TCU honors the group working to improve Native American relationships on campus

TCU’s Race and Reconciliation Initiative aims to explore the university’s ties to slavery and the Confederacy and how it affected Native Americans. Sylviane Greensword, a postdoctoral fellow and member of the initiative, highlights the necessity of incorporating the connection between slavery and Native American history into her work. Greensword is part of the team that studied TCU’s association with slavery and discovered how Native Americans were affected.

The Native American and Indigenous Peoples Initiative was recognized by the Race and Reconciliation Initiative in March and honored with a Plume Award for their work in shaping ways to respect and incorporate Native Americans on campus. The committee intends to broaden its research, from African Americans to include Indigenous and Latino populations. Amiso George, the chair of the Race and Reconciliation Initiative, stated that they hope to “provide a comprehensive picture” of the distinct cultures that helped shape TCU.

The university’s latest data from fall 2022 indicates that only 0.2 percent of TCU students were American Indian/Alaska Native. This marks a decrease in the native population at TCU in recent years. The presentation of the Plume Award occurred on the annual Reconciliation Day, where the committee disclosed its most recent findings. The ceremony obtained members of the Wichita and associated tribes, whose ancestral house is on the TCU campus.

The Race and Reconciliation Initiative began in August 2020 and was tasked with exploring TCU’s relationship with slavery and the Confederacy. Karen Steele, an English professor and founding member, claimed that the initiative was prompted by students’ and the country’s outcry following George Floyd’s death. Steele stated that they needed to determine their institutional connection to slavery. Even though TCU wasn’t established until 1873, they still believed that there were stories they needed to explore.

Through their investigation, the initiative found ties to the Confederacy among TCU’s founders, and they have since made recommendations to the TCU Board of Regents. One recommendation was to audit all buildings and statues named after people and diversify by working with Black or Indigenous-owned businesses of color. The committee aims to find not just accountability but also healing. Greensword discovered enslaved people who worked on campus and their descendants, whom TCU brought to campus last year.

George hopes that the campus community will learn about TCU’s full history. They expect changes in the future. They would like to see the learning integrated into coursework and ongoing presentations and campus tours that highlight all the ways TCU welcomes everybody. Though change is likely to be slow, they believe the campus has already come a long way since the committee’s inception.

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