Tufts Indigenous Student Organization and New Indigenous Center Building Community Together

The Student Diversity and Inclusion Division announced a new Indigenous Student Identity Center at Tufts last fall, following recommendations from a workflow report the university released in early 2021. Most recently, the university hired Vernon Miller lead the center.

The Indigenous Center, under the leadership of Vernon Miller, will strive to support students who identify as Indigenous through programming and collaboration with other members of the Tufts community as well as external Indigenous communities” , Vernon Miller and Ellisse LaMotte, associate dean of student diversity and inclusion, wrote in a joint statement to The Daily. Miller began his role as center director in March.

The new center will work to amplify the voices of Indigenous students at Tufts while also providing social, academic and cultural programming. The center joins DSDI’s six other Identity and Resource Centers as the university’s latest effort to promote diversity and inclusion at Tufts and create more resources for students.

The Indigenous Center is part of the larger effort and connects directly to the efforts of the Diversity Membership Task Force and the Tufts Initiative as an Anti-Racism Institution, in that the Director will work with Admissions to participate in efforts to increase the Indigenous student population and will simultaneously develop programming to support students enrolling at Tufts“, LaMotte and Miller wrote.

Along with DSDI, the Tufts Indigenous Student Organization, or ISOT, played a significant role in launching the new center. Cyrus Kirby, co-founder of ISOTcelebrates the expansion of support for Indigenous students on campus.

“Generally, our goals are to improve the well-being of Indigenous peoples on campus, which can take many forms,” Kirby, a senior, wrote in a statement to The Daily. “The IC [and] its director Vernon Miller is a huge hit for us because he gives us space to gather, relax and take some of the planning off our hands.

Miller and LaMotte pointed out collaboration and engagement between the new center and ISOT to develop their programming and goals. Last spring, ISOT met Nandi Bynoe, the former Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, to consult on what the organization wanted to see in a new center. ISOT students also interviewed potential candidates for the position of center director in January this year.

The Indigenous Center has been and will continue to be the hub for ISOT and other allies of the Tufts Indigenous community“, Miller and LaMotte wrote.

The Tufts Indigenous Student Organization and the Indigenous Center will also interact more operationally and help strengthen the connection between the work done by the center and the students. The Indigenous Center plans to support ISOT programming on Indigenous Peoples Day and help the student organization retain and recruit.

Tufts and other predominantly white institutions should create community cultures that emphasize a sense of belonging and provide resources to support underrepresented students on campus, helping to foster that belonging,” wrote LaMotte and Miller.Tufts strives to achieve this through the Diversity Centers, DSDI, Chief Diversity Office efforts as well as other efforts throughout the institution..”

LaMotte and Miller describes how the project was approved and how funding for the new center was allocated.

The student organization ISOT expressed interest in opening an Indigenous Center and, with the approval of the Deans, funding for the center and a location for the Indigenous Center was awarded. Shortly after, a search for the director took place and Vernon Miller was hired in February and started as director in March 2022.,” they wrote.

Ftrained on campus in 2019, ISOT has high hopes for how the new Indigenous Center can help and support students on campus. The DSDI team is currently working on developing the center’s program for the next academic year.

“Vernon has great ideas about the entire pre-Tufts to post-Tufts process, starting with recruitment and ending with a successful placement in a job or graduate school,” Kirby wrote. “Part of that involves getting more focused mental health resources, helping find internships, and giving students the means and space to express their culture on campus.”

Virginia S. Braud