Carleton receives $1.5M grant to fund Indigenous Engagement in Place initiative

The grant is funded through the Mellon Foundation’s Humanities for All Times initiative.

24 January 2024 Posted In:
A circle of people sits on the Bald Spot in the fall, with a tipi visible in the background.
Photo: Kallie Rollenhagen

A $1.5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation will fund Carleton’s new Indigenous Engagement in Place initiative, a three-year project that will expand curricular and scholarly collaborations with Indigenous partners to enliven learning, teaching, and public scholarship in the humanities and across the liberal arts, as well as provide a base for developing a minor in Native American and Indigenous studies at Carleton.

The project, funded through the foundation’s Humanities for All Times initiative, will advance three emerging areas of focus at Carleton:

  • Cultivating mutually beneficial, respectful relationships with Indigenous partners for both curricular and extracurricular purposes
  • Extensive curriculum development, oriented in part toward the development of a new Native American and Indigenous studies minor
  • Programmatic and human resources that currently support Indigenous studies at Carleton 

Leadership for the project includes project co-directors Michael McNally, John M. and Elizabeth W. Musser Professor of Religious Studies; and Meredith McCoy, assistant professor of American studies and history; as well as Indigenous Communities Liaison Marcy Averill.

“Indigenous Engagement in Place is an outstanding example of how Carleton is deepening its efforts to prepare students for lives of impact and meaning in their communities,” Carleton President Alison Byerly said. “Through the generosity of the Mellon Foundation and the hard work of our faculty and staff, this initiative will allow us to make progress on an important goal of the College’s strategic direction by centering Indigenous engagement in our work, expanding collaborations with Native Nations and organizations, and building new partnerships with tribal colleges for joint curricular initiatives and research partnerships.”

Since 2020, Carleton has been working to build reciprocal relationships with the governing offices and cultural initiatives of the neighboring Dakota Nations, as well as with Native-led organizations in the Twin Cities and wider region.

“Our work on this initiative helps move our land acknowledgement from words to action,” McCoy said. “Recognizing our obligations to Dakota and Ojibwe peoples, we are excited about this support to grow sustainable, relational models for research, teaching, and collaboration with Native partners on our campus.”

“We at Carleton have been about substantive work with Native partners for years, but only recently have we moved from ad hoc to more sustained, integrated and reciprocal engagement with Native Nations and organizations,” McNally added. “With Mellon support, we can move this to the next level.” 

Indigenous Engagement in Place will reflect collaboratively established priorities from community partners, faculty, staff, students, and college leaders, with 62% of grant funds going to Indigenous partners.

“Initiatives under the grant will extend Carleton’s curriculum in new directions and expand Carleton’s capacity to nurture relationships and undertake shared projects with Indigenous partners,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michelle Mattson said. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to carry this important work forward.”

Initially launched in 2021 as a $16 million initiative, Humanities for All Times awarded grants to its first cohort of 12 liberal arts colleges across the U.S. that same year. Of the 50 liberal arts colleges invited to submit proposals for this second cohort, 10 institutions were selected to receive a grant of up to $1.5 million to be used over a three-year period to support the envisioned curricular projects and help students to see and experience the applicability of humanities in their real-world social justice objectives.

“The objective of Humanities for All Times is two-fold,” said Phillip Brian Harper, program director for higher learning at the Mellon Foundation. “On the one hand, it is meant to make students aware of the concrete, practical skills they can develop through humanities study. On the other, it aims to help students recognize that imagination itself, which is one of the primary foci of humanities inquiry, is essential to effective social justice work.”

About Carleton College

Consistently ranked among the nation’s top liberal arts institutions, Carleton is a private coeducational college of about 2,000 students located in the historic river town of Northfield, Minnesota, 40 miles south of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. High academic standards, a national reputation for outstanding professors, and a diverse student body contribute to Carleton’s success. The College has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the number one institution for undergraduate teaching for 13 straight years. Learn more about Carleton on the College website.

About the Mellon Foundation

The Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through its grants, the Foundation seeks to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.