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Published: Monday, October 24, 2022

Faculty Profile: Cintra Agee – Native American Studies

Faculty Profile: Cintra Agee – Native American Studies

We are delighted to have Cintra Agee, a long time CR associate faculty member, as our new full-time professor of Native American Studies. Cintra grew up in New York, in a home were education was highly valued and so she always felt at home in educational institutions. After high school, she came to California to start her undergraduate degree at Berkeley, but after her first year, she felt that she needed some time off to travel and find what was important to her.

Eventually, she was back in New York, at Hunter College, where she majored in Religion, with an emphasis on Indigenous Religions. She had always been interested in how race and class often determine a person's socioeconomic status. Her family has kept genealogical records for generations, so she knew her ancestors had been in the US since the 1600s, and therefore, she was directly descended from individuals who were at least somewhat responsible for the colonialization of Indigenous lands and people.

After college, she got a job with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) because she was very interested in its work connecting economic development with environmental sustainability and she believed in its empirically and data-driven projects.

While working at the UNDP, she applied and was accepted to a master’s program at Yale University School of the Environment. Yale does a lot of work with the UNDP because it puts an emphasis on service, is also data driven, and wants the research done at Yale to be useful in the real world.

While there, she found that, although there were classes about Indigenous Peoples, there were no classes that included North American Indigenous cultures. Seeing an opportunity, she got together with some faculty and started hosting one credit courses to include North America. This got her interested in curriculum development and course design.

After completing her MA from Yale in 2002, she was recruited by the only First Nation-owned forestry company in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. There, from 2002 to 2004, she designed, fundraised for, and implemented a program that used forest ecosystem monitoring and evaluation to create jobs for local First Nations.

She then moved back home and was accepted to the Yale University PhD program, where she pursued an interdisciplinary course of study combining Indigenous Studies and ecosystem management. She will receive her PhD in December. As a graduate student Teacher’s Assistant (TA), she led many breakout discussions and found that teaching felt natural to her, she loved it and had good connections with the undergrads.

While writing her dissertation, she saw that there was an opening for associate faculty in Native American studies at CR but didn’t apply right away because she really believes that, when possible, those positions should go to Native people. However, she kept checking back to see if the position was still open. When it had not been filled in over 18 months, she applied. She got the job in 2015, moved to Humboldt, and has never looked back.

Even though Cintra says she would have stayed at CR forever anyway, she was thrilled to learn that, for the first time, CR was hiring a full-time, tenured position in Native American Studies last spring.

What she loves about CR is that everyone is pulling in the same direction and that the teaching here is student-centered, rather than research –oriented or individualistic. She always tells her students that school should serve you, and urges them to take control of their own education.

Cintra would like to acknowledge the Hoopa Higher Education program, which works with our faculty at the Klamath-Trinity site. She believes that they were essential to her success as an instructor and, without them, she would not have been able to serve native, or non-native people as well. They steadied her and steered her and were very accepting, and they gave her the important direction to just focus on the teaching. She hopes that in the future, CR might be invited into similar programs with other tribes.

This fall and spring, Cintra is teaching Introduction to Native American Studies and Native American History on the Eureka campus and online. In the spring, she is looking forward to go back to also teaching NAS at the KT site on the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s reservation.

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