Mellon Foundation Awards Benefit Native American Language Center and Gorman Art Museum

More than $1 million in new awards from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the UC Davis Department of Native American Studies are strengthening Indigenous ancestral languages and contemporary art.  

The Native American Language Center received $800,000 to work with tribes in California on language teaching and research, and the C.N. Gorman Museum received $250,000 for general operating support.

The language center will use the funding to provide training and support for tribal and nonprofit partners’ language-related programs; improve access to dictionaries and archival resources; develop pedagogical materials that can be adapted to a variety of languages; and increase awareness of Native languages.

“This Mellon grant is intended to support a broader range of California languages and is much more focused on training and capacity-building for California tribes and tribal nonprofits,” said Justin Spence, director of the language center and associate professor of Native American studies. “It is also explicitly trying to build a stronger presence for Indigenous languages at UC Davis through events, residencies and course offerings.”

In the last year of the three-year grant, the center will research Native American languages that are not indigenous to California, but have a strong presence due to migrations of people from Mexico, Central America and South America.

In 2015, the language center received a $245,000 award from the National Science Foundation to document the Hupa language.

The museum, which focuses on exhibiting and collecting contemporary Indigenous art, is in the process of relocating on campus from Hart Hall near the Quad to Nelson Hall on Old Davis Road along the Arboretum — expanding its gallery and storage space and making it more accessible to the public.

The unrestricted award from the Mellon Foundation Art Museum Future Fund will help create a unique setup that combines storage of the museum’s 2,000 artworks with display. The museum is scheduled to reopen in its new location early in 2023.

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science

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