Representation, Respect, and Responsibility
We who make up the University of Oklahoma Department of Native American Studies represent the range, complexity, and diversity of identities lived throughout Indian Country.
While many of us are members of Native communities, the academic discipline of Native American Studies is open to all. We welcome all scholars, both Native and non-Native, who come willing and prepared to contribute to our scholarly mission. All faculty are hired, evaluated, and promoted based on demonstrated qualifications in scholarly production, teaching, and service. As a public state institution bound by equal opportunity laws, the University of Oklahoma cannot and does not make such decisions based on sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, or other identity criteria.
As an academic unit, our scholarly mission focuses on tribal sovereignty, tribal nations, tribal histories and cultures, and tribal continuance. The fundamental measure of our success is our contribution—through scholarly production, teaching, and service—to the advancement and deepening of the understanding of these subjects. We believe our work must start with a deep respect for sovereign Native nations and Native communities. A critical manifestation of that respect is our representation of our own identities, Native or non-Native, in relation to those communities.
We understand, that as an academic unit within a public state institution, and thus, a unit of state government, we cannot serve as judge or arbiter of any individual’s identity. Even leaving aside the explicit legal restraints on our playing such a role, our attempting to serve as judge of any representation of an individual’s Native identity would present the same sort of colonial intrusion that has harmed Native peoples since first contact, regardless of the intention that may animate such efforts. Nevertheless, we believe that each of us, as individual scholars, is obliged to truthfully engage, personally and publicly, in such matters with the utmost honesty, integrity, and respect for sovereign Native nations and the broader Native community; furthermore, as colleagues, we expect each other to adhere to the highest ethical standards in these matters, and we subscribe to the 2015 statement of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.
Matters of Native identity and representation are foundational subjects within our academic field. And given the particularly complex histories of the Indigenous peoples of this region, we believe the University of Oklahoma provides a uniquely appropriate place for this conversation. We embrace the collegial, respectful, and meaningful dialogue and debate of all issues relating to them.