$225,000 from the Mellon Foundation will support American Indian and Indigenous (AII) community-building events, bring more AII voices to campus, and power a summer institute on Indigenous humanities.
UW Tacoma has been awarded $225,000 as part of a larger $2.25 million grant from the Mellon Foundation. The bulk of the Mellon grant will go to support tri-campus programming of UW’s Center for American Indian & Indigenous Studies (CAIIS). CAIIS’s mission is to support American Indian, Alaska Native and Indigenous communities across all three UW campuses as well in the larger community.
In 2019, the Mellon Foundation awarded CAIIS a $1.82 million Pathways and Partnerships grant to support undergraduate research, graduate training and teaching in American Indian and Indigenous Studies. UW Tacoma was able to use some of those funds locally to support Indigenous faculty and to host programming including lectures by Indigenous scholars. Those funds were also used to bring Washington State Poet Laureate Arianne True to campus as a guest lecturer. True is a member of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations.
“I think Mellon was impressed by what were able to do with those funds at UW Tacoma and this new grant reflects that and will allow us to expand on what we are doing,” said Associate Professor and CAIIS Co-Director Danica Miller.
Miller sees this funding as a vital step in the process of creating space for Native and Indigenous students on campus. “I want Native students to come to campus knowing that their knowledge is respected and valued,” she said.
One way to do this is by making space – literally. The Family Room opened in the fall of 2022. “We know that Native students thrive in academic spaces where they have their own traditional community space,” she said. “The Family Room is a good first step.”
The next step is to utilize the Mellon grant to host events like community lunches or workshops. “The idea is to bring Native knowledge holders into the Family Room,” she said. “It doesn’t stop there, we also want to bring Native knowledge into the classroom.”
To that end, Mellon grant funds will go towards holding the Summer Institute in Indigenous Humanities at UW Tacoma in August. “This is a week-long, intensive workshop for undergrads that are interested in the Indigenous humanities,” said Miller. She will co-facilitate the Institute alongside former Washington State Poet Laureate and member of the Lummi Nation Rena Priest.
Miller says the portion of this new Mellon grant awarded to UW Tacoma will make it possible to host the summer institute on campus more often. Some of those funds will also go toward supporting a “writing cohort” for graduate students and faculty members to come together on writing projects. “The idea is for faculty members to mentor graduate students and to model how to do research,” said Miller.
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