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Utah News

Utah State University releases an official land acknowledgement statement

Utah State University
Utah State University
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On Thursday January 6, Utah State University released their official general land acknowledgement statement, and a unique acknowledgement specific to each regional campus as well.

In December of 2020, USU President Noelle Cockett put together a working committee with members from across USU’s statewide campuses to create the acknowledgements. The committee is chaired by Marilyn Cuch. She’s Hunkpapa Lakota, a Lecturer and the Director of the Secondary Teacher Education Program for Statewide Campuses at USU Uintah Basin. She and the working group focused on honoring the 8 federally recognized tribes of Utah, and incorporating their input by regularly consulting tribal elders throughout this process.

The working group began meeting monthly starting in January of 2021. They focused on four objectives, with the first being a land acknowledgement statement for USU as a whole, and individual statements for all of the statewide campuses, 25 in total.

A land acknowledgement officially recognizes the indigenous people who originally inhabited an area. Cuch views USU’s land acknowledgment as the first step in an ongoing process, and hopes that anyone planning to use the statement, works to understand the background and to research the history of the indigenous communities of Utah. Cuch recognized that coming to terms with an often brutal history can be challenging.

"It's not a clean and a pretty story. It's not one that is going to be easily taken," Cuch said. "But the truth is, land was taken and dispersed, and that includes the history of the people, but yet we still remain, the Utah tribal members of the tribal nations remain, they're vital, they're strong."

Moving forward, the working group will continue to build collaboration with tribal groups including students at USU.

“let's begin to see that there is a collaborative decision making piece we want to involve with all of our tribal students. And also as we do that, we begin to find the promotion of recruitment, retention, research graduation levels and career placement for more indigenous students, and for more indigenous faculty members," said Cuch.

Cuch also said that this working group wants to ensure there is financial support for Native student clubs and organizations, as well as inclusive spaces on USU campuses. The working group's other members are: Alina Begay, Indigenous program coordinator in the Inclusion Center; Jim Dandy, program coordinator for the Native American-Serving Non-tribal Institution; Judson Finley, associate professor in Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology; Teresa Frazier, director of the Upward Bound program; and Melissa Tehee, assistant professor in Psychology and director of the American Indian Support Project.