Before we close on another academic year and celebrate graduating students, I’d like to share some updates on how the University is serving and connecting with the Native American and Indigenous community on campus and in the Rocky Mountain region.
New Recruiter Position
With the support of our Native American and Indigenous community partners, including Tribal leaders from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations, the University of Denver is moving forward with the creation of a recruiting position dedicated to Native American and Indigenous prospective students. The official job description and title are being drafted, and we will work closely with Tribal leaders before finalizing the position and conducting a search process. The goal of this position is to work directly with Native American and Indigenous communities in Colorado and beyond, with particular attention devoted to Cheyenne and Arapaho communities, to help attract and support prospective students and their families interested in attending the University of Denver.
Updated Advisory Structure
For the past decade, the University of Denver has developed partnerships and collaborations with Tribal leaders from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations to address our shared and deeply painful past and ways in which we can work together for an inclusive, supportive future. The counsel of these Tribal leaders plays a critical role in helping the University successfully promote a fuller understanding of the history of the Sand Creek Massacre and the connection to our founder, John Evans. Importantly, we do this all while acknowledging the long-lasting impact the massacre has had on the Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples. Their counsel also helps DU create a supportive environment for Native community members on campus today. We are deeply grateful to all those who have been involved in this important work since 2013 and proud of how far we have come.
One structure in which we’ve benefited from the counsel of Cheyenne and Arapaho elders and community leaders, as well as leaders from other Native communities, is through the Native American Community Advisory Board (NACAB). Established in 2017 and reinvigorated again in 2020, NACAB is comprised of Tribal representatives of the Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho and Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations, as well as members of the Ute Mountain Ute community and Denver Native community.
When this group met most recently on March 24, 2023, they decided, in concert with DU leadership, that we have reached a point in our work together where it makes sense to evolve the structure. The NACAB will sunset by shifting into two new groups:.
The Cheyenne and Arapaho Council – This council, facilitated by Billy J. Stratton (PhD, American Indian Studies and DU liaison to the NACAB) will be comprised of the Tribal representatives from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations that have been working closely with DU since 2013: Otto Braided Hair and Conrad Fisher (Northern Cheyenne), Gail Ridgely (Northern Arapaho), and Max Bear and Eugene Blackbear (Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho of Oklahoma).
We are deeply grateful to Otto, Conrad, Gail, Max and Eugene for all their hard work and dedication to this point, and for the wise counsel they will continue to provide going forward on issues directly related to the Sand Creek Massacre and other concerns vital to Cheyenne and Arapaho communities, including a memorial on campus and other opportunities to educate and solemnly commemorate.
The Native American Advisory Council – This council will be comprised of representatives from Native and Indigenous communities here at DU while also providing opportunities for input and collaboration from members of Native and Indigenous communities beyond our institution. The Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will partner with Native community members to draft the group’s official charge, ensuring their voices are central in this process. This group will be positioned to serve as a trusted and valued advisory group for the DU community on opportunities to engage and support.
These new structures, along with several new positions created over this time, are representative of how far we have come over the past ten years. It also serves to ensure we are being mindful and respectful of the time and capacities of Tribal leaders with whom we work so closely.
I shared this past fall that we had identified a house near campus that will serve as a dedicated space for Native students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and other visitors. This space will be a vital hub for connection, collaboration and cultural expression among DU’s Native community. Some members of the Native Students Alliance along with faculty and staff have had opportunities to tour the space and provide feedback. We are currently moving through the details that go into making sure this space best serves the community. We hope to unveil it soon!
Native American and Indigenous Studies Center
Provost Clark has been working this year with Angela Parker (PhD, Assistant Professor of History, CAHSS) and Kelly Fayard (PhD, Assistant Professor of Anthropology CAHSS) on developing a proposal for a Native American and Indigenous Studies Center, which involves three primary areas: reclaiming and preserving Native American and Indigenous languages; supporting Native American and Indigenous arts, including both visual and performing arts; and facilitating and promoting enrichment opportunities for Native American and Indigenous students, including fellowships and a visiting Elders program. They have begun the process of consulting with Tribal communities on these ideas, following consultations with the NACAB and with our Native American and Indigenous faculty, staff, and students.
I close with another heartful thank you to everyone who has served on NACAB and who will now serve in the two reorganized advisory groups. Your perspectives and advice play a role in helping all at DU feel a sense of belonging and support.