UNCP Expands American Indian Studies Programs
Chancellor Kyle R. Carter has announced the formation of a Southeast American Indian Studies (SEAIS) program at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The program is expected to be ready by the fall semester 2012.
The announcement came one day after UNCP kicked off a 14-month celebration of its 125th anniversary.
Carter said the program will transform the university into a center for the study of American Indians in the southeastern U.S. He said the university, with its existing American Indian programs, is ideally located to accomplish its mission.
"Its academic, research and outreach missions will benefit all tribes in the Southeast and serve as a resource to all who are interested in American Indian life," Carter said. "Within the UNC Pembroke campus, the program will act as the intersection between disciplines outside of American Indian Studies to promote interdisciplinary curricula, research and outreach about and for the American Indian.
"This university has many attributes that make us unique because of our location," he continued. "I have pledged that the historic purpose for which our institution was founded would remain a core attribute, even as UNCP continues to grow more complex and serves broader constituencies and purposes."
The program was approved by the UNC General Administration. Its funding is included in UNC system's budget proposal to the North Carolina General Assembly.
SEAIS will consolidate UNCP's Department of American Indian Studies. The consolidated program will continue administratively in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Ultimately, Carter said the Southeast American Indian Studies Program would become a stand-alone school alongside the schools of Business, Education and Graduate Studies.
The potential for the program is unlimited.
"Over time, we expect to develop other academic programs such as anthropology and archaeology to support the academic mission of the future school," Carter said. "It is our goal that the program for Southeastern American Indian Studies becomes the national resource on social, political, economic and cultural attributes of Southeastern American Indians."
Carter charged UNCP's Provost Dr. Kenneth Kitts with forming an implementation team to establish the program by fall 2012 and prepare it for transition to school status.
Kitts said the new program would draw upon the existing strengths of UNCP's American Indian programs, including the Department of American Indian Studies, the Native American Resource Center and the special collections of the Mary Livermore Library.
"Our goal is to draw from these existing strengths and to use the program for Southeastern American Indian Studies as a vehicle to expand our academic footprint as we become the national resource that the chancellor mentioned," Kitts said. "Along the way we will also be eager to add new components to the program. That will take the form of everything from an expanded outreach effort to the development of a repository for archival collections that will assist future generations of researchers."
Greg Richardson, executive director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, also spoke during the press conference. He said the commission has been in consultation with UNCP about the program. He hailed it as the realization of a long-held goal.
"The Lumbee started this process in 1887," Richardson said. "We, the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, want to let you know that we are here to support you."
Dr. Stan Knick, director and curator of the Native American Resource Center, said the new program holds great promise for American Indian Studies at UNCP and for the Resource Center, which is an archive, museum and research center.
"This is a beginning place," Knick said. "The potential is unlimited. There are approximately 50 non-federally recognized tribes in the southeastern U.S. We need to reach out to them."
Dr. Mary Ann Jacobs, chair of the Department of American Indian Studies, said UNCP, with its existing programs and faculty, is the right place to serve as a center for research and information about American Indians of the region.
Dr. Jacobs said SEAIS would fill a void in the research and understanding of Southeastern tribes.
"No one is doing this research now," she said. "We need to know so much more about the tribes in the Southeast - Who are they? How many are they? What is their health and economic status? There is so much to learn."
Jacobs served on the committee that paved the way for the Southeast American Indian Studies program, and she will continue working with the implementation committee.
"We've worked hard as a committee to get the Southeastern American Indian Studies program to this point, and there is a lot more work to do," Jacobs said. "Chancellor Carter challenged us to dream big, and we did. Turning this program into a school at UNCP is a big dream."
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