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Native American Heritage Month 2020

This message was sent to Morris students, faculty, and staff on November 30, 2020:

Students and colleagues,

Today is the final day of Native American Heritage Month: a time to celebrate the histories, traditions, cultures, and lifeways of Native peoples and communities. So let us take a moment to acknowledge our Native students, faculty, staff, and alumni—their accomplishments and stories—and to consider the history of the land on which our campus is situated as well as our responsibility to honor that history.  

Our campus makes its home on land that was cared for and called home by the Dakota people, and later the Ojibwe people and other Native peoples from time immemorial. Our state’s name, Minnesota, comes from the Dakota name for this region, Mni Sota Makoce—"the land where the waters reflect the skies"—the traditional homelands of the Dakota people. The first buildings on our campus site housed an American Indian boarding school established in 1887 by the Sisters of Mercy community of the Catholic Church under contract with the United States government. The United States government began directly operating the Morris Industrial School for Indians on this site in 1897; one building from the school remains on campus. When the Industrial School closed in 1909, the campus was transferred to the State of Minnesota with the stipulation that at successor educational institutions on the site American Indian students be admitted on terms of equality with other students and attend “free of charge for tuition,” a policy still proudly honored. 

The University of Minnesota Morris respects our responsibilities rooted in the founding of this campus as a Native American boarding school, our distinctive mission as a public liberal arts college within Minnesota’s land-grant university, and our federal recognition as a Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institution. Today, more than 340 Native American students from 70 tribal nations comprise 25% of our student body.
We are committed to providing opportunities for people to share, connect with, or deepen their knowledge of indigenous peoples, nations, cultures, and languages. When it comes to creating the kind of campus we aspire to be, there is still—and always will be—work that remains to be done; at the same time, we are proud of our progress to date and especially of the diverse student body that makes our campus community outstanding.

In 2018 Campus Assembly endorsed a strategic vision and plan for UMN Morris, which includes the aspiration to “acknowledge the first peoples of this land and the land’s history as a Native American boarding school through curriculum, programming, and partnerships with Native Communities, as well as through visual markers on campus.” To do so, we have taken the following steps:

  • Joined the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition as part of our focus on greater truth telling, understanding, change, and healing
  • Partnered with our American Indian Advisory Committee to host healing events, including the now-annual fall healing event, held for the second time earlier this month
  • Pursued and secured new federal funding to support cooperative arrangements between our campus and three Minnesota tribal colleges as well as additional federal funding to continue the Native American Student Success (NASS) program
  • Hosted two Aunties in residence to provide guidance and support for Native students
  • Posted signage featuring the artist’s statement with trilingual translation (Anishinaabemowin, Dakota Iapi, and English) near Nokoomis Nibii Equay

We are made better by the experiences and ways of knowing that each member of our community brings with them during their time here. So, this Native American Heritage Month, and every day hereafter, I’d like to affirm our Native students, alumni, and colleagues. I’d like to thank them for their contributions to our campus. And I’d like to thank all of you for your ongoing efforts to create a truly inclusive model for living and learning in this place.