FSU Native American and Indigenous Studies Center to host American Society for Ethnohistory annual conference

| Wed, 11/01/23
“Moving Day in the Everglades of Florida: Seminole Indians and Dugout Canoes,” circa 1935, from the collection of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Clewiston, Florida. (Courtesy of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)
“Moving Day in the Everglades of Florida: Seminole Indians and Dugout Canoes,” circa 1935, from the collection of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Clewiston, Florida. (Courtesy of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)

Florida State University and the FSU Native American and Indigenous Studies Center are set to host approximately 200 scholars from around the world this week for the 2023 annual conference of the American Society for Ethnohistory, or ASE.

The three-day conference, which brings together historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, scholars and community members to discuss their latest work, is slated for Nov. 2-4 at the Augustus B. Turnbull III Florida State Conference Center.

Andrew Frank, the Allen Morris Professor of History and founding director of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Center

“Hosting the ASE conference at FSU is a unique opportunity for our students and faculty to engage scholars and scholarship from across the hemisphere,” said Andrew Frank, the Allen Morris Professor of History and founding director of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Center. “Bringing the conference to Tallahassee is a testament to FSU’s reciprocal relationship with the Seminole Tribe and the important work our faculty and students have been doing in Native American studies for many years.”

The American Society for Ethnohistory began as an outgrowth of research done for the Indian Claims Act of 1946 and was formed with the goal of creating a more inclusive picture of the histories of native groups in the Americas. Today, the international organization sponsors the journal Ethnohistory and has approximately 500 active members and 700 institutional subscribers.

Each year, ASE selects a different theme for the conference, with this year’s discussions centering on crisis and resilience. Presentations will explore Indigenous resilience in the face of environmental, political, diplomatic, economic, social and cultural crises, while participants will engage in dialogue with Indigenous nations and communities of present-day Florida, the Native South, and the Americas.

The conference begins Thursday evening with a plenary session at Mission San Luis, featuring Tina Osceola of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Woneonah Haire of the Catawba Nation, Miranda Panther of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Raelyn Butler of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

While organizers are excited to host the conference, they are also delighted for the opportunity to introduce the academic community and public to the NAIS Center. The conference marks the center’s first event since its establishment this fall and a midpoint on the journey to officially opening the doors of its renovated home, located along West College Avenue near FSU’s Westcott Plaza, this spring.

In partnership with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the NAIS Center provides a hub for community members committed to Native American and Indigenous research and artistic practice. The center promotes and coordinates consultations with tribal nations and community leaders, educational efforts inside and outside of the classroom, and collaborative scholarship.

“The NAIS Center works from the knowledge that the Seminole Tribe of Florida and several other Indigenous nations see Tallahassee and other FSU campuses as their homelands,” said Frank, an ethnohistorian specializing in the history of the Florida Seminoles and the Native South. “It acknowledges that FSU has called itself the ‘Seminoles’ ever since it became a coeducational school in 1947. This relationship extends beyond our use of the Tribe’s name and symbols in athletics, and the center exists as part of a larger commitment by the university to collaborate with the Tribe as intellectual partners.”

The NAIS Center’s 25 affiliated faculty members hail from the Department of Anthropology, the Department of History, the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, and the Department of Religion, all part of the College of Arts and Sciences, along with faculty from the College of Fine Arts, the College of Music, the College of Nursing, the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, and FSU Libraries. These faculty are actively conducting research related to Native American and Indigenous life and history, in collaboration with Indigenous peoples from the Gulf South, the Caribbean, New England, the Pacific Northwest, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

“The center allows us to bridge the lines between departments and colleges,” said Frank, who joined the FSU faculty in 2007.

“Andrew Frank and his colleagues have done a terrific job launching the NAIS Center. It is timely and raises the profile of academic and outreach activities already taking place across campus,” said Sam Huckaba, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The conference provides a wonderful opportunity to host a large group and showcase all that Dr. Frank and his colleagues are doing.”

FSU Provost and Executive Vice President James Clark highlighted the significance of the NAIS Center in his address to the Foundation Board of Trustees in October, noting that the Seminole Tribe has played a critical role in planning for the center, including consulting on materials to be housed in the facility.

“This new center is especially exciting because it honors the moral and spiritual legacies of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which deeply informs the research and education missions guiding the important work of our faculty and students,” Clark said.

Beyond illuminating the history of the university’s Seminole partners and the Native American past, the NAIS Center is committed to working with Indigenous people and communities in the American South and beyond. It will also offer undergraduate and graduate certificates, provide public-facing programming for the FSU community, partner on local and national grants, and host international conferences.

To learn more about the ASE conference and the FSU Native American and Indigenous Studies Center, visit nais.fsu.edu.