The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has issued a $4.2 million grant to Arizona State University to support the development of a collective model of mentorship centered on Indigenous knowledge and practices, establishing the Praxes of Indigenous Knowledge and Collective Mentorship project at the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands under the directorship of poet, 2020 National Book Award finalist and creative writing Associate Professor Natalie Diaz.
“Our goal is to build a foundation of knowledge for Indigenous artists and scholars that challenges institutional habits of disseminating that knowledge,” said Diaz, associate professor of English and the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry. “The way mentorship occurs in our Indigenous communities is continual and across generations, in a relationship of reciprocity. This project will initiate a sustained conversation among Indigenous scholars from different regions, tribes, countries and generations. We want to move beyond the one-on-one mentorship model and return to a more collective imagining and creating.”
The program has a level of intentionality to generate the presence of more Indigenous peoples and ideas in decision-making capacities according to the program’s co-principal, distinguished sustainability scientist Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy.
“Indigenous peoples are often invisible in academic institutions. We’re usually removed from the conversation until November when we celebrate Native American Heritage Month. Or when there is talk of Thanksgiving,” said Brayboy, who is a President’s Professor, director of the Center for Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian affairs. “This grant allows us to consider what kinds of structures we want to put in place to begin mentoring new generations of Indigenous scholars to make our presence more visible in every day settings and not just in November.”