One of the reasons I came to Duke was to learn more about myself, and for me this included gaining a comprehensive understanding and appreciation of my Indigenous heritage. Because Duke does not offer a Native Studies Program, it has been difficult for me to achieve this goal. Unfortunately, the only support I have received on campus has been from other Native students rather than from the university. Duke’s lack of Indigenous professors, a Native Studies Program and an Indigenous Cultural Center makes it clear that the university’s priorities do not include creating a supportive environment for Native students.
Why is it that Duke has an African American Studies Program, a Latin American Studies Program, an Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Program, but no similar program dedicated to Indigenous Studies? Not only is Durham founded on land formerly the home of the Occaneechi, Eno, Tuscarora and Shakori people, but Duke University itself formerly served as a residential school for Cherokee students. Furthermore, the city of Durham used to be a major trading post for Indigenous nations. The state of North Carolina also contains the largest Native population east of the Mississippi river to this day. And while the percentage of Native students at Duke is only around 0.5%, nearly 80% of the student body is from the US. This means that they were raised and continue to live on Native land. With all of these considerations in mind, it makes even less sense that Duke has no program dedicated to the study of Native history and heritage. Due to the lack of a Native Studies Program at Duke University, both Native students and the entire student body are barred from fully learning the history of the land that they call home. We are also being deprived of crucial knowledge about how this nation was [violently] founded.
Native American people have played a significant role in the foundation of American life and of the US federal government. Programs that teach Native languages, tribal history and sociology and tribal public policy are necessary to provide Duke students with an accurate understanding of the importance of Native Americans throughout history and in the world today. Without such programs, the university is omitting a crucial part of this nation’s history and culture. They are also sending a message that Native history is irrelevant.
Show your support for Native students in their mission to bring healing to Duke by signing NASA’s petition linked here.
Kyra Hoskin is a Trinity junior who is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee tribe.
An Update from Duke NASA
Duke Student Affairs has agreed to meet with NASA. However, we have received radio silence from every other administrative unit on campus. This would be unacceptable at any school, but it is especially concerning at a former residential school. As Native students at Duke, we wonder why our concerns aren't being taken seriously. What else must we do to prove that Native students matter? Please consider signing our petition.
Duke's silence is deafening, but it can't drown out our prayers for healing.