The College of Health recently opened its Institute of Indigenous Studies, which is led by professors Christine Daley and Sean Daley.
The Institute of Indigenous Studies plans to bring more opportunities for students at Lehigh to learn about and engage with Indigenous communities.
Both Christine Daley and Sean Daley ran centers that focused on the study of Native American communities in Kansas. They came to Lehigh with eight of their research assistants to found the institute.
Sean Daley is directing the institute at Lehigh and said he has hopes of providing more programs for students to learn about the health and culture of Indigenous people, both locally and internationally.
The institute will be creating a minor in Indigenous peoples’ health at the College of Health. There will also be virtual events this semester on the topic of Indigenous health. The institute plans to have a work-study opportunity for students to work with Indigenous communities in the area as well.
Beyond local involvement, Sean Daley and his co-workers at the institute are forming internship opportunities to learn about Indigenous groups abroad once travel is permitted.
“There’s a lot of opportunities out there to work with Indigenous peoples, be it (in) North America, Central America, South America, wherever,” Sean Daley said. “And that was one of the things we wanted to do at Lehigh.”
When starting the institute, Sean Daley said he was most excited about the chance to work with Lehigh students who are passionate about his field.
“Lehigh has amazing programs all over the world,” Sean Daley said. “One thing they really lacked traditionally is programs with native people. To be able to work with students who are that motivated and want to do this stuff helps us up our game.”
Eduardo Gomez, a professor in the College of Health, said he is looking forward to the institute giving more funding for research and attracting more scholars from the U.S. and Indigenous communities abroad.
He said founding the Institute of Indigenous Studies is significant for the College of Health because it’s a necessity for people to start investigating the health of Indigenous communities.
“The Indigenous community, of course, has had several challenges and we need to really put our best minds, our best students, and researchers to tackle the multiple determinants of health in these communities here and internationally,” Gomez said.
The research team brought by both Christine Daley and Sean Daley is one of the only all-native research teams and one of the largest. Justin Begaye and Luke Swimmer are both a part of this team as research assistants.
Begaye said he thinks it’s important to have an institute like this at every university but in particular at Lehigh.
“I’m glad that they decided to do that because Lehigh does sit on indigenous land like many universities do,” Swimmer said.
Considering the tense history the U.S. has with Indigenous communities, the institute plans to properly educate the students at Lehigh on the pervasive issues concerning Indigenous culture and health.
“I think there’s a level of discomfort around Indigenous topics, I think because of that, it’s something people avoid,” Sean Daley said. “The reality is we, the United States, when it comes to Indigenous people at least — Indigenous people are still part of the colonialistic process. Colonialism has not died when it comes to native people, it’s still an ongoing process.”