Wide photo taken behind group of 5 drummers sitting down in a large grass field. In front of them, several couples participate in a Bear Dance and many people sitting in chairs form a large circle around them. Taken during the Tri Ute conference at the University of Utah.

An enduring relationship

About the Ute Indian Tribe

Ute people migrated to the northern Colorado Plateau between 1,000-2,000 years ago. In the 1600s, they inhabited most of what is now Utah, western Colorado, southern Wyoming, northern Arizona and New Mexico. The state of Utah takes its name from the three Ute Tribes (Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Tribe and Southern Ute Tribe).

The Ute Indian Tribe resides on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation 150 miles east of Salt Lake City in an area known as the Uintah Basin. There are over 3,000 tribal citizens and about half live on the reservation. The Business Tribal Council governs the Tribe and consists of two representatives from each band of the Ute Indian Tribe (the Whiteriver, Uncompahgre and Uintah).

The relationship between the Ute Indian Tribe and the University of Utah 

The Ute Indian Tribe has had an enduring relationship with the University of Utah. For the past 49 years, the Ute Indian Tribe has reaffirmed a partnership with the University of Utah. The tribe has granted the university’s athletics teams permission to use the Ute name through a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The most current MOU was renewed in the spring of 2020. It is important to note that the Utes are not the university’s mascot. Since the mid-1980s, the mascot for the University of Utah has been Swoop, the red-tailed hawk.

A joint task force composed of four members oversees and implements the MOU’s provisions and addresses ongoing issues affecting Native and Indigenous students at the university. Representatives Ronald Wopsock and Julius Murray serve on the joint task force on behalf of the Ute Indian Tribe. Vice President Lori McDonald and Associate Vice President Bryan Hubain represent the University of Utah.

Under the provisions of the MOU, the University of Utah will assist with trademarking and licensing of the Ute Proud mark, educational outreach on campus about the Ute Indian Tribe and Educational Access for students who are part of the tribe. Since signing the MOU, the University of Utah has:

  • Fulfilled its obligation to pay $10,000 and facilitate the trademarking and licensing of the Ute Proud mark. The Ute Indian Tribe will have complete ownership of the mark.
  • Supported and enhanced tribal educational programs and opportunities by contributing $100,000 annually for the duration of the MOU.
  • Hosted a Ute Proud Football game, highlighting the Ute Indian Tribe and a Bear Dance. The university plans to expand Ute Proud celebrations to volleyball, gymnastics and basketball throughout the year.
  • Awarded scholarships of up to $8,000 to Ute Indian Tribe students attending the University of Utah.
  • Delivered educational content about the Ute Indian tribe during new student orientation.
  • Provided forums and opportunities for larger campus conversations about representation, reconciliation and other issues affecting Native Americans, American Indians and Indigenous peoples on campus.
  • Convened a committee to coordinate programs for Native American Heritage Month.
  • Conducted an internal study to understand gaps in providing support to Native Americans, American Indians and Indigenous students.
  • Convened a committee to identify opportunities for creating a pathway that ensures the successful transition of Ute Indian Tribe students into the University of Utah.

These are a select number of notable achievements that have emerged as a result of implementing the MOU. The memorandum of understanding allows the university to go beyond just using the Ute name. It allows us to operationalize our commitment espoused in our land acknowledgment. Within the next year, we hope to re-brand the Ute Proud Campaign website with further collaboration from the Ute Indian tribe. The campaign will continue to promote the code of conduct that educates sports fans about inappropriate behaviors that dishonor the Ute and other Native American populations.

To learn more about the Ute Indian Tribe, updates and events, visit their website.