5C Community Shows Support for Indigenous Studies Department

Students and faculty members across the 5Cs are continuing to lobby for the creation of an intercollegiate Native American and Indigenous studies (NAIS) department, which the Indigenous Student Alliance began formally campaigning for in February. 

At an Associated Students of Pomona College Senate meeting Oct. 24, the Senate decided that a group of Pomona students, including ISA members, would draft a resolution for the creation of an NAIS department. The resolution, which would specify resources and initiatives needed to create the department, would be made part of the official record and accessible by students, faculty members and administrators. 

In October, ASPC published a proposal for an NAIS department on its website. The proposal, written by the ISA in 2012 and updated last semester, outlines the mission and learning objectives of the potential department. 

“Although there are few [Native American] students attending the Claremont Colleges, the lack of institutional support and resources available to these students undermines the Claremont Colleges’ intended commitment to diversity and unintentionally reproduces systems of assimilation and acculturation,” the proposal reads. 

A group of faculty members is also working on a formal proposal to be presented to the Academic Deans Committee and the Council of the Presidents, both 7C intercollegiate groups.  

Scripps professor of psychology and the chair of the intercollegiate Africana Studies department Sheila Walker, a member of the faculty group, wrote in an email to TSL that the department is “absolutely necessary.”

“In addition to providing a more comprehensive history of the U.S. for students, the department would serve to help with the recruitment of native students,” she wrote.  

Scott Scoggins serves as director of Pitzer College’s Native Pipeline to College, a college preparatory summer program for Native American high school students, and is also a community scholar in residence at Pomona’s Draper Center. Scoggins noted the lack of native and tribal representation at the 5Cs and said that would be essential to have “local elders involved” in developing a Native American studies program at the Claremont Colleges.

“If you want [Native Americans] to send their students here, you have to get them involved,” he said. 

Pitzer sociology professor Erich Steinman, a proponent of the potential department, is a member of the Professional Development Network, a group of 5C faculty members who organize behind Native American and indigenous issues. He noted that the network has been in talks about an intercollegiate NAIS department for about three years. 

ASPC Commissioner of Academic Affairs Emily Glass PO ’15, who supports the motion of the NAIS department, emphasized the benefit of a 5C department, noting that many of the 5Cs already include courses relevant to NAIS. 

“Creation of a 5C department would centralize resources and allow for more collaboration,” Glass wrote in an email to TSL

ISA member Joanmarie Del Vecchio PO ’15, who is collaborating on the resolution, noted preexisting interest in the subject area, citing both a list of current courses that are relevant to NAIS and majors that have already been created by students.

Scoggins cautioned that the creation of the department should not be rushed. 

“We have the resources to do it right,” he said. “We have to be very thoughtful and very mindful in how we move.” 

Steinman emphasized the learning and growth potential that the department could bring to students. 

“Everyone has more to learn than they can imagine from the presence of a Native American indigenous studies program, and that’s something I’ve come to realize more deeply over time,” he said. 

The list of NAIS courses and the ISA proposal are available at aspc.pomona.edu/senate/documents.

Update: This article was updated Dec. 5. It incorrectly stated that ASPC released the proposal for an NAIS department last spring, when in fact it published the proposal in October.

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