Cherokee Nation citizen/Native American history scholar joins history department

Susan Burlingame
February 15, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Adding to a growing cohort of scholars who focus on indigenous studies, the Department of History in the College of the Liberal Arts recently welcomed Julie Reed, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a Native American history scholar, as an associate professor of history.

Reed, who comes to Penn State from the University of Tennessee, said she joined the Penn State faculty because of the opportunity to work closely with other scholars in the field.

JulieReed

Julie Reed, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a scholar of Native American history, recently joined the faculty in the Department of History at Penn State.

IMAGE: Julie Reed

“There are exciting things happening in the history department at Penn State,” she said. “Through a series of hires, what emerged was a group of people focused on indigenous history and western history more broadly. I could not turn away from the possibility of having colleagues in my department who are thinking about and having conversations about this on a daily basis, not to mention the opportunity to mentor graduate students in the field. It is incredibly exciting intellectually and personally.”

Reed, who grew up in a military family — her father served in the U.S. Air Force — said her interest in Native American history began at a young age when she discovered information about her father’s family.

“I knew my dad was Cherokee, but I didn’t have the full picture, so I became very curious," said Reed.

For years, Reed considered herself an amateur historian until she began reading more academic history as an undergraduate and graduate student.

“I realized there was a bigger story," she said.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s degree in theological studies, Reed realized she had a responsibility as a citizen of the Cherokee Nation to make American Indian history her professional focus. Ultimately, she reached out to and studied with Theda Purdue, author of the influential book, “Cherokee Women: Gender and Culture Change, 1700-1835,” and earned another master’s degree and a doctorate in American history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

“Dr. Reed is one of only a handful of Native Americans in the U.S. who are scholars of Native American history,” said Michael Kulikowski, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of History and Classics and head of the Department of History at Penn State. “With Christina Snyder, Jacob Lee, and Cathleen Cahill, Julie becomes part of our department’s growing strength in the history of the U.S. west and indigenous peoples. Together, they give Penn State an unprecedented opportunity to engage in dialog, research, and teaching related to our state’s and our nation’s Native American past and present.”

“Native Americans have largely been left out of the story,” added Christina Snyder, McCabe Greer Professor of History. “With my fellow scholars, and with the addition of Julie Reed, we can train more graduate students and delve more deeply into how Native American history challenges us to rethink the story of America. We are so lucky to add Julie to our research cluster.”

Reed is a member of several professional and academic societies, including the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association and the Digadatsele’i, a Cherokee Scholars Think Tank. She is a prolific scholar who has written dozens of peer-reviewed articles, papers, book chapters and conference presentations. She has garnered multiple awards for her research and is the author of two books. The first, “Serving the Nation: Cherokee Sovereignty and Social Welfare, 1800-1907,” explores the institutional history of the Cherokee nation, why they developed a series of institutions to deal with social welfare problems, particularly in the wake of the Civil War, and how those social institutions are similar to or different from institutions forming elsewhere in the U.S. at the same time. Reed’s second book, which is under advance contract with UNC Press, is titled “The Means of Education Shall Forever Be Encouraged in this Nation: A Cherokee and American Educational History.” It is a comprehensive history of Cherokee education beginning in the archaeological record and going through the 1970s.

Penn State joins prestigious Newberry Consortium

At Reed’s urging, Penn State applied for and was accepted as a member of the prestigious Newberry Consortium in American Indian Studies (NCAIS), part of the Newberry, an independent research library in Chicago whose world-famous and vast collection of primary sources is available free of charge to scholars, genealogists, and lifelong learners. The NCAIS was launched in 2009 and draws on the Newberry’s collections in American Indian and indigenous studies; hosts conferences, institutes and workshops; and provides fellowships to graduate students and faculty at member institutions. Membership is limited to 20 institutions, and Penn State is now in the company of several Ivy League and other top research institutions in the U.S. and Canada.

“I was lucky enough to be awarded a Newberry fellowship when I was working on my Ph.D.,” said Reed. “The scope of records available there is significant, and faculty and student access to those records is an important part of this. The consortium allows people who are thinking about and studying indigenous history to come together to move our scholarship forward in intellectually stimulating ways, and I am thrilled that Penn State was able to join.”

“Bringing Julie Reed on board continues Dean Susan Welch’s dedicated efforts to build a more diverse faculty in the College of the Liberal Arts,” said Kulikowski. “Pennsylvania is the homeland of several American Indian nations; it’s particularly gratifying to welcome a member of the Cherokee Nation to our faculty while also building strength in a program that both honors the history of our Commonwealth and complements our other centers of excellence including Latin-American history and African-American history.”

“Those of us who work on indigenous or native studies want U.S. historians to remember that Native Americans are an always-present part of the story and never leave the story. The records bear that out,” concluded Reed, adding that she hopes more Native Americans will pursue scholarship in the field. “Hopefully we’ll be training a group of historians who recognize the continued presence of Native American peoples from time immemorial through today. That’s what really excites me about joining this cohort of scholars at Penn State.”

Last Updated February 15, 2019