My name is Chris Andersen, I'm a faculty member at the Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta. I've been asked to do some blogging here but with no specific guidelines (which is both nice and somewhat headscratching). Anyway, since this is my first blog (sorry, Robert!) I thought I'd get into a question that I've been thinking a lot about on our campus, recently. My question is this:
What is the role of Native Studies academic units to the discipline of Native Studies?
I would imagine that almost all attendees of NAISA conferences see ourselves as Native Studies practitioners, regardless of whether we are located in Native Studies departments. And yet, the critical (both in terms of analytical rigour and importance) work we undertake exists in a hierarchical academic field: for example, larger departments (such as History, Anthropology, English Studies, Sociology, to name a few) often provide their faculty with far more resources than those accorded to Native Studies departments. In effect, Native Studies departments can get lost in the wash of larger and more prestigious departments whose faculty members nonetheless undertake valuable research and analysis. The irony is that the greater the sophistication or rigour of the research (which, all other things being equal, will likely get undertaken in larger and/or older departments with less disciplinary administrative duties and less stated commitment to 'community'), the more sustained is the hierarchy between Native Studies and other departments on campus.
Let me be clear: I'm not suggesting that those of us not in Native Studies departments undertake research any less valuable or critical than those of us in these departments. My point is merely that the latter are often required to do so under conditions the former do not experience. My thinking isn't fully developed on this issue (obviously, given the scattered character of my comments) but I'd really like to hear/read some discussion on this issue.