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School of Architecture faculty won $500,000 Mellon Grant for Humanities in Place

Associate Professor Shundana Yusaf, Adjunct faculty in Architecture & Peripheral Office Tonia Sing Chi, Affiliate College of Architecture and Planning CarmiRae Holguin; and Adrienne Caesar, Bluff Campus Coordinator + Online Curriculum Coordinator for Yestermorrow are the founding members of Nááts’ílid, an indigenous-led coalition recipient of the 2022-2025 Mellon Foundation’s award for Humanities in Place for $500,000.

The grant, sponsored by Yestermorrow Design/Build School, was awarded for their proposed project “Hoosh’ii’ and ‘li lah : Revitalizing Diné PlaceKnowing and PlaceMaking.” Hoosh’ii’ is the Navajo word for PlaceKnowing and ‘li lah means PlaceMaking. The grant will be made under Humanities in Place’s goal to “Evolve Our Institutions” to build their organizational capacity to deliver on certain needs in the area.

The grant will supplement Nááts’ílid ongoing architectural and infrastructural projects in three chapters of Navajo Nation, Dennehotso, Chilchinbeto and Kayenta. It will enable the team to establish a public digital humanities archive and offer workshops to the community. The first will digitally record best contemporary Diné practices in architecture and landscape intervention and the latter will involve hands-on training by Diné knowledge keepers, wayfinders, medicine men and women, seed keepers, and water protectors to the current generation of Diné builders, farmers, and residents. Depending on the level of openness culturally permitted for each activity, both the archive and workshops will be open to the greater public.

Professor Shundana Yusaf expects that the work supported by Humanities in Place will have a profound impact on architectural education at the School of Architecture. The work will put techniques of indigenous PlaceMaking and PlaceKeeping at power with Eurocentric and capitalist/colonialist place making. The part of the archive open to the larger public will expose students and future practitioners to new ways of strengthening communities, in line with the College’s ethos of 4Rs.

The Nááts’ílid Initiative is modeling embedded community engaged design in historically disadvantaged yet highly resilient communities. Yusaf hopes that in the coming years Nááts’ílid will provide students interested in activist and purposeful design an alternative model for situating themselves outside corporate practice.

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