After years of requests, administrators at the University of Wyoming have granted Native American students an American Indian Center on campus. The center will move into the Red House, a prominent location right across the street from campus.
Reinette Tendore is a Northern Arapaho graduate student celebrating the news. She said currently, native students must host ceremonies and tribal speakers in homes off campus or in a small multicultural room on campus. She said one of the reasons native enrollment is at its lowest at UW right now is because indigenous students come from supportive communities and it’s hard to find that on a university campus.
“I have a high schooler who’s 16 years old and that’s part of what he’s looking at when he’s looking at colleges is what they provide Native American students,” said Tendore. “And if you look at the research it shows that having a support system for Native American students is very crucial for retention rates.”
American Indian Studies Director Caskey Russell said the center suddenly shifted from a dream to a reality thanks to UW’s new president.
“When President Nichols came on board, she showed real interest in American Indian issues, American Indian studies and especially bettering the relationship with the two nations on the reservation,”said Russell.
The center will move into a space currently occupied by the honor’s program, but that program needed a larger space. High Plains American Indian Research Institute Director Judy Antell said the house is just the right size for an American Indian Center.
“We need a place where we can cook our food and have our prayers, have our ceremonies and have discussions, our conversations together,” said Antell, “where we can extend hospitality to our guests when they visit, especially our elders when they come to campus. We need a place where we can host them and make them feel comfortable.”
The American Indian Center is slated to open July 1 with an open house celebration planned for the start of the 2017 fall semester. The open house will be open to the general public.