The Ivy Coach Daily

September 2, 2022

Native Americans at Dartmouth

Educating our nation’s Native American youth was a key part of Dartmouth’s charter.

Dartmouth College was founded as an institution to educate Native Americans. Indeed, the charter for the College on the Hill states that its mission is “for the education and instruction of Youth of the Indian Tribes in this Land … and also of English Youth and any others.” Yet for much of the school’s long history, Dartmouth, whose mascot was previously and unacceptably Indians, fell well short of its goal of enrolling and educating many of our nation’s most promising young Native Americans. That being said, we would argue that there is still no highly selective university in America that has made greater efforts over the years for this vital underrepresented group. In fact, this year, Dartmouth is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of its Native American studies program.

As Cassandra Montemayor Thomas writes for The Dartmouth in a piece entitled “Since 1972 inception, Native and Indigenous studies, programming expand,” “Despite [the promise in its charter], the College largely ignored its agreement for the next 200 years, until the College President at the time, John Kemeny, rededicated the institution to its original mission in 1972. As a result, Kemeny founded the Native American Program to assist Native students at the College and oversaw the development of the Native American studies program. Since that rededication, the field of Native American studies at Dartmouth evolved to achieve department status in 2021, began recruiting more Indigenous students through the Indigenous Fly-In program and recently launched the Tribal Services and Solutions Project, a four-year pilot program aimed at connecting Dartmouth students with tribes to improve sovereignty, healthcare and economic development on tribal lands. These developments have benefitted both Native and non-Native students, according to Native American and Indigenous Studies department chair Bruce Duthu ’80.”

We commend Dartmouth not only for its commitment in recent years to trying to do more for our nation’s Native American youth but for the school’s candor. The school really has owned up to the fact that it has not held its end of the bargain from its original charter in which the institution promised that educating Native American youth would be key to its very mission. Only by being open and honest about its past misdeeds can Dartmouth truly work towards fulfilling the school’s purpose — and, while there is much work the school must still do for Native Americans over the years to come, it seems the College on the Hill is now moving in the right direction.

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