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Archive for Sunday, July 4, 1999

NEW PROGRAM FOCUSES ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

July 4, 1999

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An American Indian historian and author, Donald L. Fixico, has been appointed director of the new Indigenous Nations Studies Program and professor of history at Kansas University.

Fixico teaches history at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich. He will join KU's faculty and direct the new graduate program in indigenous studies starting Jan. 1, said Sally Frost Mason, dean of KU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Fixico is a member of the Shawnee, Sac and Fox, Creek and Seminole nations. He has been a professor of history at Western Michigan since 1990.

One and only

The new master's degree program is the only one in the nation encouraging the study of all indigenous peoples in the Western Hemisphere and was developed in cooperation with Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence.

Under Fixico's direction, several KU courses and programs focused on indigenous studies, such as the Tribal Law Center in KU's School of Law, the Center of Latin American Studies and the Anthropology Museum, will be brought together and strengthened, Frost Mason said.

Fixico said the opportunity to work with Haskell faculty and students was a major factor in his decision to come to KU. The new program encourages research of the traditions, diversity, cultural survival and aspirations for self-determination of American Indian peoples.

"This program allows me to meet one of my academic goals: to build a program that would allow a better understanding of Indian peoples, ideas and culture and to able to share a native perspective with the rest of the community and the world," Fixico said.

Finding the Native voice

Breaking new ground in a diverse program made Fixico's decision to come to KU an easy one, he said.

"I wanted to find out the vision of the administration as well as the students," he said. "Sometimes the students will support a program but administration doesn't, or vice versa, but in this case both of them did. I wanted to be in on the ground floor."

Fixico said when he first began his career his goal was to help Native American students get a college education.

"The more I'm in academia the more I help them to get graduate degrees," he said. "I wanted to help Native Americans and others interested in indigenous studies to research, write and publish their findings."

Students will be able to enroll for a master's degree in indigenous studies beginning next fall, Fixico said. The program may later be expanded to include a doctoral degree.

Fixico said that students who choose to pursue indigenous studies can expect to come away with a true understanding of Native American people.

"I would like for them to understand the Native voice," he said. "Often, we as scholars tend to write about a 'Native voice' but don't understand their culture, their communities and the way they think. I want to present the inside story to the outside world."

Native background

Fixico is author of "Termination and Relocation: Federal Indian Policy, 1945-1960," published by University of New Mexico Press, and "Urban Indians," published by Chelsea House Publishers, New York. He is the editor of "An Anthology of Western Great Lakes Indian History" and "Rethinking American Indian History," to be published this fall.

He has two manuscripts in progress, "The Five Civilized Tribes in the 20th Century" and "American Indians in 20th-Century America: A Native American Perspective." As a scholarly historian, Fixico has served as a consultant for numerous documentaries, projects and exhibits with topics relating to American Indians.

Fixico grew up in Shawnee, Okla. He earned a doctorate in history in 1980 from the University of Oklahoma, where he also earned master's and bachelor's degrees in history. He also attended Bacone Junior College in Muskogee, Okla.

He received postdoctoral fellowships at the American Indian Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the D'Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian, Newberry Library, Chicago. He taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 1982 to 1990.

Fixico has been a visiting lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, and at UCLA; and visiting professor at San Diego State University and at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He has also been an exchange professor at the University of Nottingham, England, and a visiting professor in the John F. Kennedy Institute at the Freie University in Berlin.

Fixico is married to Sharon O'Brien, a political scientist and author with expertise in federal Indian law. She teaches at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. O'Brien has accepted a position at KU for the 1999-2000 academic year as associate professor of indigenous nations studies and of political science and as courtesy professor of law.

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