Siobhan Senier, Hayes Chair 2010
Associate Professor of English Siobhan Senier’s year as the Hayes Chair will be devoted to her current book project, an anthology of writings by indigenous people from around the northeast. Tentatively entitled Literature of the Dawn: Writings from Indigenous New England, the anthology documents a local indigenous literary history that spans centuries: from pre-colonial forms like Mi’kmaq hieroglyphics, through early writings of the first Native American students at Dartmouth, and up to contemporary poetry, fiction, and journalism by authors from the New England area’s indigenous tribal nations. Senier’s introduction will explain “the history of indigenous literacy, the history of ‘New England’ as a region predicated on the ideology of Native ‘disappearance,’ and the politics and procedures of compiling literary canons.” The anthology is organized by nation (e.g., Abenaki, Penobscot, Pequot), and each nation’s introduction will be written by a Native elder or community-based scholar—each introduction at once contextualizing and contributing to the nation’s literary tradition.
"I’m also excited to have an opportunity to work up a new class focusing entirely on indigenous New Hampshire," Senier continues. "Since UNH does not presently have any Native American faculty, I am always seeking opportunities to bring Native people here to teach our students. An interdisciplinary course that introduces students to Native people living and working in New Hampshire (writers, basketmakers, environmental activists, nurses) could change the way they look at our state—and, again, continue to strengthen relationships between UNH and the indigenous communities surrounding it.”
“I seek ways to support New Hampshire-based indigenous writers and intellectuals in their education outreach, public speaking, and publication."
For Senier, who has been at UNH since 2000, giving back to the community is a responsibility that comes with being a member of the faculty at a state university. In her work as a scholar and teacher of Native American literature, Senier has become involved with local Native communities, serving on the Advisory Councils for Gedakina, an Abenaki non-profit located in Deering, and the Winter Center for Indigenous Traditions, located just over the border in White River Junction. She has also written an essay on the poetry of Cheryl Savageau (Abenaki), who lives in Milford. Senier’s ties to the New Hampshire’s Native community have enabled her to bring many of its representatives to UNH—“sometimes to visit classes, sometimes to do consulting—in hopes of cultivating long-term relationships between the state’s flagship university and its Native people.”