The contributions of indigenous peoples to the diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures are inestimable and irreplaceable. But how, in a rapidly changing world, can their cultures, languages, spiritual practices, and artistic traditions be sustained?
The American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program, housed in the UF Department of Religion, has a research group, coordinated by Professor Robin M. Wright and Professor Richard Conley, Political Science Department, that will take up this question. Specifically, they will explore how the humanities and social sciences can support indigenous peoples’ quest for sustainability in the face of globalization. They recently received a $10,000 CLAS Interdisciplinary Collaborative Seed Grant Award toward that effort.
The team aims to produce kinds of knowledge that may be mutually beneficial to indigenous societies and the academic community within a primary framework of outreach to the Seminole Tribe in South Florida to: 1) foster lasting professional and personal relationships; 2) develop a summer institute with rotating topics for Seminole high school students; 3) recruit prospective Seminole students to UF undergraduate degree programs; 4) create short, topical, and interdisciplinary experiential learning courses focused on socio-cultural issues for UF undergraduates to visit the Seminole Tribe (e.g., spring break, summer); 5) organize reciprocal exchange of faculty and Seminole tribal members. Other proposed activities at UF include exhibitions of Seminole art and art history (e.g., Harn Museum, University Gallery), Seminole oral history research and transcription (Samuel Proctor Oral History Program), and addition and digitization of Seminole archival/textual material to the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History and Smathers Library digital collections.
Their hope is that these combined efforts will produce substantial new knowledge and awareness of the Seminole Tribe at UF and in the broader community.
The research team is collaborative in nature and brings together four faculty members at multiple ranks from four departments. Each is affiliated with the UF American Indian and Indigenous Studies (AIIS) Program, founded in 2008. AIIS offers a certificate and minor course of study, an Interdisciplinary Studies major, and a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies.
Congratulations to Dr. Wright, Dr. Conley, and the entire AIIS team! The Department of Religion and the whole Gator Nation looks forward to what their research, teaching, and work in the public sphere will yield.