Concordia College has been selected to participate in a $5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Part of the “Just Futures Initiative,” the grant was awarded to the University of Michigan’s Center for Social Solutions, which will partner with 10 higher education institutions around the country to work with minoritized communities to counter the effects of past and current oppression.
The Center for Social Solutions, directed by Concordia graduate Dr. Earl Lewis ’78, has created a national network of college and university-based organizations, each of which will develop research-informed reparations plans in partnership with local community organizations. With Concordia, other partners include Carnegie Mellon University, Emory University, Rutgers University – Newark, Spelman College, The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), Connecticut College, Wesleyan College (Ga.), and Wofford College.
Concordia’s focus will be to work with Indigenous leaders to enhance the lives and opportunities for Native Americans in our region.
Dr. William Craft, president of Concordia, noted, “We are honored to partner with Indigenous leaders to undertake the research, the listening, and the proposals to strengthen the Native communities in this place. We have so much to learn, and we hope to turn that learning into just action.”
Concordia has a team of scholars who will work on the project, led by principal investigator Dr. James Postema, professor of English. They will collaborate with members of the Native American community, who will guide this work. The project will concentrate on issues related to generational trauma caused initially by cultural genocide in mandatory-attendance boarding school education. This trauma has caused mistrust among Native American parents within the current public educational system and has led them often not to use services designed to provide assistance. Specific outcomes, which will include community-based reparations, will be developed collaboratively with Native American community partners.
“We want our college and our students to be responsibly engaged in the world, and we cannot do that if we are not involved with regional and local Native American communities as well as Native students on campus,” Postema says. “This grant helps us do that.”
Concordia has named a community fellow to lead this work. Ricky White, “Niigonanakud,” who lives in Fargo, is Anishinaabe and is fluent in his language and culture. White has worked as an Ojibwe language and culture teacher and has served at all levels of school administration for the past 22 years. He is currently the CEO of First Nations Consultants, working primarily to improve educational systems.
“The Mellon Grant provides us with a tremendous opportunity to educate and recognize the atrocities of generational trauma, which was inflicted on Native Americans by this country, and to provide tangible recommendations and reparations to our communities and programs for healing and planning for a better future,” White says.