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UND and North Dakota Tribal College System receive $1 million Mellon Foundation grant to enhance Indigenous humanities education

The three-year award will support training faculty, staff and students in digital humanities, archival skills, cultural resource management and other areas across the UND-NDTCS Consortium

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The Mellon Foundation has awarded $1 million to the University of North Dakota (UND) and the North Dakota Tribal College System (NDTCS)—Cankdeska Cikana Community College (CCCC), Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College (NHSC), Sitting Bull College (SBC), Turtle Mountain Community College (TMCC), and United Tribes Technical College (UTTC)—in a major collaborative effort to enhance humanities education and build capacity for students and faculty, particularly those who are Indigenous, to study, as well as preserve and retain cultural lifeways, Indigenous languages and knowledges.

This three-year award will support training faculty, staff and students in digital humanities, archival skills, cultural resource management and other areas across the UND-NDTCS Consortium. The consortium also will design hybrid for-credit courses across the campuses that can lead to a transcribable certificate at UND in “Indigenous Digital Humanities and Archival Methods.”

“The reclamation of our languages and sustaining of Tribal cultural lifeways has always been at the heart of the work of the Tribal Colleges in North Dakota,” said Dr. Twyla Baker, chair of NDTCS and president of Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College in New Town, N.D. “We are so pleased to be a part of such a crucial project that allows us to work with UND in accessing training and tools with those goals in mind.

“By combining our rich histories with better access to technology and expertise, we are preserving our stories for future generations and making them more accessible for Native people living away from their Tribal homelands, as well as for broader audiences.”

UND President Andrew Armacost hopes the collaboration with the NDTCS will result in a strong foundation to continue and grow this important work for many years to come.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to expand access to the study of the humanities—literature, languages, history, among other fields—to enable all of us to better understand and appreciate our differences while recognizing the commonalities that we share,” Armacost said.

Crystal Alberts, professor of English at UND, noted that the grant activities will take place at UND as well as all five NDTCS colleges, with faculty, staff and students traveling between the collaborating institutions. Alberts will serve in an advisement role at each of the tribal colleges throughout the duration of the grant. Also, as part of the grant, select faculty, staff or students from UND and the tribal colleges will attend an intensive one-week summer program at UND.

“The team here at UND is very excited, and humbled, to start work on this project in collaboration with the North Dakota Tribal College System,” Alberts said. “Through this partnership, we will exchange knowledge and ideas so that we can build programs, curricula and other opportunities to help communities expand their capacity to preserve their cultural lifeways, while always honoring tribal and data sovereignty.”

Alberts was part of a working group comprised of faculty across UND’s College of Arts & Sciences, Dan Henry (Turtle Mountain), Director of INMED, Keith Malaterre (Turtle Mountain), Director of UND’s Indigenous Student Center, Laine Lyons (Turtle Mountain), Development Officer at UND Alumni Association & Foundation, and President Twyla Baker as a representative of the NDTCS.

This is the first time the Mellon Foundation has selected UND and NDTCS for funding to advance the Humanities and Indigenous Studies.