aerial view of University of Utah campus

Marking Native American Heritage Month

This November we celebrate Native American Heritage Month, which highlights the accomplishments and contributions of Native peoples and Nations to our society. Native faculty, staff and students are vital members of our campus community, making the University of Utah stronger. The university has planned a slate of events to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

Recently the university has adopted an Indigenous land acknowledgment statement that is used at the start of events across campus to recognize the important role the Ute Indian Tribe plays to the U.

We acknowledge that this land, which is named for the Ute Tribe, is the traditional and ancestral homeland of the Shoshone, Paiute, Goshute and Ute Tribes. The University of Utah recognizes and respects the enduring relationship that exists between many Indigenous peoples and their traditional homelands. We respect the sovereign relationship between tribes, states and the federal government, and we affirm the University of Utah’s commitment to a partnership with Native Nations and Urban Indian communities through research, education and community outreach activities.

 

In addition to the special relationship with the Ute Indian Tribe, the University of Utah, through many colleges, departments and programs, continues to reach out to tribes and tribal organizations throughout Indian country. Note that “Indian country” is a term of art used to refer both to different types of land, including reservations, allotments and dependent Indian communities, as well as people and tribal nations that combine to form Indian country.

“I invite our campus community to take time this month to reflect on contributions of Indigenous peoples’ on our campus and in our state,” said Taylor Randall, president of the University of Utah. “While the university has made strides in our relationships and support of Native Nations in recent years, I recognize there is still important work to be done.”

There are a robust set of initiatives, programs and groups across the university working to support the success and recognition of Native peoples, below is a snapshot of current activities.

Land Acknowledgement Statement

Find more information on the university’s Indigenous Land Acknowledgement here.

College-level initiatives

College of Education

The College of Education created the Native Education @ the CoE community dedicated to promoting Native excellence in various academic fields, in particular education. The community is composed of faculty and staff who believe in working collaboratively with American Indian/Alaska Native peoples, notably the eight distinct sovereign nations in Utah, to further educational goals.

College of Humanities

The College of Humanities via the American West Center has engaged in extensive outreach to tribes within the region. The Center has successfully taken over 2,000 Native oral interviews as part of its work around oral histories. The college’s Department of Communication also published a statement acknowledging the work that still needs to be done to pursue equity with Indigenous peoples and their sovereign Nations.

College of Social Work

Dena Ned, associate dean of the Office of First Generation Access in the College of Social Work, focuses her research and work on the Indian Child Welfare Act, Title V of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, urban American-Indian health policies and delivery of care systems.

David Eccles School of Business

The David Eccles School of Business developed the First Ascent Scholars program, which cultivates, encourages and enables academically focused students with significant financial need to attend the Eccles School and connect with the University of Utah, local and global community while reaching their full academic potential. As part of the First Ascent Scholars program, the David Eccles School of Business has done outreach to tribal communities and successfully recruited tribal citizens to the School of Business.

S.J. Quinney College of Law

The S.J. Quinney College of Law has worked with the Navajo Nation to develop a memorandum of understanding, which will help cover the tuition of Navajo citizens attending the College of Law. The College of Law is also hosting a pathway to law school conference, to reach out to potential and current Native law students across the country.

University of Utah Health

Huntsman Cancer Institute

The Huntsman Cancer Institute provides American Indian patient navigators to help Native patients navigate the health care system. The School of Medicine also offers a Graduate Certificate in Tribal, Rural, and Underserved Medicine that is intended to prepare and encourage University of Utah medical students to choose residencies and careers in primary care that serve tribal communities, rural communities and/or medically underserved communities after they graduate.

School of Medicine

The School of Medicine offers the Native American Summer Research Internship. The Native American Research Internship is a dynamic summer research opportunity for Native American undergraduate junior and senior students who are interested in Health Science research. The internship focus provides Native American students an outstanding laboratory or clinically based research experience working alongside world-class research faculty at the University of Utah. The goal of the internship is to support the academic, career and personal development of Native American students who are interested in Health Science careers.

American Indian Resource Center

The mission of the American Indian Resource Center (AIRC) at the University of Utah is to advocate for American Indian and Alaskan Native students through recruitment and retention projects that lead to graduation. The AIRC serves as a vital link among American Indian and Alaskan Native students, the university and the larger community. The AIRC works to increase American Indian student visibility and success on campus by advocating for and providing student-centered programs and tools to enhance academic success, cultural events to promote personal well-being, and a supportive “home-away-from-home” space for students to grow and develop leadership skills. The AIRC strives to advance public education concerning contemporary issues in American Indians and Alaskan Natives communities. The AIRC also seeks to promote outreach and collaboration with Native Nations and communities throughout the state of Utah and the region.

U centers, groups and associations

Center for Equity and Student Belonging

The Center for Equity and Student Belonging (CESB) supports Native students through dedicated staff hired to create and support Native and Indigenous programming and to directly advise the Inter-Tribal Student Association (ITSA).

Inter-Tribal Student Association

The Inter-Tribal Student Association offers a support system for University of Utah Native students, promoting unity, cultural strength and advocacy for Native issues.

American Indian Science and Engineering Society

The American Indian Science and Engineering Society works to substantially increase the representation of American Indians and Alaska Natives in engineering, science and other related technology disciplines.

Indigenous Student Association and Allies

The Indigenous Student Association and Allies seeks to educate the larger community about American Indian culture and issues while providing an opportunity for indigenous students to explore cultural connections.

Native American Law Student Association

The Native American Law Student Association provides support for students interested in practicing Indian law, as well as provide programming related to legal challenges facing Indian country.

Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans

The University of Utah Chapter of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans (SACNAS) is an all-inclusive community dedicated to supporting diversity and inclusion in STEM fields and fostering the success of scientists from under-represented backgrounds.

Editor’s note: In addition to her role at the University of Utah, Elizabeth Kronk Warner is a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and has served as an appellate judge for the tribe and as a district judge for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe.