HARVARD'S INDIAN TIES
Harvard is soaked in history. But in 360 years of details, some facts fade. So earlier this month officials unveiled a plaque commemorating Harvard's Indian College, circa 1655.
Today, the Harvard University Native American Program (HUNAP) asks the quintessential American question that few asked 300 years ago: How do two cultures sharing a single continent coexist?
In the spirit of this inquiry, HUNAP recruits American Indian students by inviting them to walk in two worlds instead of abandoning one for another. HUNAP also developed an interdisciplinary course called Nation Building. Tapping into the entire university — from the arts and sciences faculty to the law school to the medical school — this class uses theory, practice, and problem-solving to explore current issues in Native American communities….
Along with the passing of three centuries, having HUNAP as a base made it easier for Harvard to answer Susan K. Power, a tribal elder of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the mother of a Harvard graduate, who started asking several years ago why there was no recognition of the Indian College.
In providing this recognition, Jeremy R. Knowles, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, noted at the dedication ceremony the ambiguous virtue of Harvard's historic Indian intentions, explaining that when Williamsburg College, in 1744, offered to educate the sons of the chiefs of the six Indian Nations, the chiefs replied: "You, who are wise, must know that different nations have different conceptions of things; and you will not therefore take it amiss, if our ideas of this kind of education happen not to be the same with yours."
College in the north, the chiefs explained, made their sons poor runners who knew nothing of life in the woods, could not endure hunger or cold, and as such were useless, not fit to be "hunters, warriors nor counselors . . . However, to show our grateful sense of your kind offer, if the gentlemen of Virginia will send us a dozen of their sons, we will take great care of their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them."
Boston Globe May 18, 1997