Luhui Whitebear transitions to academic position, stepping down as Kaku-Ixt Mana Ina Haws center director


Jess Hume-Pantuso

Photo of Luhui Whitebear who is stepping down as center director of Kaku-Ixt Mana Ina Haws.

Sydni Zidarevich, Justice, Equity and Diversity Beat Reporter

After nearly a decade, Luhui Whitebear is stepping down as Center Director of the Kaku-Ixt Mana Ina Haws Cultural Center as she transitions to a full-time academic position as an assistant professor of Indigenous Studies.

Since the fall term of 2021, Whitebear has been serving in a dual role as center director and assistant professor, but can now fully focus on her academic interests while still serving as a valuable member within the Ina Haws community. 

Additionally, Whitebear is involved with institutional work with the president’s commission of Indigenous affairs and hopes to be able to do more institutional work as she adjusts into her full-time academic position.

Whitebear originally worked at the Ina Haws while she was finishing her undergraduate degree. After finishing her undergraduate degree, Whitebear went to work with the Grand Ronde tribes. 

Whitebear described the experience of returning to Oregon State University to pursue her graduate degree as coming home.

“It was really cool to come back as a professional faculty to mentor students in a way that I was mentored,” Whitebear recalls.

Being the first center director in the Ina Haws space, Whitebear has helped lay a foundation and saw it as an opportunity to help guide indigenous students and learn what their needs and wants from the center were.

Whitebear helped build a safer community; making a welcoming atmosphere to Indigenous communities of the Americas and Pacific Islands, generating great conversations and educating campus. 

“She was one of the first people to make me realize that students should be able to focus on themselves more than they should have to stress about school,” OSU political science major with a minor in indigenous studies and philosophy junior, and Ina Haws Leadership Liaison, Maia Barnes said. “As a boss here and as a professor, she’s very understanding of what you have to say and she’s very good at listening.”

Senior psychology major with a history and Spanish minor, Fawn Harris, spoke about her own experience within the center under Whitebear’s facilitation; learning about indigenous cultures, how that interacts with the OSU campus and the impact and importance of outreaching to other communities, outside of campus. 

“With the tribes around here like Grand Rhodes and Siletz, especially, I learned more about those two tribes just by being here,” Harris said.

Whitebear said that helping to create change on campus to make it a more welcoming and supportive environment is important, especially being on a land-grant institution.

“Across Oregon, OSU has a presence with all of the extension offices, so OSU has such a huge reach and such a big responsibility towards Indigenous people and tribal nations,” Whitebear said.  

Natchee Barnd, comparative and critical ethnic studies scholar and professor, is the head of the Search Committee looking to find the next Ina Haws Center Director. Barnd helped in the decision process when hiring Whitebear for the position.

“I think that (Whitebear’s) ability to really center queer indigenous, and indigenous women and trans, etc. (identities), and the larger notion of what indigenous means…that created space for facilitating and that has been one of the best things that has come out,” Barnd said. “The emphasis is really strong in that way, and the desire to really be more collaborative across those has been really great.”

The application for the Ina Haws Center Director position can be found on the Oregon State University’s career opportunities website, with the hopes of finding a new director by the end of this academic year, in order to introduce them into the center director’s position in the 2023-24 academic year.

“I am hoping to see somebody that can continue to help the center grow to where it needs to be and I hope to see somebody that really enjoys working with students in a student space,” Whitebear said. “Someone who understands the many different ways that indigenous identities show up is really important too. I hope that somebody doesn’t feel like they have to fill my shoes, and that they can come into the position and bring what they hope for the center.”


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