- Editors' Introduction:Reflections on the Land-Grab Universities Project
on march 30, 2020, the self-described "independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 media organization" High Country News (HCN) published under their Education section "Land-Grab Universities: Expropriated Indigenous Land Is the Foundation of the University System" by Robert Lee and Tristan Ahtone (https://www.hcn.org/issues/52.4/indigenous-affairs-education-land-grab-universities), "How We Investigated the Land-Grant University System" by Robert Lee (https://www.hcn.org/articles/indigenous-affairs-education-how-we-investigated-the-land-grant-university-system), and "Lost and Found: The Story of Land-Grant Universities" by Tristan Ahtone under Editor's Note (https://www.hcn.org/issues/52.4/editors-note-lost-and-found-the-story-of-land-grant-universities). Ahtone (Kiowa) was at the time of publication Indigenous affairs editor at HCN; as this issue goes to press he is the editor in chief at the Texas Observer. Lee is a lecturer in American history at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Selwyn College. With stunning photographs by journalist and photographer Kalen Goodluck (Diné, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Tsimshian) and compelling maps by cartographer Margaret Pearce (Citizen Band Potawatomi), Land-Grab Universities (LGU) sets a new bar for investigative journalism and innovative scholarship in Indigenous lands. In addition to these articles, the project's web portal with interactive maps (by Robert Lee, Tristan Ahtone, Margaret Pearce, Kalen Goodluck, Geoff McGhee, Cody Leff, Katherine Lanpher, and Taryn Salinas) is available at https://www.landgrabu.org/, and the database is accessible at https://github.com/HCN-Digital-Projects/landgrabu-data.
Within days, Native scholars across the country were abuzz, sharing the LGU project links with one another and with presidents, chancellors, [End Page 89] provosts, and deans at their academic institutions (whether land-grant universities or not). Impressed with the project's scope, impact on institutions of higher education in the United States, and import for Indigenous studies scholars around the world, editors in the NAIS review collective agreed that LGU warranted extensive evaluation in an Intervention and quickly moved to recruit essays from scholars across the interdisciplinary arenas of critical Indigenous studies, American studies, geography, cartography, economics, digital humanities, history, and higher education. The Intervention includes twelve commentaries and concludes with the transcript of an interview with Lee and Ahtone, who comment on the project, answer questions from the editors, and respond to the multidisciplinary perspectives on their work gathered in this issue.
As of October 2020, as this issue is being prepared for our publisher, the University of Minnesota Press, university administrators, faculty, staff, and students are responding to or mobilizing in support of the LGU call for acknowledgment of the massive Indigenous land dispossession and the subsequent enrichment of university endowments documented by the project and for responsibility to the Indigenous caretakers and stewards whose lands and resources have underwritten so much of the U.S. higher education system (including lands dispossessed through means other than the Morrill Act). At Cornell University, the beneficiary of the greatest endowment wealth by far from Indigenous lands and/or scrip distributed by the Morrill Act, the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program has formed a faculty committee to examine the issue and publish a blog (https://blogs.cornell.edu/cornelluniversityindigenousdispossession/). At the University of California, Berkeley, the Centers for Educational Justice & Community Engagement organized webinars in September and October 2020 entitled "The UC Land Grab: A Legacy of Profit from Indigenous Lands" (https://cejce.berkeley.edu/uc-land-grab). The LGU project has also generated significant media attention, such as Scalawag magazine's indictment of the University of North Carolina (https://scalawagmagazine.org/2020/09/indian-land-university-profit/). We are confident that LGU will continue to generate interest, controversy, self-reflection, and hopefully self-improvement within higher education institutions and, most importantly, further research into the tangible realities and consequences of Indigenous land dispossession, the enduring character of Indigenous sovereignty, and the remarkable resilience of Indigenous peoples. [End Page 90]
k. tsianina lomawaima, coeditor of NAIS, is retired from the School of Social Transformation...