Mellon Foundation Grant

Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative Receives Mellon Foundation Grant to Build Concentration

PROVIDENCE, September 20, 2019 —The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has announced on September 12 that it will award Brown University’s Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative a $750,000 grant to support the development of an undergraduate concentration in Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS). Over the three-year grant period, the University will expand in the areas of teaching and course development, community engagement, student support, and programming. Brown University’s interdisciplinary Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative (NAISI), established in 2016, builds upon a strong foundation of faculty interest and unique resources. Support from the Mellon Foundation to create an undergraduate concentration will help advance NAIS studies to the next stage at the University. The Mellon Foundation also recently awarded the University’s Haffenreffer Museum a grant for work that will additionally help support Brown’s NAIS program; that grant is focused on documenting, conserving, and reorganizing Native American ethnographic and archaeological collections and making them more accessible to students, researchers, and tribal communities.

Funding to build the concentration will enable NAIS course developments and revision of existing courses through co-teaching, exploring innovative curricular ideas, and facilitating faculty workshops. It will also support hiring individuals to teach additional courses that will help students meet concentration requirements, including advanced graduate student teaching fellows and visiting faculty. Broadly, this will help our students and faculty make community and international contacts in the field of NAIS.

Additionally, the Mellon grant will enable the development of travel-based courses and provide financial assistance to students pursuing unpaid or low-paying summer internships. Brown University also plans to expand NAIS curricular resources (such as library materials, databases, and language instruction packages) and engage in more robust programming that will include public lectures by both academics and tribal community leaders, guest lectures in courses, and engaging with tribes in their homelands or on their reservation lands.

The grant will also enable the University to host a Tribal Community Member in Residence, a key individual who will help expand engagement with students and also serve in an advisory role for faculty on critical topics such as how to deepen representation of Native and Indigenous peoples and cultures and include Indigenous epistemologies within our curriculum.

The University will embark on the formal planning stage of this phase of developing its Native American and Indigenous Studies concentration in January 2020, when Mellon funding begins, with this fall focused on planning and initial outreach to potential academic and tribal partners.