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American Indians Go Ivy

Nowhere is the Ivy Ivory Tower more detached from the real world than in its use of the term Native American to describe the peoples who inhabited America before 1492. This little orthodoxy took root at the College many years ago, and heaven, earth and the truth aren’t going to displace it any time soon. A search on The D’s hobbled website shows the term appearing an order of magnitude more often than the name actually recognized and used by America’s native peoples: American Indian. See also the Native American House and the Native American Studies Program.

That’s a shame, for the College assiduously fills its responsibility to recruit students from America’s many native tribes, as they themselves recognize:

American Indians Go Ivy League

Tanya H. Lee (12/30/13)

Indian Country.jpgAmerican Indians are underrepresented at most Ivy League schools. The percentage of American Indian and Alaska Native undergraduates at the Ivy Leagues hovers around 0.5 percent, with the notable exceptions of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where 175 American Indian undergrads account for four percent of the student body, and on the other end of the spectrum, Princeton University in New Jersey, which has the lowest percentage of AI/AN undergrads.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 2012 American Indians and Alaska Natives comprised 1.2 percent of the population. The question of why this underrepresentation persists could lie in some assumptions about Ivy League schools that deserve scrutiny…

Dartmouth is serious about recruiting and retaining American Indian students. Its efforts, says Paul Sunde, director of admissions, involves visiting schools and tribal communities and participating in the National Indian Education Association’s conference and the College Horizons programs. Then there is Dartmouth’s unique Native American Fly-In program, which brings 50 students interested in the Native community and/or Native American Studies to campus to find out what Dartmouth offers, meet professors, administrators and other students and learn about the application process and financial aid. Dartmouth pays airfare and provides room and board for participants.

Started in 1972, two years after Dartmouth recommitted to its founding purpose, “the education and instruction of Youth of the Indian Tribes in the Land in reading, writing & all parts of Learning which shall appear necessary and expedient,” its interdisciplinary Native American Studies program offers a major and a minor course of study, says NAS Chairman N. Bruce Duthu, United Houma Nation of Louisiana. NAS has eight faculty and 25 courses on offer at any one time. Dartmouth also funds internships for students who want to do research in Native communities for a 10-week stretch and offers a predoctoral fellowship to bring a grad student to the college to write his or her thesis. The Gordon W. Russell Visiting Professorship in Native American Studies brings an American Indian senior scholar to teach for a semester. A Native American residence offers students the option of living with other AI/AN students. “We offer a strong support network,” says Sunde, “with the goal of helping students not just to stay in school and do well but to excel beyond their own and others’ expectations.”

Regrettably, once admitted, the College’s American Indians don’t receive the support that should be part of Dartmouth’s committment. Their graduation rate is the lowest among the diverse groups making up the student body.

Addendum: Lest you doubt the above assertion concerning nomenclature, a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian on the mall in Washington, D.C. will dispel your concerns.


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