Clark Sage had never heard of anthropology until he was invited to a friend’s class as the guest speaker during his undergraduate years.
The topic? Native peoples and his experiences with life on a reservation.
Sage had just returned from a trip out West to visit Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, a home to more than 14,000 Lakota people.
Sage first visited Pine Ridge when he was 18 years old, and it was an eye-opening experience. “It was exciting. I had never been that far West before. I grew up back East, where you didn’t really have reservations and native peoples,” he said.
He quickly switched his major to Anthropology, finished his undergraduate degree, and found himself in a combined PhD and Masters program in Cultural Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. Sage knew he wanted to teach. He wanted to explore with his students what it means to be human, and he knew he could teach them about native peoples. “I just want students to know anything beyond Disney’s ‘Pocahontas’ or the myth of Thanksgiving,” Sage said.
Sage said he “lucked into the job” at DePauw. After the University passed him up for one job, he applied to teach for a semester while a professor went on sabbatical. After that, the department asked him to finish the year, then asked him to stay for another year, and then asked him to continue teaching for at least two more.
For the most part, it’s a job that Sage enjoys.
“There are definitely times just as crazy as things in the world at large can seem to be. I look around and go ‘I’m done. I can’t take it anymore. Why do I keep putting myself in positions to be constantly thinking about and addressing these big issues,’” Sage said. “But then there’s a student that just gets it. You see that lightbulb. That makes it worth it.”