Skip to main content


NEH & Native Americans

The NEH provides support for a variety of Native American educational, research, and cultural preservation programs. Humanities Initiatives at Tribal Colleges and Universities grants are specifically geared toward supporting the unique populations utilizing these facilities, while grants such as Documenting Endangered Languages allow groups to record features of rapidly disappearing cultures.

  • A researcher at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, was awarded a Documenting Endangered Languages grant to create a lexical database and dictionary for Potawatomi, otherwise known as Neshnabémwen. Potawatomi is an Algonquian language native to the Midwest, and about a dozen elderly speakers are the only living resources able to help the research team interpret the existing written and recorded documentation of the language. This collaborative effort builds on previous efforts to document Menominee, a related language.
  • Another Documenting Endangered Languages grant will help a team at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, expand the archives on the grammar, lexicon, and storytelling traditions of the Plains Apache. These data, as well as previous archival material, will then be entered into a central database. Plains Apache is an Athabaskan language; other Athabaskan languages are spoken in northwestern Canada and Alaska. Comparing the grammar and lexicon of Plains Apache with similar features of other Athabaskan languages allows linguists to trace the history of those speakers, including the southern migration of the ancestors of the Plains Apache.
  • Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College in Baraga, Michigan, received a grant to enhance its core humanities programming by collecting oral history narratives from the elders of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. The tribe adopted its constitution in 1936; many of the community elders remember very significant events in their tribal history. These oral histories will be incorporated into Native Studies courses and be archived for future scholarship, as well as the benefit of the tribe.
  • Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Montana, has been awarded a grant to create a bachelor’s degree in Tribal Historic Preservation in the Liberal Arts Department. The planned course of study features diverse humanities content, including anthropology, English, history, and Native American Studies (Native American arts, crafts, oral tradition, language, and other customs), emphasizing Native American heritage, cultural stewardship, and historic preservation. The goal of this program is to prepare students for careers in cultural resource management, museums, and academic research.
  • The Lummi Video Curriculum Project, at Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington, has been awarded a grant to help preserve critically endangered Coast Salish languages. With the funds, the College’s Coast Salish Institute will produce a series of videos and print-based curricula to help educators teach the Lummi language and culture. The grant will also fund a conference for language and culture educators from over two dozen tribes to develop similar curricula.
  • The Frontier of Native American Literature: Imaginative Paths to Discovery has received a grant to conduct video-conference seminars on Native American Literature and ways to incorporate it into the curricula for diverse fields. The program, run by Diné College in Tsalie, Arizona, will feature visits from two noted scholars in the topic, and seeks a greater understanding of the relations between tribal colleges and Native American literature. Participating faculty also hope to sponsor greater cohesiveness and communication among faculty and stimulate intellectual debate in the humanities.
  • The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art in Indianapolis, Indiana, was awarded a grant for Rehousing the Eiteljorg Museum’s Native American Collection. The collection consists of artifacts from Native American groups across the United States. The grant will purchase storage furniture for thirty artifacts dating to the mid-nineteenth century, including horse tack, weavings, and beadwork.
  • The Arkansas Archeological Survey in Fayetteville, Arkansas, has received a grant for an investigation of settlement sites in the central Arkansas River Valley. The project, called American Indian Art, Ritual, and Social Interaction in the Central Arkansas River Valley, is uncovering materials looted from Native American burial sites over the past two centuries.
  • The NEH funds Summer Seminars and Institutes for school teachers, community college educators, and university professors. Topics include From Metacom to Tecumseh: Alliances, Conflicts, and Resistance in Native North America in Chicago, Illinois; Plymouth, Massachusetts: Landmark of Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians in Plymouth, Massachusetts; Legacies and Landmarks of the High Plains Native Americans, in Grand Island, Nebraska; and Seeking the Center Place: The Mesa Verde Cultural Landscape and Pueblo Indian Homeland in Cortez, Colorado.
  • Many museums have received grants for both permanent and traveling exhibitions depicting facets of Native American life, including the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City, Utah, for Native Voices: People of the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau; the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, California, for Seven Interactive Displays for the New Museum of the American West and Southwest Museum of the American Indian; the Boston Children’s Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, for Native Voices: New England Tribal Families; and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, in Brooklyn, New York, for Tipi of the Great Plains Exhibition.
  • Grants for preservation and archiving of Native American primary source materials were awarded to a wide variety of institutions, including Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, for The New England Indian Papers Series: The Connecticut Colony Collection, 1603-1783; Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, for Occom Circle: A Digital Edition and Website, providing free access to the works of Mohegan leader Samson Occom; and Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana, for the Assiniboine Indian Traditional Narratives, accompanied by a dictionary.