissman, provost and dean of the college, who co-wrote the grant application with Darren Lone Fight, an Indigenous scholar, assistant professor of American studies, citizen of the Muscogee Nation and an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa and Sahnish Nation).
The project builds on strong faculty and student interest in this largely understudied field, signaled by enrollment in related courses and will expand the college’s Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center, a resource for Native peoples, students and scholars around the world.
The first step will be creating a Dickinson center devoted to teaching and learning about Indigenous and Native American issues of the past, present and future. Along with the center’s director, an advisory council representing different nations will advise faculty as they develop or revise courses and lessons on related topics. The Center for the Futures of Native Peoples also will host symposia on Native American and Indigenous issues and campus events, including residencies and lectures by Native American and Indigenous scholars.
Plans are to hire a director for the center this spring and to formally launch the center soon thereafter. Eventually, the college plans to establish a major in Native American and Indigenous studies.
Dickinson will expand on the work of the Carlisle Indian School Digital Center while launching a center and program in Native American and Indigenous studies. Photo by Dan. Loh.
Meanwhile, work is already under way under Lone Fight, the center’s interim director. This summer, the center will offer a study group to empower faculty with resources and guidance on developing and revising courses and lessons on Indigenous and Native American issues. The center is also a cosponsor of The Carlisle Project, a performance and discussion rooted in archival research on Indian boarding schools, with plans to bring an Indigenous scholar to campus for a short residency next year.
This time—and this community—are right for the important work ahead, Lone Fight says.
“Carlisle is a major site of memory for Indigenous people—Native Americans, especially,” says Lone Fight, referring to the multigenerational effects of the Carlisle Indian School on its thousands of students, their families and their descendants, “and Dickinson has such a close and complicated history with the Carlisle Indian School. This is an opportunity for Dickinson to turn boldly toward its history and continue the hard work of reconciling with that past, as well as an opportunity for our students and faculty to expand on their voiced interests in Native American and Indigenous studies and make more robust our connections with Indigenous peoples.”
Published February 6, 2023