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Native American Profs Get Tenure

Scholars specializing in Native American studies join humanities departments

By Joy C. Lin, Contributing Writer

For the first time in Harvard’s history, two professors specializing in Native American studies have been hired for tenure track positions in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS).

Lisa Brooks, of Abenaki descent—who currently is a lecturer in History and Literature—received a joint appointment as Assistant Professor in the History and Literature Program and Folklore and Mythology Program.

Malinda Maynor ’95, a member of the Lumbee Nation from North Carolina, will serve as an Assistant Professor in History.

The Harvard University Native American Program (HUNAP), an interfaculty project committed to enhancing Native American studies university-wide, worked with the FAS Committee of Ethnic Studies to assist departments with their faculty searches.

According to Carmen D. Lopez, executive director of HUNAP, FAS and HUNAP members felt they needed to pursue these hires, since undergraduates comprise more than half of the Native American student population at Harvard, yet currently lack a Native American studies curriculum in the College.

Maynor returns to Harvard with a Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has worked directly with the Lumbee Nation. She also hold a masters degree in documentary filmmaking and video production.

Maynor was unavailable for comment yesterday.

But according to Professor of African and African American Studies Werner Sollors, who was last year’s Chair of Ethnic Studies, Maynor is a “well-trained academic” who “writes fascinatingly.”

Sollors added that Maynor, as a filmmaker herself, can potentially work with students to use films as a means of investigating history.

During an earlier visit by Maynor, Sollors said that her talk was one of the best-attended talks he had been to all year.

Brooks said that she hopes to continue teaching courses on Native American literature and history, particularly ones where students can interact with local Native nations in the area.

“In many ways, when you go into any native community, what is important is where you’re from, where you are right now, and where you are in relationship to the local native community,” Brooks said.

English Department Chair James Engell said the hiring of Brooks “provides a nucleus for Native American Studies,” and the opportunity to enlarge this area of study at Harvard.

He also noted that these hires marked a large step in forging Native American scholarship at the undergraduate level.

Director of Studies in the History and Literature Program Steven Biel said he was “delighted” that Brooks had accepted the nomination.

“To get a scholar who is already a major figure in the field only a couple years out of graduate school is a real coup for Harvard,” he said.

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