Chancellor Kyle R. Carter announced the formation of a Southeast American Indian Studies (SEAIS) program at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The program is expected to be ready by the fall semester 2012.
The announce- ment came one day after UNCP kicked-off a 14-month celebration of its 125th anniversary.
During a March 15 press conference on the steps of Old Main, the university’s oldest and most historic building, Chancellor Carter said the program will transform the university into a center for the study of American Indians in the southeastern U.S. He said the university, with its existing American Indian programs, is ideally located to accomplish its mission.
“Its academic, research and outreach missions will benefit all tribes in the southeast and serve as a resource to all who are interested in American Indian life,” Dr. Carter said. “Within the UNC Pembroke campus, the program will act as the intersection between disciplines outside of American Indian Studies to promote interdisciplinary curricula, research and outreach about and for the American Indian.
“This university has many attributes that make us unique because of our location,” he continued. “I have pledged that the historic purpose for which our institution was founded would remain a core attribute, even as UNCP continues to grow more complex and serves broader constituencies and purposes.”
The program was approved UNC General Administration. Its funding is included in UNC system’s budget proposal to the North Carolina General Assembly.
SEAIS will consolidate UNCP’s Department of American Indian Studies. The consolidated program will continue administratively in the College of Arts and Sciences. Ultimately, Chancellor Carter said the Southeast American Indian Studies Program would become a stand-alone school alongside the schools of Business, Education and Graduate Studies.
The potential for the program is unlimited Chancellor Carter said. “Over time, we expect to develop other academic programs such as anthropology and archaeology to support the academic mission of the future school,” he said. “It is our goal that the program for Southeastern American Indian Studies becomes the national resource on social, political, economic and cultural attributes of southeastern American Indians.”
Chancellor Carter charged UNCP’s Provost Dr. Kenneth Kitts with forming an implementation team to establish the program by fall 2012 and prepare it for transition to school status.
Dr. Kitts said the new program would draw upon the existing strengths of UNCP’s American Indian programs, including the Department of American Indian Studies, the Native American Resource Center and the special collections of the Mary Livermore Library.
“Our goal is to draw from these existing strengths and to use the program for Southeastern American Indian Studies as a vehicle to expand our academic footprint as we become the national resource that the chancellor mentioned,” Dr. Kitts said. “Along the way we will also be eager to add new components to the program. That will take the form of everything from an expanded outreach effort to the development of a repository for archival collections that will assist future generations of researchers.
“The possibilities are truly limitless, and I welcome Chancellor Carter’s charge to appoint an implementation team that will see this project through the next year,” he said.
Greg Richardson, Executive Director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs
Greg Richardson, executive director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, also spoke during the press conference. He said the commission has been in consultation with UNCP about the program. He hailed it as the realization of a long-held
“The Lumbee started this process in 1887,” Richardson said. “We, the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, want to let you know that we are here to support you.
“This is the right location for a regional American Indian Studies program,” Richardson said. “The other tribes in North Carolina have looked to the Lumbee and this university for leadership. Historically, North Carolina tribes, like the Haliwa Saponi, the Coharie and the Waccamaw Siouan, did not have enough teachers. My first teachers came from this school.”
Approximately 50 people attended to the press conference. Many, like Tonya Locklear, have deep and lasting ties to the university. “This is an incredible day,” she said. “My grandparents would be proud.”
Dr. Stan Knick, director and curator of the Native American Resource Center, said the new program holds great promise for American Indian Studies at UNCP and for the Resource Center, which is an archive, museum and research center.
“This is a beginning place,” Dr. Knick said. “The potential is unlimited. There are approximately 50 non-federally recognized tribes in the southeastern U.S. We need to reach out to them.”
Dr. Mary Ann Jacobs, chair of the Department of American Indian Studies, said UNCP, with its existing programs and faculty, is the right place to serve as a center for research and information about American Indians of the region.
Dr. Jacobs said SEAIS would fill a void in the research and understanding of Southeastern tribes. “No one is doing this research now,” she said. “We need to know so much more about the tribes in the Southeast – Who are they? How many are they? What is their health and economic status? There is so much to learn.”
Dr. Jacobs served on the committee that paved the way for the Southeast American Indian Studies program, and she will continue working with the implementation committee.
“We’ve worked hard as a committee to get the Southeastern American Indian Studies program to this point, and there is a lot more work to do,” Dr. Jacobs said. “Chancellor Carter challenged us to dream big, and we did. Turning this program into a school at UNCP is a big dream.”
Chancellor Carter called it an historic day and the new program sums up the theme of the university’s 125th celebration: “Honoring our Traditions, Soaring toward our Future.”
“I believe the founders would be pleased with this day,” he said.