Rutgers professor opens studies into Native American history
Rutgers University’s first Native American professor in the Department of American Studies, Jameson “Jimmy” Sweet, hopes to bring a different perspective when studying the history of the United States, according to an article on Rutgers Today.
After first wanting to be an architect, Sweet said he discovered that he could get involved in American studies, the path he ultimately chose, according to the article. He eventually joined the Rutgers faculty in 2018.
“That was my dream when I was in high school,” Sweet said, according to the article. “It didn’t occur to me at that age that I could make history or American studies or anything like that into a career.”
Being passionate about researching his family’s roots, Sweet said that he descends from the Dakota and Lakota tribes of the upper Midwest, according to the article. Sweet even learned that his grandmother grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota, where she spoke Lakota as a first language.
Sweet’s family ultimately had to move to Traverse City, Michigan, after grasshoppers infiltrated their cattle grazing lands, which was their main source for survival, according to the article.
“I’d trace back my family’s history and see ‘oh, they were involved in this, or they were influenced by that,’’’ said Sweet, who mostly grew up in Michigan, according to the article. “That was how I got into history.”
After earning his undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee, Sweet said he earned a doctorate degree from the University of Minnesota, which was the first university in the country to establish a Department of American Indian Studies, according to the article.
Sweet’s doctorate dissertation focused on the disparities Native Americans of mixed race faced in their communities, as well as in the political legal effects, according to the article.
“I loved history,” Sweet said, according to the article. “I was excited to be doing something I loved and had a personal connection with.”
Rutgers' Department of American Studies is renowned for researching a range of topics in American life, and it is excited to have Sweet on board, according to the article.
“You can’t tell the story of American culture without telling the story of Native Americans,” said Louis P. Masur, the department chair of American studies. “Jimmy is at the forefront of our efforts to build Native American studies at Rutgers.”
Carla Cevasco, an assistant professor in the Department of American Studies, who studies cross-cultural interactions among Native, European and African peoples in colonial America, is also joining the faculty, according to the article.
“Many students don’t realize that Native Americans are still around, and that, in fact, they exist right here in New Jersey,” Sweet said. “They perceive that Native American history ended some 200 years ago … I think it would be great for us to become a resource for the community, and to draw more Native American students.”
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