Newest Interdisciplinary Minor: Native American Studies

The School of Humanities and Sciences welcomed a new Native American studies minor in fall 2007. The program was originally developed to bring Native American experiences and perspectives into the College’s classrooms to provide students with opportunities to better understand the history, achievements, and struggles of native people.

Brooke Hansen, associate professor of anthropology and co-coordinator of the Native American studies (NAS) minor, cites two reasons for its creation. “First, NAS was developed as a way to recognize and respond to the Native American student population on campus,” Hansen explains. “Also, Ithaca is literally on ancestral Native American land, and there needs to be curriculum and education about the people who lived here and who continue to live here.” Ithaca is located within the homeland of the Cayuga Nation, one of Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. 

Seven academic departments from across the College are participating in NAS: anthropology, sport management and media, philosophy and religion, history, politics, sociology, and cinema, photography, and media arts. Classes include Anthropological Experience, a cultural immersion course offered every other winter term in Hawaii, and an archaeological field school program, during which students participate in excavations across the Cayuga homeland. The NAS initiative includes more than courses, however. There are speakers, field trips, community outreach, internship opportunities, and cultural events during Native American Celebration Month in November.

Anthropology major Bailey Lojek ’08 says that declaring a Native American studies minor seemed like the logical route to take, based on her interests and previous studies. “The Native American studies minor really enhances my anthropology education because I am most interested in Native [American] issues. Also, I have been studying Polynesian culture in particular over the last few years, and my trip to Hawaii really enhanced my training and education.”

The Native American studies minor joins four other successful interdisciplinary minors in the School of Humanities and Sciences: classical studies, Jewish studies, Latin American studies, and women’s studies.