Skip to Content

Update on DU’s Native American and Indigenous Initiatives

Back to News Listing


Jeremy Haefner

News  •

Dear DU community members,


I’d like to share some updates on how the University of Denver continues to move forward in its work to better serve Native American and Indigenous community members and strengthen our partnerships with leaders from the Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho, and Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho nations, as well as members of the broader Denver and Colorado Native communities.


Dedicated Space for the Native Community

I am pleased to share that we have identified a place to be used by Native students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni. This space will support community and connection between DU’s Native community and Native partners. It will augment the Community Commons—which will continue its vital role as a hub for all of DU, including our Native community members—by providing a shared location where our Native community members can connect with, learn from and support one another. Just as important, this space will provide a welcome entry for new Native students and their families into the Native community and activities at DU.

Facilities will work with the divisions of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and Student Affairs and Inclusive Excellence (SAIE), as well as with Native students, faculty and staff members, to ensure this space is inviting and that it will help cultivate and nurture a stronger sense of connection and appreciation for Native American community members at DU.

We are continuing to consult with Native community members about this space and hope to have more details to share before the end of the year, or at the beginning of 2023.


Elevating Work on Native American initiatives and Support

Stevie Lee, PhD, now serves as associate director for DEI, Native American initiatives. Stevie serves the DU community as a dedicated mentor, offering leadership and guidance for Native students across DU’s campus, as well as serving as a valuable liaison between the Native community and the University. Her new title and responsibilities reflect the scope of her work and her central role in providing support for Native community members at DU.

Christine (Chris) Nelson, PhD, joined the DEI team as the faculty director for Native American initiatives. Chris, working alongside Stevie Lee and other faculty directors, provides vision and assessment for the future of Native American initiatives at DU. Through this role and drawing on her scholarly expertise, Chris helps the University better serve our Native community.

In a more focused role as liaison to the Native American Community Advisory Board (NACAB), Billy J. Stratton, PhD, continues to meet regularly with tribal-appointed representatives, government officials, and elders from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations.


The Native American Community Advisory Board

In the spring of 2014, with the goal of strengthening and expanding collaborations and partnerships, then-Chancellor Robert Coombe made a commitment to the DU Native community and Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples at the New Beginnings Powwow held at DU. Two years later, in 2016, the importance of Cheyenne and Arapaho voices on campus was formally codified through the establishment of the NACAB, a recommendation made by the Native American Inclusivity Task Force established by then-Chancellor Rebecca Chopp.

The NACAB is an independent Native-community-based body, providing advice and counsel to the chancellor and other senior leaders. The NACAB also helps advocate for a nuanced understanding of Cheyenne and Arapaho history and culture on campus. Among the NACAB’s membership is a council of Sand Creek Massacre descendent representatives who are officially appointed by the tribal nations and who have long promoted and continue to advocate for increased and more culturally responsive education about the Sand Creek Massacre and their nations.


Native-led Archeological Survey at the Kennedy Mountain Campus

In the spring, the University met with stakeholders—including Native American community members from Colorado and beyond, as well as DU faculty members—regarding the James C. Kennedy Mountain Campus. A limited archaeological survey was conducted by a tribal historic preservation officer from the Crow Nation, which has ties to the area.

This survey found that while there are sites on the property of historic interest, none of the inspected sites related to past Native use of the property. The University will continue to consult with tribal cultural and archaeological specialists, including those serving on the NACAB, as we fully develop programming at the Kennedy Mountain Campus.


Native American Studies Center

Provost Mary Clark continues to work with anthropology professor Kelly Fayard, PhD, and history professor Angela Parker, PhD, as well as Native faculty, staff and students to refine the proposal for a Native American Studies Center at DU. They are currently presenting the draft of the proposal to stakeholders across the community, seeking feedback and input. Once that phase is completed, the proposal will be shared with foundations and philanthropists with keen interest in this field.


Continued Partnership with Duly Appointed Tribal Leaders

We are grateful to many as we move forward in our efforts—and especially to Stevie Lee, Billy Stratton and Chris Nelson—for their continued work to ensure the University of Denver is fostering collaborative partnerships with community members and with leaders and elders from the broader Denver and Colorado Native community.

One meaningful symbol of these partnerships is the University having the continued honor to display the Cheyenne and Arapaho national flags on our campus as a tribute to their sovereign political status and enduring connections to their traditional Colorado homelands. These flags were presented as gifts to DU by officials and traditional leaders of all three nations and reverently accepted by then-Provost Gregg Kvistad and Billy J. Stratton. This gracious and generous act was marked by a ceremony on campus that occurred in conjunction with the 2018 Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run and that emphasized a reinforced and burgeoning formal relationship.

Currently, these flags are displayed on the first floor of the Mary Reed Building. Throughout the past year, we hosted Cheyenne and Arapaho representatives on campus to tour the Community Commons as a potential location for the flags, ensuring they have a highly visible place of honor and significance.

Finally, the University is committed to work more closely together with tribal leaders to come to an official and shared understanding of our partnerships. This will enable us to advance our common goals and bring to life our complex history, through projects including a Sand Creek Massacre Memorial and reflection space on campus, and an educational and historical exhibit on the history of the Sand Creek Massacre and its legacy into the present.


We look forward to continuing these conversations and this important work.




Jeremy Haefner, Chancellor