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Honoring Tribal Legacies in Pursuit of Diversity and Academic Excellence

Honoring Tribal Legacies in Pursuit of Diversity and Academic Excellence

Debra Carver, Dean, University of Oregon Libraries
CHiXapkaid, Professor of Native American Studies in Education, College of Education, University of Oregon

This catalog represents collaboration between the University of Oregon’s College of Education and the University of Oregon Libraries to address the needs of Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes. It addresses the need to create a trusted central repository of historical tribal documents as well as current curriculum materials related to Indian history and culture.

The catalog is a living document highlighting resources in the UO Libraries that will serve as a focal point for ongoing teaching, learning, and research related to the Native American experience for UO students and faculty as well as tribal staff, students, and scholars. Its primary objective is to improve the visibility and accessibility of these rich resources while conveying the university’s strong commitment to preserving the all-inclusive historical record of the Pacific Northwest and integrating it into the curriculum of both K-12 and higher education.

The UO Libraries has built a strong relationship with many of the regional tribes, beginning with an extensive project to archive important tribal documents during the 1990s. In May 1997, leaders of coastal Oregon tribes gathered for the first time in more than a century for a potlatch ceremony on the UO campus. During the ceremony, leaders of the Coquille tribe, in conjunction with the UO Libraries and Graduate School, presented to the tribes of Southwest Oregon copies of some 60,000 pages of documents on tribal history and culture. Organized and preserved as part of the Southwest Oregon Research Project (SWORP), the documents had previously been widely scattered and scarcely noticed as original documents pertaining to the history of the Native peoples of greater Oregon.

Another groundbreaking potlatch in June 2001 brought together representatives of 44 western Indian tribes for the first time in at least 150 years to celebrate the presentation of an additional 50,000 pages of archival material that SWORP researchers had recovered. In addition to the copies presented to the individual tribes, the UO Libraries holds a complete set in Special Collections and University Archives, where it is actively used by undergraduates and other researchers. Although this seems like an enormous amount of material, it scarcely scratches the surface of what is held in various regional archives and private collections.

The UO Libraries has also built a strong relationship with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla through a project called Picturing the Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Umatilla Tribes (http://oregondigital.org/digcol/mh). This digital collection of historical images was assembled from the Moorhouse photograph collection, with material selected and described by tribal members. The library also is working with the Klamath tribes to provide copies of documents lost from tribal records during the period between the termination of tribal recognition in 1954 and its restoration 32 years later in 1986.

These projects have created an important foundation for this catalog and future endeavors that honor tribal legacies. They represent both the potential of such a central repository and the beginning of a relationship between Oregon tribes and the university built on the principles of tribal self-determination, tribal consultation, and equal partnership.

The catalog provides growing evidence that important goals of the UO Libraries strategic directions are being achieved by attending to the needs of tribal communities. The first of these goals relates to improving the campus climate for diversity by diversifying the library’s holdings and broadening access to library materials. The project also helps the library create barrier-free access to its collections by enhancing both the intellectual and physical accessibility for all communities, not just university faculty, students, and staff.

Currently, access to many important tribal archives is challenging. The resources are dispersed and can be difficult to locate. The tribes spend considerable amounts of time and money sending individuals to study at remote sites or to make copies and bring back to the community. This catalog will make it possible for tribal members, students, and researchers to have information about materials relating to Native peoples at their fingertips and to do useful and meaningful research projects and papers. This catalog and future initiatives will also provide the opportunity for tribal archivists and UO archivists to cross-train and work hand in hand on making this a dynamic living repository.

Additionally, the project addresses points, goals, and actions within the UO College of Education’s (COE) Strategic Action Plan, particularly in developing and strengthening community linkages. Meaningful connections between the COE and tribal communities is paramount to complete the COE mission of preparing teachers, social service providers, and educational leaders to work in schools and social service systems serving Native people. The goal to cultivate sustainable relationships with tribal communities is an area of utmost concern and offers tremendous opportunities for reciprocal teaching and learning where the university, as an institution, can benefit from the knowledge and expertise of Native people locally, regionally, and nationally.

These collaborations, projects, and catalog serve many purposes. They represent an effort at the University of Oregon to develop a culturally responsive community by contributing to our knowledge of dispersed collections and responding to access and preservation requirements. They improve the campus climate by encouraging more tribal people to visit campus and by supporting more instruction related to Native themes. They help attract more students and faculty of Indian heritage to the UO. They develop and strengthen community linkages by demonstrating a commitment to collaboration, partnership, and service to our tribal nations and other communities of color. Finally, they develop and reinforce diversity infrastructure by creating a statewide resource and laying the foundation for focused curriculum development in areas such as Native Studies.



Last revision: 07/03/2012
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