UCLA faculty leading multicampus effort to highlight Indigenous voices
UCLA faculty and staff are part of a group of University of California scholars who work alongside Indigenous peoples to foster deeper understanding and productive collaborations between UC campuses and universities. tribal communities.
Leaders of the initiative hope to reestablish and nurture relationships with Indigenous communities so that Indigenous voices, and particularly those in California, are at the forefront in lecture halls, focus groups and research projects.
The project, titled Centering Tribal Stories: Gifting Knowledge of Cultural Preservation in Difficult Times, was created with a three-year grant of $ 879,000 from the Office of the President of the University of California. It is led by Mishuana Goeman, Tonawanda Band of Seneca, UCLA Special Advisor to the Chancellor on Native American and Native Affairs.
She is joined by Wendy Teeter, UCLA Repatriation Coordinator and Senior Curator of Archeology at UCLA’s Fowler Museum, as well as seven academics from three other UC campuses – UC Davis, UC Riverside and UC San Diego.
Working with representatives from indigenous communities across California, UC academics are creating a collection of educational materials that address issues of heritage preservation and repatriation – the return of human remains from museums and institutions to tribes and to ancestral communities for reburial – as well as to provide guidance for graduate student researchers who are pursuing collaboration with Native American communities.
Work on the initiative began in earnest this fall as researchers set out to strengthen existing relationships – and build new ones – with Indigenous communities.
“The protection of cultural heritage is of the utmost urgency for many Indigenous students at the University of California and their communities, as their irreplaceable cultural sites and natural environments are increasingly threatened by development and climate change.” said Goeman. “UC researchers have conducted specific conversations on these issues in environmental science, biology, ethnography and archeology, but the millennia of expertise within the indigenous communities who reciprocally live with these lands are often neglected. “
One of the goals of the project is to encourage interdisciplinary conversations that highlight the traditions of Indigenous peoples and the continued stewardship of the land. Goeman said these discussions can help promote a better understanding of the effects of climate and environmental change over time, particularly in California.
“Providing a multidisciplinary understanding of the problems will lead to better dialogues and innovative solutions,” she said.
To this end, the professors involved in the program represent a wide range of academic disciplines and have extensive experience in consulting and collaborating with Indigenous communities. In addition to Goeman and Teeter, academics involved include Beth Rose Middleton (Afro-Caribbean, Eastern Europe), Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie (Seminole-Muscogee-Navajo) and Kathleen Whiteley (Wiyot origin) of UC Davis; Clifford Trafzer (Wyandot and German) and Mark Minch-de Leon (Susanville Indian Rancheria) of UC Riverside; and Isabel Rivera Collazo (Borikua) and Keolu Fox (Native Hawaiian) from UC San Diego.
Educational material created through the project will be hosted on a UCLA website called Bring our ancestors home, which until now has provided resources to Indigenous communities on the Native American Burial Repatriation Act and the process of returning ancestral remains. By fall 2022, project leaders hope to offer eight to ten new sets of educational resources on the site. The material will be made available to the public online and used in an inter-campus course for UC students in the summer of 2023.
Topics include the introduction of native lands and lands, repatriation of land – a term commonly used by indigenous scholars that better describes the relationship of indigenous communities to land and the value of ancestral land-guarding practices – repatriation ancestors, healing from historical trauma through protection of heritage and the arts, protection of indigenous genetic data resources and the impact of climate change on cultural heritage sites and practices.
Goeman said: “Our hope is that this work will have a broad impact within UC and beyond.”