Academic Senate Approves Minor in Native American and Indigenous Studies

The UC San Diego Academic Senate Undergraduate Council approved the establishment of a minor in Native American and indigenous studies, effective Fall Quarter 2020, during its May 8 meeting. The minor is expected to be interdisciplinary in its study of the culture, politics, history, and contemporary experiences of indigenous peoples in the United States with comparative examples from communities around the world.

Professor Andrew J. Jolivétte of the Atakapa-Ishak Nation of Louisiana (Tsikip/Opelousa/Heron Band) as well as the incoming chair of the UCSD ethnic studies department, spoke with The UCSD Guardian about his work in getting the minor approved and his personal hopes for its learning goals and objectives.

Upon his hire at UCSD as a senior scholar in 2019, Jolivétte noticed that the university offered many courses on native and indigenous studies and that there was a great amount of research being done on the subject matter. However, he felt that it was “important [to note]” that the university did not offer any type of undergraduate degree program in these topics, and subsequently decided to send the minor degree proposal to the Undergraduate Council.

“I think that a campus as focused on research [and] highly ranked [as UCSD] has to have … native and indigenous studies programs,“ Jolivétte said. “[Setting up the minor] was essentially one of my main goals.”

Jolivétte then talked about the volume of support that his proposal received, specifically crediting ethnic studies Professor Ross H. Frank and Dr. Elena Hood, director of the Intertribal Resource Center, as “vital to these conversations.”

“[There was] a really broad range of folks and disciplines [that voiced their support for Jolivétte’s degree minor request] and I think it really speaks to the fact that Native American and indigenous studies touch so many different areas all across campus,” Jolivétte said. “There is no area that can’t or should not be in contact with indigenous communities.”

In an email to The Guardian, Hood praised the new minor as “an incredible opportunity for our students and communities.”

“Native American students and prospective students benefit from seeing themselves represented and valued in the curriculum,” Hood said. “Non-Native students benefit from a more complete and accurate understanding of our society. The story of the United States is incomplete and erred when the stories of the original people, both historical and contemporary, are excluded.”

When asked by The Guardian about the type of work he anticipates students would be engaging in, Jolivétte said he hopes that the program can connect and collaborate with Native communities.

“I think what we really want to see with the minor … is affording students the opportunity academically to study this area … so that they can go back out to the communities and serve them,” Jolivétte said. “We also want these cultural programs to build stronger relationships with [Native communities] and center the wishes, knowledge of those communities [in] having a greater visibility and presence on campus.”

Specifically, he hopes students will assist in the existing work of the Intertribal Resource Center. Additionally, Jolivétte would like the program to include a local Native culture bearer in residence who shares the traditional knowledge of their community with students.

Finally, Jolivétte shared his hopes that interested students come in with an open mind and have an “appetite and interest for seeing how this applies to their own majors.”

“This [minor] is for every student too, not just those who might be Native or indigenous … because I think it helps many people augment their degrees,” Jolivétte said. “We welcome you and all of you who want to learn more [by taking] these courses and support this area of study.”

Effective Fall 2020, students may begin taking courses for the Native American and indigenous studies minor. Those interested in academic advising for the minor are encouraged to reach out to Professor Andrew J. Jolivétte by email at [email protected].

Artwork by Yui Kita for the UCSD Guardian.

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