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Miami to increase student education of Myaamia tribe with new positions

The Myaamia Center created a new position and introduced new fellowship programs.
The Myaamia Center created a new position and introduced new fellowship programs.

Miami University is introducing three new changes to the Myaamia Center to increase student awareness. 

The changes include the creation of two fellowships: the Chief Floyd Leonard Faculty Fellowship and the Aanchtaakia Graduate Fellowship. The Myaamia Center has also hired an Education Outreach Specialist.

The new position of Chief Floyd Leonard Faculty Fellow will go to Sandra Garner, associate professor of global and intercultural studies. In her new role, Garner will serve as a mediator connecting information from the Myaamia Center to the classroom and educating the university. 

Kara Strass, director of Miami Tribe Relations, said Garner made a good fit because she understood the Myaamia Center’s focus on community.

“We really wanted somebody who understands community-based work,” Strass said. “Through our past work with Dr. Garner, we knew that she would bring that to the table. And so those two things together, we thought of her immediately when we were thinking about this Faculty Fellowship, and somebody who could help us build it from the ground up.”

The Aanchtaakia Graduate Fellowship will be available for prospective graduate students.

“The fellowship covers their tuition and provides a stipend similar to what other graduate programs have on campus with an assistantship,” Strass said. “And so the expectation is that person will have an assistantship here, or the fellowship will take the place of an assistantship in our office.”

Strass said the fellowship aims for collaboration on research between the university and Myaamia Center. The student fellow would gain knowledge and experience by working at the Myaamia Center and conducting research on the tribe.

“So let's say a student comes in and is interested in environmental science, which is something that we're very much interested in,” Strass said. “They could be doing kind of tribalism-focused environmental research that might help us push forward some of the work that we're doing, but also will prepare them to go back into their home community around this idea of environmental issues.”

Andrew Sawyer has joined the Myaamia center as the Education Outreach Specialist, a full-time position created by Provost Jason Osborne. Sawyer will serve in the Myaamia Center’s first role fully focused on creating relationships across campus with different departments to include information in classrooms about the Miami Tribe and Native Americans. 

“His role is really going to be that relationship-building piece, figuring out which classes would want this content,” Strass said. 

Osborne wrote in an email to The Miami Student that the three new positions were created to continue fostering the relationship between the university and the Miami Tribe.

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“The Myaamia Center is an international leader in the work of preservation and revitalization of indigenous languages, and our (almost) 50 year relationship with the Miami Tribe is also unique,” Osborne wrote. “We want to make sure we are celebrating these unique resources and relationships fully.”

Although she only took up the position recently, Garner said she wants to spread knowledge about the Miami Tribe to all Miami students.

“We really hope that a lot of courses will incorporate aspects of the history of Native Americans more broadly in this country, maybe through various modules that I will develop that can be inserted and used in classes,” Garner said. “Too many people in the US, especially east of the Mississippi, are not familiar with Native Americans. In fact, they think of Native Americans as something in the past, or a mascot not like they know a real Native American.”