Growing Engagement with Native Communities

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Native American Man, Pow Wow Regalia Closeup. Photo by Andrew James

Building on its work to engage and connect with local Indigenous communities, Carleton College, a private liberal arts institution in Minnesota, has launched a three-year initiative to expand education partnerships with Native Americans and Indigenous peoples.

Known as Indigenous Engagement in Place, this effort is funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Through the project, Carleton seeks to form relationships with more Indigenous partners, including specific tribes and Native-led community organizations; develop a minor in Native American and Indigenous studies; enhance scholarship opportunities; and promote a more inclusive and culturally aware curriculum.

“[T]his initiative will allow us to make progress on an important goal of the College’s strategic direction by centering Indigenous engagement in our work, expanding collaborations with Native Nations and organizations, and building new partnerships with tribal colleges for joint curricular initiatives and research partnerships,” Carleton President Alison Byerly said in a press release.

Indigenous Engagement in Place will prioritize goals and projects established collaboratively with community partners, faculty, staff, students, and campus leaders. To support this work, Carleton will hire a postdoctoral fellow to help implement Indigenous-focused curricula in environmental and American studies.

The grant will also cover several yet-to-be-determined collaborative research projects between the college and nearby Native communities and organizations, which will account for 62% of the funds.

The initiative is part of the Mellon Foundation’s broader Humanities for All Times program, which seeks to address inequity and belonging by applying humanities education to real-world issues. Carleton is part of the program’s second cohort of 10 liberal arts colleges.

This effort marks just one of many that Carleton has undertaken since 2020 to bolster its relationship with and create opportunities to learn about Native communities. These efforts include the issuance of a land acknowledgement, the chartering of an Indigenous student organization, and the creation of a series of workshops, exhibitions, and convocations to tell the stories of Native peoples.

Additionally, the college hired an inaugural Indigenous Communities Liaison in 2022, who is tasked with strengthening partnerships with Native organizations and tribal governments and promoting the well-being of Indigenous students, faculty, staff, and visitors on campus.

Carleton’s work through Indigenous Engagement in Place will further solidify the college’s commitment to Native communities, Meredith McCoy, a project co-director and assistant professor of American studies and history at Carleton, said in the release.

“Our work on this initiative helps move our land acknowledgement from words to action,” she said.