The Native American studies program at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire has come a long way from having just one half-time professor and offering two classes when it was established in 1972 by then-college president John Kemeny.
Now, 40 years later, the program boasts nine faculty and offers 25 classes, though former department chair and history professor Colin Calloway says there’s still room for improvement, reported The Dartmouth.
“It’s an occasion to pause, look back and think, ‘OK, that’s how far we’ve come,’ and see the opportunities for future growth and future development,” he told the student newspaper.
Bruce Duthu, the Native American studies department chair, is working on getting a program going that would work with Pueblo communities that Calloway says would add a “new dimension” to the program.
The department is also looking for a Native American art professor.
“It’s a gap in our curriculum, especially since we have such a relationship with the Hood Museum [at Dartmouth], which has such a great collection of Native American art,” Calloway told The Dartmouth. “It’s a shame to not have a faculty member who can take advantage of those kinds of things.”
One of the first students to take classes in the program, Michael Hanitchak, remembers when the program was controversial because it wasn’t seen as a legitimate field of study.
“There is a certain amount of remembering how difficult it was to be involved during a time when it was controversial and a certain amount of satisfaction that it has been very successful,” Hanitchak told The Dartmouth.
Monica Stretten, a member of the Chickahominy Tribe, told The Dartmouth that she came to the college specifically for the school’s Native American studies program and community.
“I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to study these things because it exposes me to new ideas, and it also reaffirms what I’ve been feeling,” Stretten told the student newspaper. “It’s sad that sometimes people don’t take Native American studies very seriously. It’s very important in terms of social context, and you can apply it to whatever field you want.”
She also feels the program helps Native American students get recognized in cotemporary society.
“The first thing you think of when you think of Natives is Indians from the 1800s with headdresses,” Stretten said. “You don’t think about someone like me who is in your classroom or your friend. You don’t think of them in a modern context, as doctors, lawyers or politicians.”
A 40th anniversary Native American Studies Symposium will be held Friday, September 28 titled “Indigenous Rights, Sovereignty and Nationhood” from 4-6 p.m. Ned Blackhawk, a member of the Te-Moak Tribe of the Western Shoshone and a professor of history and American studies at Yale University, says Dartmouth’s Native American studies program is highly regarded.
“Dartmouth’s program is really one of the jewels in the crown of the Ivy League,” Blackhawk, who will speak at the symposium, told the student newspaper. “The program is very well-known—visiting professors, museum, lots of faculty members, far more Native American studies faculty members. These all contribute to the flourishing community.”
Seven out of nine of the current faculty members in the Native American studies program at Dartmouth identify as Native American.