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The Mellema Program: Research

Recent Grant Awards

Alaska Native Voices Tell the Masking Dance Story

Continuing past work, Ellen Van't Hoff's 2013 sabbatical project is a new documentary film on "Alaska Native Voices Tell the Masking Dance Story." It will document Alaska native Elders' memories of Nuuwikutaq, an Alutiiq New Year Masking Dance, in Sugt'stun, a Sugpiaq/Alutiiq dialect. The product will be a 20-30 minute archival documetnary. The Nuuwikutaq is a tradition once performed throughout Alutiiq/Sugpiaq communities in Alaska. It is a Creole custom created from ancient Sugpiaq and Russian Orthodox ceremonies. Today, only the remote villages of Nanwalek and Port Graham still perform the annual celebration, which lasts for over four hours on the Julian calendar's New Year's Eve. In partnership with Sperry Ash, native son of Nanwalek, Van't Hof has been asked to create an archival film to preserve memories and images of Nuuwikutaq. Together they have identified 15 native-speakign Elders (representing 10% of the remaining Alutiiq-dialect speakers worldwide!) who have lifelong memories of Nuuwikutaq. They will record their stories in Sugt'stun before it's too late. This project is commited to discovering both the history and the contemporary cultural expression of the Nuutwikutaq Masking Dance of Nanwalek and Port Graham, AK.

Photography of Landscapes

The award to Jennifer Hoag is related to her 2013 sabbatical project of photography of landscapes, specifically of environments that appear to be contaminated. Two components of the project are set in West Michigan, but the third, for which Hoag will be receiving a Mellema Program research-travel grant, will be photographs of a series of sites in Washington, Oregon, and California. "Some of the sites I will visit have been featured in famous modernist photographs," Hoag explains. "However, those photogrpahs depict the land as an aesthetic object, untouched by humans. My photographs will challenge this interpretation of the landscape; question our assumptions about beauty, and our relationship with the land."

Fossil Evidence for the Historical Development of Western North American Salmonid Ecosystems

In 2013, Ralph Stearley received an additional grant to continue his research. He will be travelling to Oregon and California to view salmonid fossils as part of his sabbatical project work. The goal of the alrger project is to completely summarize the biogeographic history of Late Cenozoic salmonines from western North America. The implications of this extended ecosystem history, he emphasizes, should be applied to contemporary problems in anadromous salmonid stock management, particularly as-yet poorly understood relationships between oceanic migrations and the physics of the NE Pacific Ocean. Along with other grants, the Mellema Program grant will allow him to visit Rapid City, South Dakota, and the Boise, Idaho area. He has been invited to examine fossil fishes from Neogene contexts in south-central Oregon, collected by South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT) teams and curated at the campus museum there in Rapid City. He also will join a group of scientists from the University of Michigan and College of Idaho who will be collecting fossils in the region southwest of Boise, Idaho, and also south of Vale, Oregon. He also will travel to southern California, where the Los Angeles County Museum contains a substantial collection of fossil salmonids from nearshore deposits in southern California and from ancient marine incursions into what is now the Great Valley of California.

For the summer of 2010, the Mellema Program awarded Ralph Stearley of the Department of Geology, Geography, and Environmental Studies at Calvin College a grant of $2,400. This project is part of a larger ecosystem natural history study of fish fossils in the Western U.S. states.

Ecosystem Management and the Crisis of Scientific and Political Authority

For the summer of 2011, Jamie Skillen of the Department of Geology, Geography, and Environmental Studies at Calvin College was awarded a grant of $1,500 for this book project under contract with the University Press of Kansas, scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2013. The award is related to the core case studies of the book in federal ecosystem management: the Northwest Forest Plan, covering federal lands on the west side of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Oregon, and California, and the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project, covering federal lands in the Columbia River watershed east of the Cascade Mountains. The grant will allow Dr. Skillen to travel to offices in Oregon and interview federal employees/retirees and examine documents. The Mellema grant builds on funding provided by other college offices.

In 2012, Skillen received an additional grant for a student researcher to help him complete the project. The student, Bethany Van Kooten, one of the top geography majors, worked as research assistant on the project. In January and early February 2013 she analyzed several thousand pages of minutes and documents from eky federal committees that pertain to ecosystem management in the American West.

Reawakening the Alutiiq ArtsFinding Their Own Dance DVD

Prof. Ellen Van’t Hof of the Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Dance and Sports (HPERDS) Department of Calvin College received two grants for her for a multimedia project on native traditions, dance, and the arts among the Alutiiq people of Alaska. The project involved cultural studies, working with both scholars and Native elders and performers, and the production of a documentary film entitled Finding Their Own Dance: Reawakening the Alutiiq Arts.

The film, produced by Rob Prince of the Communication Arts and Sciences program, was presented at Calvin in Fall 08 and is intended to help perpetuate, promote, and examine the heritage and contemporary artistic expression of this indigenous people. Van’t Hof and Prince showed the film in Alaska in Fall 08 and at documentary happy elderfestivals. This film has also generated interest in South America where indigenous groups are struggling with issues comparable to those of the Alutiiq.

They currently are working on a French language version of the film, and they plan to show it later this year in France at a museum exhibition on Alutiiq dance and arts.

Big Sky Geology

In 2005, Prof. Gerry Van Kooten of  the department of Geology, Geography, and Environmental Studies received a grant to develop a May Interim course entitled, “Big Sky Geology: Montana Field Experience.” This introductory course was designed to be an immersion geology experience and fills the Physical World core requirement at Calvin. The department offers it each summer.

Restoring Puget Sound Prairie

Also in 2005, Prof. Randy Van Dragt of the Biology Department was awarded a grant to begin a multi-year study on prairie restoration at the Puget Sound campus of Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies on Whidbey Island, Washington. The project is continuing via courses at the Au Sable Institute and Professor Van Dragt’s own restoration ecology course.

Theological Engagement with Frontier Cities

In 2004, the Mellema Program awarded Dr. James K.A. Smith for his sabbatical project, “The City of Angels as a Parody of the City of God: Theological Engagement with Frontier Cities.” The project used the field of philosophical theology known as Radical Orthodoxy to do social-cultural criticism of Los Angeles as a quintessential frontier city and now a postmodern city.

Disease, Habit, or the Story of a People

In 2003, Prof. Glenn Weaver of the Psychology department was awarded a development grant for an off-campus Interim course on “Addiction: Disease, Habit, or the Story of a People.” This program in New Mexico and Arizona focused on patterns of addiction historically and currently among Native Americans, Hispanic immigrant families, and Anglo teenage women

 

Go Deeper

Our programs and centers enable students to minor in diverse areas including Archaeology, African Studies, Asian Studies, Gender Studies, Latin American Studies, Medieval Studies, and International Development.

Calvin also hosts the H. Henry Meeter Center, North America’s premier research collection devoted to the writings of John Calvin and early Calvinists; the Colonial Origins Collection, a rich store of materials pertaining to Dutch emigration, the Christian Reformed Church, and related institutions; and the new Mellema Program in Western American Studies for studies in the American and Canadian West.

Research

The Mellema Program welcomes applications for research and course development grants. Applications for 2014 were due by April 4, 2014.

Information and application forms for 2015 will be available soon. If you have questions or would like more information now, contact us.

Mellema Program
in Western American Studies

History Department
Calvin College
1845 Knollcrest Circle SE
Grand Rapids, MI
49546-4402

Director: William Katerberg
(616) 526-6047
email: wkaterbe@calvin.edu