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Harvard Kennedy School Receives $15M for Indigenous Governance and Development Program

Harvard Kennedy School will expand the Harvard Project on Indigenous Governance after receiving more than $15 million in donations, according to a Tuesday press release.
Harvard Kennedy School will expand the Harvard Project on Indigenous Governance after receiving more than $15 million in donations, according to a Tuesday press release. By Julian J. Giordano
By Asher J. Montgomery, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard Kennedy School received more than $15 million to fund an expansion of the Harvard Project on Indigenous Governance and Development, the school announced in a Tuesday press release.

The gifts will fund a new professorship, a senior fellowship, and programming initiatives, according to the press release. The donation announcement coincides with the renaming of the project — originally called the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development — to better reflect its mission.

The donors include the Endeavor Foundation, the Chickasaw Nation, HKS professor emeritus Joseph P. Kalt and his wife Judith K. Gans, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and members of the Circle of Supporters, the project’s advisory group.

“The generosity of our donors allows us to strengthen and expand our work with Native communities in meaningful ways, and we are grateful for this support,” Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf said in the press release.

The donation from the Endeavor Foundation will endow the new Julie Johnson Kidd Professorship in Indigenous Governance and Development, according to project Senior Director Megan Minoka Hill.

The position will be awarded to a scholar in the field of Indigenous nation-building who will lead the project going forward. Hill expects the nationwide search and administrative processes to take about a year.

“These research think tanks at universities, including Harvard, don’t really survive without a tenured professor,” Hill said. “So this is really a key piece to the sustainability of our work going forward.”

The Chickasaw Nation endowed the Ittapila Program for Nation Building Education and Outreach — named for the word “ittapila,” meaning “to help one another” in the Chickasaw language — which will focus on offering summer fellowships and grants to students working directly with Indigenous nations among other student engagement initiatives.

Kalt and Gans’ donation will fund the creation of the Senior Fellowship for Indigenous Governance and Development, which aims to bring together students and national leaders on Indigenous affairs.

“It’s such an important moment in the history of the Kennedy School and Harvard University to commit itself to Indigenous governance,” Hill said. “The Harvard Kennedy School at Harvard University will always have a focus on Indigenous eminence and there is nowhere else that I know of that has made that same commitment”

While Kennedy School Native American and Public Service Fellow Vic Hogg came to HKS because of the project’s abundant resources, they said the school lacks Native American representation in its student body.

“I just really hope that now that we have the resources, even more resources than we had before — we have all these amazing things that are coming down the pipe — that the admissions office follows suit, and prioritizes recruiting Native and Indigenous students,” Hogg said.

Hogg added that they believe the donations will make a positive difference in Indigenous studies at Harvard and beyond.

“This will be a huge game changer and it’ll make a lot of impact in Indian Country broadly,” they said. “It’s a big deal when an institution like Harvard says that a topic like this means enough and matters enough that $15 million should be allocated towards it.”

“It gives me a lot of hope,” they added.

Correction: April 20, 2023

A previous version of this article misspelled the name of HKS professor emeritus Joseph P. Kalt.

—Staff writer Asher J. Montgomery can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @asherjmont.

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