The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology houses the Cultural Heritage Center. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

University of Pennsylvania Working on Native Studies Minor


Varun Menon, a non-Native freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, proposed the idea of establishing a minor in Native American studies in January to the Undergraduate Assembly and the Natives at Penn, a student group.

He became interested in the field of study after taking a writing seminar about the influence Natives had on the founding on the United States government, reported The Daily Pennsylvanian. Menon specifically mentioned how ideals from the Iroquois Confederacy were used when beginning the U.S. government.

Also helping to start the Native American studies minor is Margaret Bruchac, of Abenaki descent, who was hired by Penn this year. She’s an assistant professor of anthropology and only the third tenure-track Native professor to be hired by the school, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Bruchac told the student newspaper that more effort has been put in to recruit Native Americans at Penn.

“Over the years, it’s clear that Penn has increased its efforts to bring in knowledgeable Native American educators and tribal leaders [to Penn and] … Penn has been actively recruiting Native American postdoctoral fellows and faculty for several years,” Bruchac said.

She said the school already has the basic courses available, but student interest in the minor will be the deciding factor in bringing the program to fruition. She said what students can do is sign up for those Native American courses that Penn currently offers to help show interest.

“I see a very bright future for Native American studies at Penn,” Robert Preucel, the director of the Penn Center for Native American Studies, told The Daily Pennsylvanian. The center’s website lists the courses with Native American content currently offered at Penn. Preucel also pointed out the importance of learning American Indian history.

“To be an informed citizen of the United States means that one needs to know about the founding of our nation and the history of the ongoing relationships between Indian country and the federal government.

“Native American history is thus the history of all Americans,” he added.

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joyce york's picture
joyce york
Submitted by joyce york on
It is about time schools incorporate Native American history into the curriculum. Many don't realize that the US constitution is based on the Iroquios Confederacy.

Margaret Bruchac's picture
Margaret Bruchac
Submitted by Margaret Bruchac on
Thanks for posting this! One clarification - I am an Assistant Professor (not an Associate Professor). Two Native American faculty hires, Russ Thornton and Lisa Boullion, left before gaining tenure, years ago. Recently, Penn's McNeil Center for Early American Studies has hosted Dr. Alyssa Mt. Pleasant (Tuscarora), Assistant Professor of History at Yale, as a Visiting Fellow (2010-2011), and Dr. Douglas Keil (Oneida) is currently in residence at McNeil with three-year post-doctoral fellowship (2012-2015).

Rebecca E. Andrews's picture
Rebecca E. Andrews
Submitted by Rebecca E. Andrews on
I am excited about Penn's progress and efforts to teach, incorporate and recruit First Nations' people, history and expertise in bringing the truth to all people!

vkm415's picture
Submitted by vkm415 on
Very honored to have our initiative covered! As another small clarification to the article, the writing seminar course I took was on the topic of "Democracy in America," and used Alexis de Tocqueville's 1830s book in order to shed light on the unique political and social aspects of the United States. I decided to write my final research paper on the Native American influence on the founding of the United States to supplement the unique aspects that Tocqueville discusses in his now famous work after having taken an interest to Native American history long ago. Let me just say it is an honor to work on this project and I am very pleased that this story is being covered. My peers and I are very excited to begin work with the Natives at Penn student group, alumni, Assistant Professor Bruchac, and other members of the faculty to develop a program that will best focus on the comprehensive study of the Native American people.

Douglas Buchholz
Douglas Buchholz
Submitted by Douglas Buchholz on
“Native American history is thus the history of all Americans,” quote is utter new agey, wannabiak dogma and a mindset of revisionist thinking, of INSERTING themselves INTO.... sort of like Marge Bruchac insterting herself into being Abenaki, and inserting herself and her brother's grandfather, and by way of that, into themselves INTO the Obomsawin Family, connecting themselves to Odanak, an Abenaki Community in Quebec. My question is WHY is Marge Bruchac self-promoting her classes at Penn since September 2012? Where is the PROOF legitimately and accurately, genealogically to their alleged connections to the Abenakis, to the Obomsawin's and to Odanak? Does it even exist at all? Is it just yet another propped up "story" by her and her brother Joe Bruchac? I mean, seriously, where is the clear and convincing evidence, since they are profitting off of, and educating the children of tomorrow's parents with this revisionistic "hiding-in-plain sight" nonsense. WHERE is the evidence that Margaret Bruchac is a descendant of First Nations People?