DU's Native American and Indigenous Initiatives

The University of Denver values tremendously our Native American and Indigenous community members. As such, we commit to reckoning with and learning from the University’s complex history and our founder John Evans's culpability in the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre, which continues to impact the institution’s relationships with Native American and Indigenous communities.

Through our ongoing Native American and Indigenous initiatives, the University of Denver seeks to:

  • Acknowledge how our founding is implicated in the historic settler violence against the Nunt'zi (Ute), Tsitsista (Cheyenne), and Hinonoeino (Arapaho) Nations
  • Acknowledge and understand how this institution has fallen short in providing sufficient support to our Native American and Indigenous community members—most especially in the context of our history
  • Prioritize the healing of Native American and Indigenous students, staff, and faculty, now and into the future, and ensure they feel welcome, holistically supported and celebrated at the University of Denver
  • Develop meaningful and reciprocal relationships with Denver and Colorado Native American and Indigenous community to further healing and increase equity on the DU campus and in the local community

This work did not begin in earnest until 2013 when a group of DU’s faculty members formed the John Evans Study Committee with only minimal support from the university. Through the committee’s research, writing and outreach, they explored the University’s history, in particular the circumstances of our founding. They also provided strategic recommendations for how DU could better engage and support Native American and Indigenous community members.

In 2016, Chancellor Chopp established the Native American Inclusivity Task Forcewhich provided a detailed plan to build upon and expand the scope of the recommendations of the John Evans Committee.

In early 2017, DU established formal partnerships with the Northern Cheyenne, Southern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Nations through the Native American Community Advisory Board, which lead to the raising of their national flags in the Driscoll Student Union in April 2018.

In the fall of 2020, Chancellor Haefner and other DU leaders made seven commitments to the community with the aim to reinforce existing initiatives, create accountability and build momentum.

Our Native American and Indigenous initiatives continue. These initiatives include increasing access to a DU education through support and financial aid. They also include addressing the recruitment and retention of Native American and Indigenous faculty and staff, building an on-campus Sand Creek Massacre memorial, as well as a permanent interior exhibit with accompanying curricula on DU’s history, and exploring the creation of a Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies, among other efforts.

This website will document all of this work and serve as a centralized location for updates on our progress to fulfill the commitments we have made to better engage and support DU’s Native American and Indigenous community members, partners and friends.

Tipi in front of the Law School

University Of Denver John Evans Study Committee Report

In 2013, a group of 11 DU faculty members organized the University of Denver John Evans Study Committee and conducted an independent inquiry regarding Evans' role in the 1864 Sand Creek massacre. In 2014, the committee released its report. This study is essential to understanding the University of Denver's history.

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Support Indigenous and Native American Students & Apply for Scholarships

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    Native American Student Scholarship Fund

    The Native American Student Scholarship at DU helps students attain a college education that will benefit not only them but their families and communities, too.

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    Native American Student Support Fund

    The Native American Student Support Fund seeks to empower the Native American student community at DU by bolstering programs such as the annual New Beginnings Pow Wow and traditional blanket wrapping ceremonies at commencement.

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    The Native American Community Scholarship

    The Native American Community Scholarship is available to first-year, full-time, degree-seeking students committed to involvement in a Native American community. This scholarship covers the standard cost of tuition, fees, room and board, and books. The deadline to apply is Friday, March 12, 2021. Mailed applications must be postmarked by this date.

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Campus Leadership

Stevie Rose Tohdacheeny Lee (Diné)

Native American Liaison & Program Manager

Stevie Lee

Stevie Rose Tohdacheeny Lee (Diné) is originally from Shiprock, New Mexico, located in the Navajo Nation. Currently, Stevie serves as the Native American liaison and program manager in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of Denver. She works in the capacity of providing support for current Native American/Indigenous undergraduate and graduate students with the goal of academic success, retention, and graduation while helping to create a community founded upon social and cultural support.

Stevie is a current Ph.D. candidate in the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver. Her research passions and professional interests both focus on the areas of enhancing our educational systems to increase access, equity, and persistence with Native communities within higher education. Stevie is also an alum ('10, MA) and a proud member of the Indigenous Affinity Alumni Group. Lastly, Stevie's personal interests are being outdoors and being an avid marathon runner (55+).

Billy Stratton, PhD

Special Advisor on Native American Partnerships and Programs; Associate Professor of English and Literary Arts

Billy J. Stratton

Billy J. Stratton is a first-generation college graduate who grew up a hop and a skip away from Loretta Lynn's home in the heart of eastern Kentucky. He earned a BA, with honors, from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio, 2002) in English and Philosophy and a Ph.D in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona (2008). His teaching and research circulate around contemporary Native American and American literature, while also teaching special topics in the areas of ecocriticism, dystopian worlds, posthumanism, and creative writing, as well as literature of the American West and South.

His criticism, fiction, commentary, and editorial work has appeared in numerous books by Routledge, Oxford University Press, and Michigan State University Press, and journals such as Arizona Quarterly, Cream City Review, Salon, The Journal of American Culture, The Independent, Wicazo-Sa Review, Rhizomes, SAIL, Big Muddy, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and TIME. He is the author of Buried in Shades of Night: Contested Voices, Indian Captivity, and the Legacy of King Philip's War (2013), while being contributing editor to The Fictions of Stephen Graham Jones: A Critical Companion (2016). Finally, he has been instrumental in efforts to create dialogue and historical understanding at the University of Denver around the issue of the Sand Creek massacre.

Chris A. Nelson, Ph.D

Native Student Alliance Faculty Advisor; Assistant Professor, Morgridge College of Education

Chris Nelson

Chris A. Nelson, Ph.D., is of the Diné and Laguna Pueblo tribes of the southwest. Dr. Nelson is the faculty advisor for the DU Native Student Alliance. She received her doctorate in Higher Education from the University of Arizona’s Center for the Study of Higher Education. With over 10 years of higher education experience, she has a cross sectioning of experiences ranging from educational pathways in STEM, policy research, and student affairs. The research she engages with strives to challenge the status quo of higher education for Native students and their communities. Her primary research interest focuses on finance in higher education, which ranges from student experiences to policy. Chris also blends critical theory and Indigenous perspectives/methods to explore the long-term impacts of pre-college access programs.

NSA

Native Student Alliance

The Native Student Alliance (NSA) is a DU community consisting of (but not limited to) students and faculty of Indigenous American descent. NSA's goal is to increase awareness and allies on DU’s campus and to provide fellowship and support for members, as well as promoting diversity.

Connect with NSA