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Mellon Foundation awards Emory $2.4 million to advance Indigenous studies and knowledge with the Muscogee Nation
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Elaine Justice
Muscogee teach-in group photo

In October 2022, citizens of the Muscogee Nation conducted a teach-in on the Quad that was rich with storytelling, dance and crafts and found grateful students in some 200 Emory community members.

— Sarah Woods, Emory Photo/Video

The Mellon Foundation has awarded Emory University and the College of the Muscogee Nation (CMN) in Oklahoma a $2.4 million grant that will help develop collaborative and independent programs advancing Native and Indigenous Studies and the preservation of the Mvskoke language in a unique partnership between the two schools.

The joint initiative in Native and Indigenous Studies is the only one of its kind in the nation between a tribal college and a private research university. The work of the initiative, and the nature of the partnership between Emory and CMN, is intended as a new approach for scholarship, teaching and collaboration that centers Indigenous knowledge and values in ways that advance all societies.

Monte Randall (Muscogee), president of the College of the Muscogee Nation

Under the leadership of Monte Randall, president of the College of the Muscogee Nation, Malinda Maynor Lowery, Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory, and Carla Freeman, interim dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences, the two institutions will forge collaborative learning communities and research initiatives that will connect the respective campuses.

Malinda Maynor Lowery, Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory

“This outstanding award will support innovative models for collaborative research and teaching and will forge enduring relationships between Emory, the Muscogee Nation and our broader communities. I am grateful to the Mellon Foundation for the recognition and support for this vital work that will expand and preserve critical knowledge of our nation’s history and the lives and contributions of Indigenous peoples,” says Freeman.

Carla Freeman, interim dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences

The grant helps further Emory’s commitment to deepen its relationship with the Muscogee Nation and is an extension of the university’s acknowledgement in September 2021 that it was founded in 1836 on land that the Muscogee Nation had ceded to the U.S. government just 15 years earlier. 

The grant will provide important support for CMN’s transition from a two-year to a four-year institution in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, with an emphasis on increasing the number of Mvskoke speakers and revitalizing its Mvskoke language curriculum.

“With support from the Mellon grant and Emory, CMN will establish a Mvskoke language master-apprentice learning environment that will resonate a successful model for all tribal nations engaged in language revitalization,” says Randall.

“The Mellon Foundation award is a huge acknowledgement of the healing work that has been taking place between Emory University, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and the College of the Muscogee Nation,” says Randall. “As we work together to create collaborative spaces on our combined campuses using Mvskoke language and culture, we are effectively determining a pathway for Native people to heal from the trauma of dispossession and assimilation.”

The project also lays the groundwork for Emory’s “Indigeneity Hub,” which will include new faculty and programs in language, literature, history and the arts, and the construction of a physical and literal language path on Emory campuses in Atlanta and Oxford.

“Mellon is supporting a partnership that allows members of the Emory community to learn from and listen to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the College of the Muscogee Nation,” says Lowery. “Following their lead is crucial if we are to create education for healing and for the 21st century challenges our students and communities face. I am excited about continuing to get to know one another, to walk together and to facilitate the relationship between Muscogee people and their homelands.”

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