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Articles in SAS Frontiers and Penn Current About NAIS

In the School of Arts and Sciences SAS Frontiers:

Penn Introduces Native American and Indigenous Studies Minor

Assistant Professor Margaret Bruchac is building an interdisciplinary program on long-term strengths.

December 2014

by Susan Ahlborn

A new minor in Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) gives Penn students not just another academic option but another way of looking at the world. Assistant Professor of Anthropology Margaret Bruchac says, “I try to teach students to be aware of the cultural positions they bring to their studies, to be sensitive to multiple possibilities and perspectives and interpretations, and to carefully consider how these fit together.”

Bruchac, of Abenaki Indian ancestry, came to Penn in the spring of 2013 as the first Native American faculty member in the Department of Anthropology. As Coordinator of NAIS, she found, “Penn had the relevant intellectual grounding and many of the courses, but not the cohesion to pull it all together.” 

The University’s history of engagement with indigenous students and Native American studies reaches back to 1755, when Benjamin Franklin recruited Jonathan and Philip Gayienquitioga of the Mohawk nation to attend classes at the Academy of Philadelphia. Engagement with Native American communities continues now in the form of recruitment, outreach, consultation, exhibition, and repatriation projects....

To read the entire article, see: NAIS in SAS Frontiers.


In Penn Current:

Penn adds Native American studies minor

December 18, 2014

by Sarah Welsh

In May of 2014, the School of Arts & Sciences (SAS) Curriculum Committee and Faculty approved a new interdisciplinary NAIS minor, linking 34 courses taught by 19 faculty members across 13 departments and four different schools.

The minor is open to all Penn students, who can choose among NAIS courses offered across the University curriculum, including at Penn Law School, the School of Nursing, and the Departments of History, Linguistics, and Religious Studies at SAS. Bruchac says these courses often address broad disciplinary questions, such as how indigeneity intersects with the environment, or how Native nations reckon identity and sovereignty. “It’s not just about sitting back and studying cultures at a distance,” she says. “It’s about getting engaged with a topic, understanding the real-world effects on the Indigenous people involved, and discovering what insights can emerge.”

NAIS courses have already broadened the academic outlook of some Penn students. Ashley Terry, a biological anthropology major, says taking Native studies courses, “rooted as they always are in explaining and exploring contemporary social issues,” has provided her with skills to discuss other social issues.

Graduate student Stephanie Mach, of Navajo Native American descent, notes that the NAIS initiative brings together resources—faculty, courses, funding, research centers, ongoing projects, partners, and events—that were previously dispersed. She says she is especially enthusiastic about how Native students can benefit. “While our home communities may be far away, the impact of our studies and the partnerships we create here can have immediate and enduring significance,” she says.

To read the entire article, see: NAIS in Penn Current.