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Chickasaw Nation Makes Gift to OU Native Nations Center

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Chickasaw Nation Makes Gift to OU Native Nations Center

NORMAN —  OU Native Nations Center, a hub for community engagement and research that connects students, faculty and tribal communities with the university’s exceptional resources, has been established through a gift to the Department of Native American Studies from the Chickasaw Nation.

"We are grateful for the Chickasaw Nation’s generous gift toward this important program. The Native Nations Center plays a significant role in elevating and institutionalizing collaborative relationships with the 39 Native American nations of Oklahoma," said OU President David L. Boren. “The center provides a front door to OU’s acclaimed Native American programs. For those who are interested in Native American initiatives of any kind at OU, whether they be art collections in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, scholarships or research, the center serves as a clearinghouse and leverages OU’s many resources.”

While the majority of the Chickasaw gift will be held in endowment, one portion helped renovate and refurbish the Department of Native American Studies, the Hall of Native Nations, which features the 39 flags of the tribes of Oklahoma, and the Native Nations Center event space in Copeland Hall. The area will be used for gathering and events, including nationally known speakers and such outreach efforts as workshops on tribal governance and curriculum development. The center will also host listening sessions with tribal leaders to develop a deeper understanding of their communities’ goals and objectives.

The OU College of Arts and Sciences Native American Studies Department will host an open house and reception in recognition of the Native Nations Center endowment and the newly remodeled Native Nations Center event space from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., April 26, in Copeland Hall, Rooms 342 and 343, 860 Van Vleet Oval. Remarks will begin at 2 p.m.

"OU is poised to become not only the leading Native American Studies academic program in the nation, but also the leading institution in all areas relating to Native Americans, including recruitment, retention and research," said Amanda Cobb-Greetham, director of the center and department chair for OU Native American Studies. "We have amazing institutional resources, from our Native students, faculty and staff to archival collections. OU has all the necessary pieces – they only need to be stitched together into something that is greater than the sum of its parts."

"We are pleased to support OU in the development of the Native Nations Center," said Bill Anoatubby, governor of the Chickasaw Nation. "We believe the center will play a vital role in elevating the level of Native American education in Oklahoma and across the United States. This investment will help advance research and scholarship essential to a brighter future for individual students and Native American communities."

“The center will not merely enhance research opportunities for scholars,” said Cobb-Greetham. “It will provide much-needed resources for Oklahoma’s tribes while also enriching the lives of our students and all Oklahomans. With the help of the Chickasaw Nation, OU’s Native Nations Center will allow us to recruit and retain the finest and brightest minds in the country.”

Research will be a major focus of the Native Nations Center, primarily in the areas of tribal governance and policy, language revitalization and indigenous arts and cultural expression. The center will facilitate grant submissions and develop a large, digital database of national Native American resources for use by students, researchers, communities and tribal governments.

“I express my gratitude to Governor Bill Anoatubby and the Chickasaw Nation for generously supporting the Native Nations Center,” said David Wrobel, interim dean, OU College of Arts and Sciences. “Also, I would like to recognize President David Boren for elevating Native American Studies at OU to full department status, and Amanda Cobb-Greetham for her dedicated and inspired leadership in effectively integrating OU’s remarkable array of resources for the study of Native cultures. Their leadership has brought national prominence to the Department of Native American Studies at OU.”

The idea of a physical center devoted to Native American resources can be traced back to 1915 and OU’s fifth president, William Bennett Bizzell. OU was among the first colleges in the nation to offer Native American courses under Bizzell’s leadership in the 1930s.

Native American Studies degrees were conferred at OU starting in 1994 and Boren elevated the program to a department in 2015. OU has attracted and served students of diverse backgrounds and academic interests who are committed to using distinctly Native American perspectives to place the sovereignty of Native nations and the cultures of Native peoples at the center of academic study. The Native American Studies curriculum currently supports intensive study in three interrelated areas of emphasis that are interdisciplinary in nature: tribal governance and policy; Indigenous media and arts; and language, history and cultural knowledge. In the past 20 years, Native American Studies has awarded more than 200 degrees; and alumni of the department have distinguished themselves in a wide range of careers, including tribal government, law, health policy, filmmaking and media, historic preservation, language revitalization and education.

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