Native American studies professor receives award from University of Minnesota

Abbey Thompson-Ruddy
5/29/03

MINNEAPOLIS - Brenda Child, renowned professor of Native American Studies and public historian, was among the recipients of the University of Minnesota Outstanding Community Service Award. Professor Child received her award at the awards ceremony banquet May 20.

The University of Minnesota announced Child's selection on May 5.

"We are extremely pleased to nominate an educator of Child's stature," said Jean O'Brien, College of Liberal Arts chair. "Her exceptional record of community service has been devoted to the overall good of increasing and improving contacts, connections, interactions and cultural understandings among Native American peoples, the University community, and the wider public."

"I am very honored to have been selected," said Child. "I believe that the work that I have done is a reflection of my mother's influence. This is her continuing legacy - to contribute to the community."

A historian and educator of Ojibwe heritage, Child is considered a pioneer in combining the actual experiences and historical perspectives of Native Americans with the study of American Indian History. Traditionally, this branch of academia concentrated on public policies and institutional histories, placing the stories of Indian people as secondary. One can say that her methods bring a greater understanding of Native People's own histories, empowering them with a sense of their past and the possibilities for the future.

She is the author of "Boarding School Seasons: American Indian families, 1900-1940." Her first book, "Boarding School Seasons" won the North American Indian Prose Award. A descendant of former students of the Carlisle and Flandreau boarding schools, she wrote the book not only to educate the public about the devastations of government boarding schools, but also to be appreciated and enjoyed by members of her family and tribe. She is working on her new book "Singing Our History: The Red Lake Nation Since 1889." Professor Child is excited about this book, "Red Lake is unique in that it has avoided being 'checker boarded' by the Allotment Act," she said "and it has rejected government policies that caused most tribal communities to lose their land and reorganize their social structure." Child is also a tribal member of the Red Lake Nation.

Child has helped to make the American Indian Studies Department at the University of Minnesota one of the most distinguished in the US. She employs a unique method of combining academic studies with community service.

Child has been actively involved in the Twin Cities community by serving on the Board of Directors for two local organizations: The Circle, a newspaper run by and for the American Indian community in the Twin Cities, and the Division of Indian Work, a social service agency that has worked for over 50 years to address problems in the urban community with programs that focus on teen parenting, family violence, and youth leadership. It also runs a food shelf and recently started a program dealing with the high infant mortality rate by placing "doulas" to work with expectant mothers on issues concerning nutrition, health, and well being during pregnancy.

As a member of the board of directors for the Minnesota Historical Society, she is working to develop a strategic plan for the Society for the next decade. She was elected to the Executive Council in 1998 and holds the distinguished title of being the only historian on the board. Child worked closely with tribes and schools in the Midwest to transform how history is taught.

Child is a member of the national Native American Advisory Council at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, Ind., where she is a key advisor in Native American art, history, and culture. She was also a major contributor to "Remembering Our Indian School Days" exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

Professor Child was born and raised on the Red Lake Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota. She earned her doctorate at the University of Iowa. A resident of the Twin Cities, she is an avid gardener when not serving the University or the community in which she resides.

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