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Spotlight: Professor Chadwick Allen

SAI (Society of American Indians) Centennial Symposium 

Last year, Professor Allen helped organize the SAI Centennial Symposium in honor of the hundredth anniversary of the group’s first meeting, which took place right here at Ohio State.

"We wanted to do a kind of commemoration, but also an investigation, assessing ‘what’s their legacy now?’" said Allen. "It was controversial back then: the Citizenship Act wasn’t passed until 1924, so the big issue of the day was, ‘Should American Indians be citizens?’ This was really a gathering of the first generation of well-educated American Indian people; they were considered “progressive.” One of the things I wanted to do was a reassessment. ‘Who were they? Why did they did they think the way they did, and what do we do with that today?’”

Allen made sure to incorporate traditions from the first meeting, while in turn modernizing the event as a whole. The group visited Observatory Mound in Newark, Ohio, echoing the first SAI group’s visit to the Earthworks Mounds in 1911. Allen also invited President Gee to deliver a welcome speech, as President Thompson had been involved one hundred years earlier.  ”To update things, though,” Allen told OSU Tumblr, “I invited the chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Glena Wallace. [The Eastern Shawnee] are some of the traditional owners of this land. The chief also happens to be a woman. Back in 1911, only white men spoke, so I wanted to update things in that respect. We also had Dr. Valerie Lee from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion give a speech.”

The pamphlet from the event is definitely worth checking out. It incorporates a ton of history in just a few pages. The picture above, for example, shows the original members outside of Enarson Hall, which was the then-brand new Student Union. “I wanted every administrator to get one,” Allen said, “To really demonstrate what’s possible at Ohio State.”

As a follow-up to the symposium, Allen says a collection of essays is in the works. “We’re combining them into one issue between the journal SAIL and American Indian Quarterly. It’ll be about 16 essays.” This special edition is coming soon!

To learn more about the symposium, take a look at the event program, or visit the archive on the American Indian Studies page!