The Meredith Indigenous Humanities Center (MIHC)will facilitate the planning and development of interdisciplinary, multicultural approaches to the humanities using American Indian, Aleut, and Inuit languages in addition to English and Spanish. It will initially support existing courses in Alaska and Oklahoma, as well as in Mayan speaking communities in the Yucatan, and facilitate the creation of new courses for American Indian constituencies. The model for these programs is the Clemente course concept as described in detail in Earl Shorris, Riches for the Poor: The Clemente Course in the Humanities (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000). The Clemente concept is a simple idea: that the study of the humanities enables poor people to become fully participating citizens in a democratic society. When this concept was presented to indigenous peoples (C/Yup'ik, Cherokee, Kiowa and Maya) in their tribal languages with their own histories, reactions from students and tribal communities was positive. A demand grew for more printing of native language grammar books and treaty primers (by Cherokee & Kiowa), for changes in the presentation of native humanities to school aged students (by Yup'ik & Maya), for the addition of new courses (Chickasaw and Comanche), and the for establishment of a center to promote the humanities of indigenous peoples.
Earl Shorris and Miguel Leon-Portilla, in consultation with native Clemente course faculty and facilitators have established priorities for the Center. They include:
§ an annual native language speakers conference,
§ the purchase of equipment to share and capture oral histories, song, and stories,
§ funds for the facilitation of new indigenous Clemente-style courses throughout the Americas,
§ and the provision of a salaried staff member to coordinate activities.
USAO is prepared to work with the Meredith Indigenous Humanities Centerto raise needed matching funds. Over the past four years, our foundation has added $500,000 annually to its endowment. Working with the Department of Education’s Title III Endowment Building Program, USAO will continue to add to its endowment. Since 1999, USAO has successfully raised over $1.25 million grant dollars through American Indian tribes, foundations, state sources and federal programs to support and enhance the activities of the college. USAO is now ready to increase current levels of giving and the campaign to match NEH funds will build on current fundraising success.
Individuals and corporations wishing to support the development of the Meredith Indigenous Humanities Center (MIHC)are invited to contact Michael Nealeigh.