Clemson Welcomes a Special Visitor to CampusSantee Frazier looks at the camera and poses in front of a light background.: Santee Frazier

Santee Frazier is a visiting professor and Indigenous poet who accepted a position at Clemson for the 2022-2023 academic year. Frazier is a part of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and his family currently lives in Syracuse, New York. After teaching at Syracuse University, and directing a low residency creative writing program he decided to take on visiting professor roles around the country. He currently teaches two sections of ENGL2020: Literary Forms of Creative Writing and ENGL3530: Indigenous Poetry and Poetics. 

Frazier is a passionate professor who says education is about teaching students how to think independently, know themselves and believe in their writing abilities. 

“In teaching, I try to find ways for students to be vulnerable in the classroom, especially in creative writing, which I think is important.” 

In order to do this, Frazier gives students a free space to create in his class. 

Frazier says his creative approach to teaching comes from an Indigenous perspective on education. 

“Native people were put through a boarding school system essentially to slowly erode their culture over time, removing their language and cultural perspective. This system was trying to find a way to integrate native people into society through a problematic educational model. In the early to mid 1900’s, you have generations of native people that were forced to live at boarding schools where they were subjected to many forms of abuse. They were unable to speak their language, and stripped of their cultural identity.”

When thinking about United States history as an Indigenous educator, Frazier said, “What kind of educator would I be if I enforced a certain set of values and restrictions on my students in the classroom? It becomes about ethics.” 

The education he provides in the classroom is not about high-pressure assignments. Frazier wants students to feel like they can create the work they need in his class space. He acknowledges that his method may not always work, but he cannot teach any other way while knowing Native American history in the United States’ education system. Frazier says the most rewarding part of being an educator is when students use this space to write something beyond the limits of their perceived abilities.

When asked how teaching at Clemson is different from other universities, Frazier said, “For one, I’m on my ancestral homeland.” 

It is intriguing to him that while Clemson is on Cherokee ancestral lands, you would not know unless you really wanted to find out. 

“The history of a place creates interesting teaching situations. People not having that awareness gives me an unique place from which to teach,” Frazier said. 

He enjoys teaching his students about these things in a positive, generative way instead of punishing them for their ignorance of native subjects which is not even their fault. 

 “As one of their only Native American professors, and maybe their first, I think it is important that they have a good experience in my class. It is my responsibility to meet them where they are. As a native person, that’s what I would have wanted,” Frazier said.

After his time at Clemson, Frazier will be moving on to another visiting writer position in New York state. Even though he will be leaving Clemson soon, he will have left a unique, lasting and positive impact on his students here. Clemson will also leave an equal impact on him. 

“I love it here. There’s something rewarding about teaching at this institution compared to other places I’ve taught. I’ve found that transformative, critical moments in the classroom are way more rewarding and intense here at Clemson than at other universities, and I think that’s amazing.”

By: Rachel Harley

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