Indigenizing the Academy: Transforming Scholarship and Empowering Communities

Indigenizing the Academy: Transforming Scholarship and Empowering Communities

Indigenizing the Academy: Transforming Scholarship and Empowering Communities

Indigenizing the Academy: Transforming Scholarship and Empowering Communities

Synopsis

Continuing the thought-provoking dialogue launched in the acclaimed anthology Natives and Academics: Researching and Writing about American Indians, leading Native scholars from diverse disciplines and communities offer uncompromising assessments of current scholarship on and by Indigenous peoples and the opportunities awaiting them in the Ivory Tower.

The issues covered are vital and extensive, including how activism shapes the careers of Native academics; the response of academe and Native scholars to current issues and needs in Indian Country; and the problems of racism, territoriality, and ethnic fraud in academic hiring. The contributors offer innovative approaches to incorporating Indigenous values and perspectives into the research methodologies and interpretive theories of scholarly disciplines such as psychology, political science, archaeology, and history and suggest ways to educate and train Indigenous students. They provide examples of misunderstanding and sometimes hostility from both non-Natives and Natives that threaten or circumscribe the careers of Native scholars in higher education. They also propose ways to effect meaningful change through building networks of support inside and outside the Native academic community. Designed for classroom use, Indigenizing the Academy features a series of probing questions designed to spark student discussion and essay-writing.

Excerpt

The reasons that spurred me to pursue a sequel to Natives and Academics: Researching and Writing about American Indians are simple. The book remains popular; over four thousand copies have been sold, and I continue to receive letters from faculty, staff, and nonacademics telling me they want more of the same discussions about the methods and controversies of writing about Indigenous people. And they want the truth about academia, not fence-sitting opinions intended to make everyone happy.

Natives and Academics explores methodological and theoretical questions within American Indian/Native American studies scholarship about Indian agency, author credibility, and the “New Indian History.” But the book almost did not happen. I was told by numerous Native and non-Native colleagues not to pursue the idea of writing about researching Natives that takes issue with standard methodologies and interpretations of researching and writing about Natives. “You’re making a very big mistake,” said one. “This is a chance for everyone with a grudge to get you,” said another.

My major professor at TCU, Donald Worcester, was right in saying that when you want to get ideas across, “You need to use gentle persuasion with your readers. Don’t bludgeon them.” I worked hard a the most emotionally difficult piece I have written, and several times I considered not doing it at all. Ultimately, however, there has only been one negative public review, and it came from anthropologist Jay Miller, who wrote, “Her approach clearly has ‘an ax to grind’ in that the sweep and depth . . .

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