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We’re here: Native presence at the U

The University of Utah’s relationship with the state’s eight tribal nations is enduring.

For 50 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), which was renewed in the spring of 2020. And in 2021, university leaders adopted an indigenous land acknowledgement statement which is read before campus events and at the General Commencement every spring.

But the collaboration is more than a series of legal documents signed over the years. University faculty researchers are studying the gaps in indigenous people’s healthcare, the Women’s Resource Center is documenting strides (and steps backward) in reproductive justice for Native women, and tribal partners are working to help students engage and legally enroll in a federally recognized tribal nation. On Nov. 1, the university will open applications for a new Native Student Scholarship program.

November is Native American Heritage Month—a chance for the campus community to learn about research and educational initiatives, celebrate the rich and diverse cultures of Utah’s tribal nations and push the institution forward. For Native students, faculty and staff, the month is a time to be seen, supported and recognized, said Samantha Eldridge, director of the American Indian Resource Center (AIRC).

“In the past year, we’ve seen a rise of Indigenous visibility and representation in media, film and pop culture—a reminder that we are still here,” Eldridge said. “This November, and every month, we celebrate Native presence and indigeneity. We encourage our campus partners to engage in conversations that center Indigenous voices and create spaces of belonging.”

The calendar of events begins on Nov. 1, at a kickoff with Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall at the Salt Lake City-County Building. Other panel discussions, lectures, and a “Steps for Scholarships Moccwalk” also are scheduled throughout the month. Events and experiences open to the public include:

  • The American West Center’s Native Places Atlas—one location will be featured daily on social media throughout the month
  • The Inter-Tribal Student Association (ITSA) High School Conference all day Nov. 2 at the Union Building
  • “Unlocking Utah Boarding School Voices,” a discussion and photo exhibit at the Leonardo Museum, Nov. 12 at 1 p.m.
  • A Bennion Center Community Conversation about Utah’s Indigenous Boarding Schools on Nov. 16 at noon (registration required)
  • Also Nov. 2 at noon, the MEDversity Week Indigenous Health Lecture (registration required)
  • A Women’s Resource Center Coffee and Conversations discussion: “Resistance in Existence: Indigenous Peoples in the Struggle for Reproductive Justice” on Nov. 3 from 5 to 6 p.m.
  • School of Medicine Office of Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion “Blanket Exercise Workshop,” a participatory exercise to learn about Indigenous peoples and the impact of colonization on Nov. 17 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
  • “Roadtrip Nation: Native Way Forward film screening and Q&A on Nov.18 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Union Theatre.
  • A virtual talk on “Tribal Enrollment and Blood Quantum” and the implications for citizenship and belonging on Nov. 21 at 10 a.m.

Bryan Hubain, Student Affairs’ associate vice president for student development and inclusion, said the month’s events are meant to educate the campus community about Utah’s Native history as well as current academic and research projects.

“This month is a chance to educate the general public about Utah’s eight tribal nations and their incredible accomplishments and cultural contributions to our state,” Hubain said. “At the same time, we want to raise awareness about the unique challenges and adversity Native people have faced in an effort to improve understanding and increase a sense of belonging on our campus.”

Throughout the month, the AIRC and partners across campus will collaborate to raise awareness and acknowledge the exceptional Native American students and leaders on campus. Watch the @theU digital newsletter and read throughout the month for the latest Native American History Month events and news.


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.