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APS Receives Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to Support Native American Scholars Initiative

The American Philosophical Society (APS) is pleased to announce a $949,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support research in the field of Native American studies. Through the Native American Scholars Initiative (NASI), the American Philosophical Society with its Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR) will use the funds to support undergraduate students, Native American scholars, Tribal College faculty members, and researchers who work closely with archives and Native communities in efforts to revitalize endangered languages and to strengthen and honor cultural traditions through the use of new technologies.

“By developing an innovative program that harnesses the power of technology to facilitate connections between archives, scholars, and indigenous groups, the APS believes that it can establish a model for supporting the academic success of Native American graduate students, and assist Native American communities in their cultural revitalization efforts,” states Executive Officer Keith S. Thomson.

Fellows and interns will receive travel funds under the NASI program to conduct fieldwork and remain connected to their home or research communities. The grant also funds short-term Digital Knowledge Sharing fellowships to send scholars to archives around the country in order to advance their collaborative work of cultural and linguistic revitalization projects with Native communities. All recipients of support will have the opportunity to benefit from the APS Library’s technology infrastructure and staff expertise to develop digital humanities projects based on their research that will hosted and published by the APS.

“I am so excited about the Mellon Foundation’s grant for the Native American Scholars Initiative and the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research. Providing this kind of crucial funding for undergraduate students, Native American scholars, Tribal College faculty members, and researchers who work with Native communities has the potential to create enormous benefits across Indian Country. I especially appreciate the support for Tribal College faculty because they generally lack access to academic research resources,” Robert Miller, APS Member, Professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, and Chief Justice of the Grand Ronde Tribe Court of Appeals, said of the grant.

The APS has previously been the recipient of numerous Mellon Foundation grants supporting the development of essential programs and initiatives including grants in 2007 and 2011 to support the launch of the Digital Knowledge Sharing initiative for the digital preservation of recordings of endangered Native American languages.

For more information on these new fellowships and application details, see here.

The American Philosophical Society’s Center for Native American and Indigenous Research
The Library of the American Philosophical Society has been collecting Native American materials since the late 18th century. The impetus came from Thomas Jefferson, who served as President of the APS (17971814) before, during, and after he was President of the United States. The linguist and philosopher Peter Stephen Du Ponceau, a later APS President (18281844), expanded on Jefferson’s vision by initiating the first great wave of manuscript acquisitions documenting Native American linguistics and culture from North, Central, and South America.

The second great wave came in the aftermath of World War II when the Library received, through the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Committee on Native American Languages, some 80 linear feet of primary materials. The ACLS collection, in its time, was one of the largest and most significant collections of primary resources for the study of Native American languages. Collected from the 1880s through the 1950s, the materials were first assembled in 1927 under the initiative of Franz Boas, Edward Sapir, and other linguists. It is an irreplaceable textual record of more than 170 Native American languages and cultures, including traditional stories, histories, dictionaries, word lists, grammars, and ethnographic analyses. This collection was augmented in 1945 by the acquisition of Franz Boas’s personal and professional papers. In the modern era, the APS has focused on accruing the papers of noted anthropologists, with particular emphasis on the intellectual descendants of Boas, considered the “Father of American Anthropology.” Among them are Frank Speck, Ella Deloria, and Paul Radin, to name a few.

Collection holdings include:
• Papers: Nearly 300 collections of the papers of leading anthropologists of Native America, including the aforementioned ACLS Committee on Native American Languages collection.

• Recordings: More than 3,100 hours incorporating 162 Native American languages (not including dialects), largely from the United States, Canada, and Mexico with some from Central and South America. A Digital Audio Archive has been created for the purposes of preservation and accessibility of the stories, songs, and oral histories which are now described at the item level.

• Images: More than 130,000 images ranging from 18th-century drawings and watercolors through the entire history of photographic images to the present.

Recent research activity with the APS's Native American and Indigenous collections includes the 2016 APS Museum exhibition, Gathering Voices: Thomas Jefferson and Native America, which showcases the APS's work in Native American language collection and revitalization from Jefferson to today. Over 69,000 visitors attended the exhibition from April through December 2016. A scholarly conference inspired by the exhibition's themes, "Translating Across Time and Space: Endangered Languages, Cultural Revitalization, and the Work of History," drew over 100 in-person attendees and over 100 more via live web stream. Panelists from across the United States and Canada presented 21 papers on topics related to endangered languages, translation, and language revitalization projects in Native American and Indigenous communities.

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