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Current Projects

In November 2018, the Office of Undergraduate Admission convened a far-reaching three-day symposium, which produced the report, A Community for All: Indigenous Student Initiative Committee Statement. The report contains more than 25 specific bullet points with implementation recommendations and ends with “10 Key Steps to Indigenous Engagement.” Below we outline those steps and include snapshots of work to fulfill these recommendations. 

1. Begin with knowledge that the road ahead takes commitment, but it is not complicated, and it is rewarding.

We reflect on and use this knowledge daily, and we are putting it into practice with endeavors such as those highlighted below. Stay in touch with this website and the Native American Engagement blog to learn more and how to participate.

2. Be prepared for painful conversations. Approach the conversation with a goal of healing.

We are moving towards healing with respect and awareness of the accounting that is taking place on our campus concerning slavery, dispossession, and the ongoing relationship between colonialism and higher education. Along with partners across campus, we are implementing recommendations from the campus-wide Task Force on Untold Stories and Disenfranchised Populations, which issued its report in Spring 2021. In Fall 2021, two important on-campus events, the In the Wake of Slavery and Dispossession Symposium and the exhibition, Each/Other: Marie Watt and Cannupa Hanska Luger, opened significant spaces for dialogue around these crucial issues, with student, staff, faculty, and community input.

In the words of Emory alum Klamath Henry (Shasta/Tuscarora, C19), "From my time on campus I can say that mostly, through both the good and the bad, I have learned how to be strong. Most people have listened to me, and because of that, together, we as an Emory community have grown stronger as beings. I hope that my ancestors are proud of me and what I am doing."

3. Acknowledge that the land that Emory University sits on is the homeland of the Muscogee (Creek) people, and that the Muscogee (Creek) people were dispossessed of their land in this region during the 1820s.

The Emory University land acknowledgement was adopted by the Emory University Board of Trustees in September 2021. We consider it a working document that requires renewing commitment as our relationships to the Muscogee Nation and to Emory's diverse communities change.

4. Overcome current lack of Indigenous student community at the university:

  • Establish a full-time employee in the Office of Admission to oversee outreach, guide selection, and serve in the short-term as mentor for enrolled students.

Associate Dean Beth Michel, hired in December 2019, currently serves in this role and as Lead for Native American Affairs.

  • Focus outreach initiatives on Indigenous students around the country; conduct on-campus recruiting events for Indigenous students..

Working with Tribal Nations and communities is one of our top priorities. Emory's ongoing partnership with College Horizons is an excellent example.

  • Native American health is an area of major opportunity for Emory to use its resources to connect to needs of Tribal Nations and communities. This can be done by expanding the partnership with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its experts in Indigenous populations and connecting current and prospective students to members of the university and the CDC community.

Emory's renowned School of Nursing includes an Indigenous faculty member—Angela Haynes Ferere (Lumbee)—who is engaged in recruitment of nursing students from Native communities.

The Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative (NAISI) organizes an annual speaker for Emory's celebration of National Public Health Week.

Speakers and panels on the connections between health, wellness, and Tribal sovereignty regularly include members of NAISI. In Spring 2022 the Emory Global Health Institute hosted a panel on equitable partnerships in global health. NAISI is organizing a panel on Indigenous food sovereignty for Fall 2022.

5. Engage with Muscogee (Creek) and Cherokee Nations (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians), with leadership in Oklahoma, Alabama, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Beginning in 2007, Professor Craig Womack worked on initiatives to establish relationships with Muscogee (Creek) and Cherokee citizens. He organized public programs and film screenings, offered coursework in Native American literature, history, and other fields, assisted with exhibitions at the Carlos Museum and University Libraries, and contributed to the journalSouthern Spaces, published by the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship.

Following Professor Womack's retirement, faculty and staff continued this work, along with the Office of the President, to establish the Indigenous Language Path Working Group and host delegations of elected leaders and cabinet officials from the Muscogee Nation, as well as faculty, staff, and students from the College of the Muscogee Nation.  

6. Assess university collections for treatment of funerary remains and objects in accordance with NAGPRA.

Professor Megan O'Neil (Department of Art and Art History & Faculty Curator, Art of the Americas at the Carlos Museum of Art) is spearheading the partnerships between Emory and the Muscogee Nation to secure the repatriation of ancestors.

7. Preserve current faculty lines involved in teaching and scholarship in Indigenous topics. These currently exist in the departments of English, Anthropology, and History.

Professors Mandy Suhr-Sytsma, Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez, and Malinda Maynor Lowery are leading the English Department's efforts to hire an eminent scholar in Native American and Indigenous literatures to join the faculty in Fall 2023.

8. Engage with all members of the Emory community doing related work. Consider the role that non-Indigenous faculty, students, and staff—and the institution as a whole–can play in the fostering of a supportive climate for recruitment and support.

The NAISI committee welcomes members of the Emory community who value Emory's connections with Indigenous people and Tribal Nations, as well as scholarly engagement with Indigenous Studies. Our members include: 

Lori Jahnke (Emory Libraries), Debra Vidali (Department of Anthropology), Helen Baker (School of Nursing), Taina Figueroa (Office of Racial and Cultural Engagement), and others.

9. Consider a cluster hire of Indigenous faculty. A postdoctoral position might also help create momentum.

In Fall 2021, Malinda Maynor Lowery joined Emory's History Department as the first among a series of faculty hiring efforts dedicated to Indigenous Studies. The Department of History has hired Mike Mortimer as a post-doctoral fellow in Indigenous history for 2022-2024. 

10. Continue dialogue with the engaged and committed group that has come together. Treat doing so as a responsibility of current and future university leadership.

Members of the NAISI committee are engaged in efforts across the University, staying in dialogue with administrative leaders in the Office of the President, the College of Arts and Sciences, Campus Life, Emory Sustainability Initiatives, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and more.