Indigenous Humanities at UW Tacoma Summer Institute
October 9, 2023
A dozen students from eight Indigenous communities came together to burnish their research skills and create poetry, film and art during a week-long, hands-on institute.
A group of Native and Indigenous students from across the Pacific Northwest spent part of their summer at UW Tacoma as part of the Summer Institute in Indigenous Humanities (SIIH). The group of 12 students included some from UW’s Tacoma and Seattle campuses, as well as Western Washington University, the University of Idaho and two area community colleges. The group also included a Puyallup Elder and a UW Seattle professor.
UW Tacoma Associate Professor Danica Miller co-directed the Institute along with Lummi Nation citizen and former Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest. The Center for American Indian & Indigenous Studies (CAIIS) at UW in Seattle runs the program. “SIIH is a week-long workshop for undergraduates interested in creating Indigenous poetry, film and art,” said Miller. “We build research skills in the Indigenous humanities while doing hands-on, art-based projects.”
CAIIS runs the Institute every year, but this is the first time UW Tacoma hosted the program. “We will be offering SIIH at UW Tacoma every other summer going forward,” said Miller. This past spring UW Tacoma received $225,000 of a larger $2.25 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to expand access to Native knowledge on campus. Some of that funding will go toward hosting SIIH on campus.
The 12 students represent a diverse mix, not only of colleges and lived experiences, but also Tribal identities. “We had students who were Puyallup, Navajo, Haida, Tlingit, Alutiiq, Suquamish, Shoshone and Lummi,” said Miller. “These perspectives were inherent to the learning we experienced.”
Students created art and they also got the opportunity to learn from Native artists including Ryan! Fedderson and Heid E. Erdrich. At the end of the week, students created a work of art in a style and medium of their choosing. The goal of the Institute was to connect students with each other and with Native and Indigenous art. “I hope students learned that their art, however it is created, is valuable to themselves and to their communities,” said Miller.
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