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The Carletonian

Carleton receives $1.5 million Mellon Grant for Indigenous engagement

In January, Carleton received a $1.5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation. The grant is designated to fund Carleton’s Indigenous Communities in Place program. The program is co-lead by Professor of Religion Micheal McNally, Professor of American Studies Meredeth McCoy and Indigenous Peoples’ liaison Marcy Averil.

The Mellon Foundation offers grants for projects and individuals. Past Mellon recipients have included academic resources like JSTOR and the Open Library of Humanities. Carleton’s Indigenous Engagement in Place project is funded through the foundation’s Humanities for All Times Initiative. Indigenous Engagement in Place is set to foster three emerging areas of interest: “Cultivating mutually beneficial, respectful relationships with Indigenous partners for both curricular and extracurricular purposes, extensive curriculum development, oriented in part toward the development of a new Native American and Indigenous studies minor and programmatic and human resources that currently support Indigenous studies at Carleton.” This initiative has not gone unnoticed by the college, with President Byerly commenting that “Indigenous Engagement in Place is an outstanding example of how Carleton is deepening its efforts to prepare students for lives of impact and meaning in their communities.” 

Several members of the local American Indian community have commented on Carleton’s initiatives. “It’s about damn time,” said Darrell Campbell, a member of the Prairie Island Indian Community, “We’ve been here for a long time, and we haven’t stopped being here.” Campbell says that it’s not only about current developments and changes that the college is doing for Native students, but also about the way that the college has looked back at its history. “It’s good that they’re trying to make the space better for Indians,”  said Campbell, “But I’m glad that they at least admit that we’ve been here for a long time.” Campbell, referencing Carleton’s Land Acknowledgement released in 2020, added that he’s excited to see Carleton continue to work with the Elder in Residence program. “It teaches people about how we value our elders. That’s a cultural thing, and it’s important.” The Elder in Residence program is one of four programs and initiatives outlined by the Indigenous Engagement in Place website along with Partnerships with Indigenous Peoples, Curricular Programming and Building Capacity at Carleton. 

Several college administrators have commented on the grant. President Allison Byerly wrote in a press release that “through the generosity of the Mellon Foundation and the hard work of our faculty and staff, this initiative will allow us to make progress on an important goal of the College’s strategic direction by centering Indigenous engagement in our work, expanding collaborations with Native Nations and organizations and building new partnerships with tribal colleges for joint curricular initiatives and research partnerships.” 

Meredith McCoy, one of the co-directors of the Indigenous in Place project, commented that the grant from the Mellon Foundation is key to helping Carleton fulfill the promises that it made with the surrounding nations. “For me, what Mellon does, it gives us the structural support to fulfill our commitment to Indigenous people in our region, particularly the Dakota and Ojibwe partners with whom we have been working to grow relationships,” said McCoy.

Students have also commented on what the grant means to them and Carleton’s interaction with their Indigeneity. Maya Mitckess ’27 commented that the grant signifies a change in how institutions support her: “I feel encouraged by the support that Carleton is giving to Indigenous folks, which is something that I haven’t always had.”

Micheal McNally, another co-director of the project, added that the grant could alter Carleton’s relationship with the surrounding Native communities. “We at Carleton have been about substantive work with Native partners for years, but only recently have we moved from ad hoc [programs] to more sustained, integrated and reciprocal engagement with Native Nations and organizations,” McNally said in Carleton’s press release of the grant. “ With Mellon support, we can move this to the next level.”

The development of Indigenous Communities in Place comes as Carleton has sought to bolster its engagement with American Indians in the local community and beyond. Though the grant was announced on Jan. 24, the college has made several announcements surrounding its engagement with Native American students. On Thursday, Feb. 8, Dean Livingston announced in a Carleton Today email that the Union Street residential development would officially include a space for an Indigenous interest community. The apartment in Union Street 2 will house seven beds for Indigenous students. The apartment will share a townhouse with La Casa del Sol and  CHAI, with the new Multicultural Center  on the first floor.

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About the Contributor
Bax Meyer
Bax Meyer, Managing Editor
Hey, all! I'm Bax (he/him), and I'm a junior Econ major with a Middle East Studies minor. I love talking about Middle East politics and American Indian Treaty Rights. I'll always send you good book or movie recomendations. You can probably find me on campus wandering the arb, on 1st libe, or at step areobics. I like dad jokes, American Indian Treaty Rights, shawarma, and publishing my hot takes in the Carletonian anonymously.
Red flags: econ major, will judge you for using the Oxford comma, and hates geese
Green flags: Middle East Studies minor, still uses the Oxford comma, and quotes the Star Wars prequels on the daily
Bax was previously Managing Director and Viewpoint Editor.

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