Historian wins major journalism award for Indigenous land project

Dr Robert Lee, University lecturer in American History, has been awarded a George Polk Award, one of the most prestigious in journalism, for his investigation into how the United States funded land-grant universities with expropriated Indigenous land.

We combined historical research and investigative reporting in a way one rarely sees

Robert Lee

Last year, Dr Lee and co-winner Tristan Ahtone – then Indigenous Affairs editor for High Country News, now editor-in-chief of the Texas Observer – published a hard-hitting report revealing how 52 American universities built their fortunes using 11 million acres of Native American land, signed over amid violence, corruption and coercion.

Through exhaustive research over several years, the Land-Grab Universities project located 80,000 parcels of land scattered across 24 states, identified their Indigenous owners, and traced every dollar endowed with profits from dispossession in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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