Strong words indeed, and they bear recalling more than 40 years later.
Today, American Indian studies programs are confronted with several intellectual challenges, all of which threaten to erode their original goal of improving the lot of Indigenous Peoples. When scholarly research on contemporary American Indian communities was new, it was welcomed as new and important. However, it soon became clear that too few scholars were being produced to fully staff American Indian Studies programs. Few state-funded colleges or universities were willing to significantly invest in this novel discipline.
To some extent, today’s tribally controlled community colleges fulfill the function of teaching tribal histories, cultures, and community building. Probably over 90 percent of American Indian studies programs and departments were formed by the cost-effective method of gathering faculty whose research included some work on American Indians. This convenient method introduced many different disciplines into American Indian studies.
But there still is no clear intellectual perspective of American Indian or indigenous studies at most institutions of higher learning. It doesn’t help that the majority of research about American Indians is produced and controlled by non-Indians. This is unheard of in departments of African American studies, Asian studies and Chicano studies, where members of those respective ethnic groups hold sway.
In 1997, writer Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Crow Creek Sioux, published an influential, provocative article entitled “Who Stole Native American Studies?” She offered no simple answer, but she did note that “instead of developing courses in the autonomous field of Native American studies, many Native American academics taught courses in ‘ethnic’ studies.” Perhaps not surprisingly, for this and other reasons, Cook-Lynn found that “the struggle for autonomous departmental status in Native American studies was never taken seriously by university administrators nor by the collegiate professors in either the classic or emerging disciplines.”
FULL ARTICLE: In Praise of Vine Deloria – ICTMN.com.