April 2010 Issue • Volume 38 • Issue 4

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California State University Launches New
Center on Indigenous Peoples

by James Fenelon, California State University-San Bernardino

California State University-San Bernardino has launched an innovative, global-based program—the Center for Indigenous Peoples Studies (CIPS) —under the guidance of sociologist James Fenelon. It will serve as a primary site for the study of American Indians and partnerships with local, national, and international Indigenous Peoples and Native Nations (Tribes) in the region and nationally as well as with Peoples throughout the Americas and the world. These programs involve significant participation of CSUSB faculty, students, and administrators, as well as partnerships with Native Nations (Tribes) in the region and nationally, and strong interactive connections with Indigenous Peoples throughout the Americas and the world, many whom are already in contact with CIPS personnel and the university.


James Fenelon

The goals of CIPS are in four areas: academics, instructional related activities, research, and community outreach. The Center is in the process of conducting research, facilitating instructional programs with service learning, and coordinating academic activities contributing to the development of knowledge and advancement of social justice issues. The emphasis is on developing these studies with a broad globalization perspective.

The Center, housed in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, will be the primary site for a series of innovative and productive programs for the study of American Indians. It operates on four levels of scholarly and program activities: local and regional Native Nations; National (U.S.) level, Native Nations; Native Nations in the Americas outside of the United States, in Latin America including the Caribbean; and Indigenous Societies on Global level, outside of the Americas. The Center maintains international focus as it pays special attention to local and regional Native Nations with the intent of forming partnerships and fostering good relations in the region.

The Center’s first board meetings included representatives from San Manuel (Serrano), Pechanga (Luiseno), Cahuilla, and American Indian peoples from throughout the Americas and Mexico.

Why Now and Why CSUSB?

The CIPS and CSUSB are in a relatively unique position to pull these social forces together, including Indian Gaming Nations, with CSU’s global and transnational studies well-connected in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Chile, Thailand, and the Middle East country regions. Activities are planned with the Mapuche, Bedouin, Maori, Aymara, Lakota, and Adevasi tribes, among others, in the coming years.

This global to local to transnational approach is connected to recent international developments, such as the United Nations finally passing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This approach recognizes age-old struggles to maintain autonomous community relations and cultural sovereignty in a world of dominant state structures that operate under capitalist rules of engagement that are often at odds with, if not destructive of, indigenous social systems.

The reason the Center is on San Bernardino is because Southern California and the Inland Empire are home to one of the most diverse ethnic populations of American Indians nationally and of Indigenous Peoples internationally. The American Indian population in California ranks among the highest in the United States. Additionally, the presence of significant indigenous populations from Latin America, including Mexico, as well as from many countries in Central America and South America, within this region of California rivals that of Texas.

The Center Director, James V. Fenelon, is Lakota/Dakota from Standing Rock (Nation) and has taught internationally, with indigenous peoples globally, and with urban groups. He is co-author, with Thomas D. Hall, of Indigenous Peoples and Globalization: Resistance and Revitalization (2009), which demonstrates new paradigms for understanding Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples from a global perspective. For more information on the new Center, see cips.csusb.edu/.

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