40 Years of American Indian Studies at UMDLINDA LEGARDE GROVER: It was during fall quarter of 1972 that the first American Indian Studies class was taught at the University of Minnesota Duluth. The school year 2012-13 has been designated our 40th Anniversary Commemorative Year.
Forty years — my goodness!
It was during fall quarter of 1972 that the first American Indian Studies class was taught at the University of Minnesota Duluth. The school year 2012-13 has been designated our 40th Anniversary Commemorative Year, and will be celebrated with a number of special events.
American Indian Studies at UMD was begun through the efforts of a small group of warriors, young Native veterans who had returned from Vietnam, who asked if the university might consider offering such a class.
The course, an introduction to American Indians, was taught by Prof. Robert Powless (who, though retired, still teaches at UMD’s University for Seniors). Right around that same time, the young men formed the university-wide Anishinaabe Club, which through the years has continued its historical, grassroots relationship with the Department of American Studies, alumni and the community.
Since that very first introductory class, and with the continuing support and hard work of many people, American Indian Studies at UMD has grown from a single class to a program then a department. Since 1979 students have been able to complete a minor, and in 1994 the Bachelor of Arts major was added.
The department now offers courses of study in social sciences, the arts, history and culture, and language. In the fall semester of 2011, a graduate program, the Masters of Tribal Administration and Governance, was added; there are now more than 50 MTAG graduate students.
The 40th Anniversary Commemorative Year began last month at the UMD American Indian Programs Fall Feast, to which students, faculty and staff were invited, as well as community friends and family (special thanks to the American Indian Learning & Resource Center, which hosted this event). At the feast, the Mike Munnell Scholarship, which will be awarded every spring to the American Indian Studies junior with the highest grade point average, was noted.
Mike Munnell was the first student to graduate with a major in American Indian Studies, and the scholarship fund has been established in his name and honor. This was a wonderful beginning to the school year, both solemn and joyful: Mike was a good student and hardworking Anishinabe Club member when he went to UMD, invariably supportive and kind to anyone who could use his help. As an alum he has kept his connections to UMD and served the Duluth and Fond du Lac communities generously.
Friends and alumni, including some of the founders of the Anishinabe Club, came to the feast to honor Mike and wish him well.
It was a moving occasion that warmed the heart.
American Indian Studies at UMD has been very fortunate in the early and continuing involvement and support from that small group of Vietnam Veterans. We thank these warriors, and all who have followed in their footsteps. 40 years — my goodness! Something to celebrate, indeed.
Monthly columnist Linda LeGarde Grover is a professor of American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth, an award-winning writer and a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.