The Native American Cultural Center will gain its own house next fall as the number of Native American students on campus continues to rise.
The NACC plans to move to 26 High St. from its current space on 295 Crown St. that it shares with the Asian American Cultural Center. The number of freshmen who identify primarily as Native American grew to roughly 40 this year, a significant increase over past years that gives the class of 2015 the largest Native American population in Yale’s history. Theodore Van Alst, assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Native American Cultural Center, said he expects the new space to help the NACC increase its presence on campus.
“Now that the students have their own space … the [Native American] community will be able to expand and reach a wider audience with different cultural, academic and social programs,” he said.
Yale College Dean Mary Miller said she collaborated with the Provost’s Office to make the addition possible and hopes to further develop the Center’s offerings as Yale’s Native American community grows, explaining that “strong cultural houses with robust programs contribute to and support academic success.”
Professor Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, a professor of history and American studies and member of the NACC board, said she was “ecstatic” about the new space because it allows the Center to have the same resources as other cultural centers on campus.
“It’s a matter of equity — the Native American community has long been the only cultural center without its own distinct space,” she said. “Having autonomy over this new space will have an extraordinary impact on the development of the NACC. As everyone who has ever lived with a roommate knows, it’s hard to share space.”
Amanda Tjemsland ’13, a recruitment coordinator at the Office of Admissions and a peer liaison for the NACC, said the new venue will allow the NACC to accommodate all of its members more easily by holding larger events and fostering a broader sense of community among Yale’s Native American students.
Tjemsland added that having a separate venue for Native American activities will make planning events easier in the future since members will not need to coordinate with the AACC’s schedule. This year, she said the NACC could not hold its open house at the same time as the rest of the cultural centers since the Asian American Cultural Center needed the venue for its own event. Having their own space, she said, would ensure that NACC staffers could hold more casual and “spur-of-the-moment” events.
Ned Blackhawk, a professor of history and American studies and member of the NACC Advisory Board, said the center has tried to increase its outreach activities on campus in past years by hosting Native American speakers on campus and holding conferences that “showcase Yale’s rich and vibrant Native American student and alumni communities.” But he added that the new space will allow the center to play a larger role in daily campus life by drawing Native American leaders from around the world.
“Ideally, the new, expanded NACC can enrich Native American as well as other Yale students’ experiences through expanded outreach efforts to local, national and indeed global indigenous communities,” he said, adding that he hopes the NACC can enhance programs that connect NACC alumni with current students.
The roughly 40 freshmen who identify primarily as Native American is significantly larger than the approximately 18 Native American students in the junior class, Blackhawk said. There are currently eight Native American students in the senior class and between 15 and 20 in the sophomore class, according to Michael Honhongva ’12, a student coordinator at the NACC. Blackhawk said that this year’s “unusually” large number of Native American freshmen reflected the recruiting efforts of Van Alst and other faculty members’ in conjunction with the Office of Admissions.
The NACC has been located on Crown Street since its creation in 1993.