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Tendore, Russell Assume New Roles in UW Native American Programs

September 3, 2020

The director of the University of Wyoming’s Native American Program for the past three years has been named as program director of UW’s Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center (NAERCC).

Reinette Tendore, who received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and master’s degree in social work from UW, assumed the new role with the start of the fall semester.

“I am looking forward to taking on new duties and roles. To serve as the NAERCC program director here at UW is an honor,” Tendore says. “I am excited to continue the work to assist our Native students in achieving their higher education goals and to be a resource not only for our Native communities, but also the University of Wyoming, the state and the regional area.”

As Native American Program director, Tendore has worked closely with students at the NAERCC, supervising the office associate and student interns, and serving as a team member with the offices of Multicultural Affairs and Dean of Students, and the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership. The NAERCC is a resource for Native American students seeking support, a place to study and a sense of community. The center aims to enrich all UW students in their quest for an inclusive education and broaden knowledge of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous cultures.

Tendore has served nearly 40 current and prospective students a year, helping them navigate the requirements of their many degree programs and instilling in them the knowledge and self-confidence to be successful at UW and in life. She is dedicated to the retention and recruitment of Native American students. For the past five years, she has served as the main coordinator for UW’s Native American Summer Institute (NASI), which brings Native American high school students to campus for a week to experience college life. Many of the students involved in NASI have gone on to college at UW and elsewhere, and credit NASI for their success.

The NAERCC houses Native American student support services, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Program, the High Plains American Indian Research Institute, as well as NASI. As program director of the NAERCC, Tendore will oversee and coordinate the center’s daily functions and strengthen the relationships among the various programs housed in the center.

As a mother of four, including two of her own college students, Tendore values higher education for Native communities. Tendore is an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe and also a part of the Northern Ute and Pyramid Lake Paiute tribes. She is married to Lee Tendore, also a UW alumnus who serves as the Eastern Shoshone tribal liaison for Gov. Mark Gordon. She was born and raised in Wyoming.

Meanwhile, a member of UW’s faculty, Caskey Russell, has been named the new director of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Program and the associate director of the School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice.

Russell, an enrolled member of the Tlingit Tribe of Alaska, previously held the role as director of the program from July 2014-June 2017. As an associate professor in the Department of English and an adjunct faculty member in the Native American and Indigenous Studies Program for the past 16 years, Russell has a unique historical memory of the program and its development.

At the end of his previous term, Russell was instrumental in the formation and establishment of the School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice. Since his departure in 2017 as director, the program has moved to the NAERCC as its primary home.

Russell succeeds Angela Jaime, a UW faculty member since 2010 who has been appointed as vice dean in the College of Arts and Science at the University of Saskatchewan. As director of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Program since 2017, Jaime initiated the development of an Indigenous Language Center for the study, documentation and revitalization of Indigenous languages. That center is expected to become a reality during the 2021 academic year.

“I’d like to thank Dr. Jaime for lighting the spark to establish an Indigenous Language Center,” Russell says. “We will work hard to make this dream come to fruition.”

 

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Riverton’s Wildcat is UW’s Most Outstanding Graduate

Of all that she has accomplished as a University of Wyoming undergraduate, Christie Wildcat, from Riverton, says having a statewide initiative supported by Gov. Mark Gordon proclaiming May 5 as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Day is her biggest achievement.

For her efforts, Wildcat, an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, is among three students to receive the Rosemarie Martha Spitaleri and Tobin Memorial Award, which recognizes UW’s most outstanding graduates from the 2019-2020 undergraduate class.

The award is based on academic excellence and achievement; service to the university; participation and leadership in the community and campus activities; and citizenship qualities. Wildcat will graduate this semester as a triple major in Native American and indigenous studies, anthropology and political science. She has received numerous honors throughout her UW career, and will graduate with a 3.3 grade-point average.

The other top UW graduating award recipients are Leena Hornlein, from Gilbert, Ariz., and Laramie’s Tessa Wittman.

At UW, Wildcat has strived to become a community leader and represent the university to the best of her ability.

“Triple majoring will give me the opportunity to explore multiple paths in life,” she says. “I have taken on plenty of roles on campus as a leader for the recognized student organization Keepers of the Fire or a role as big as a national executive committee member.”

Through her experiences, ranging from being a UW track and field athlete to her on-campus work and as an outside volunteer, Wildcat has taken these opportunities to educate and teach others about her Native culture and heritage.

“I hope to continue my involvement in all these activities and look forward to joining any other organizations or taking on opportunities UW has to offer, where I can spread more knowledge and awareness,” she adds. “I take all these opportunities to educate and teach others about my culture, and to simply give back in one way or another.”

As an example, Wildcat secured a position to work on digitizing records, working with Professor Emeritus Charles Reher on a tribal project.

Wildcat was a laboratory technician during the digitizing tribal project that saw the return of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribal materials from Reher’s “Wind River Reservation Cultural Resource Protection Program.” Reher was the Wind River Indian Reservation archaeologist for more than 25 years, based on a UW/Joint Business Council cooperative agreement.

“Christie has been employed by our department and by Coe Library Digital Collections, becoming an expert in several complex procedures for archiving and preserving technical archaeological reports, maps and other materials,” Reher says. “During all our work and discussions together, I have been so amazed by her UW accomplishments. My word, she must be the most impressive and hardest working student I have ever met.”

But, her most impressive personal accomplishment was to help write a proclamation for the state to recognize Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Day. She was the keynote speaker at Denver’s Indigenous Peoples March last fall.

“All of these activities are a majority of what I do within the past few years here at the University of Wyoming,” she says. “These opportunities have allowed me to have a large range of knowledge, as many of my peers have not had the opportunity to hear from someone who has grown up on a reservation or learn my native language.”

A continuation of her work on her personal project to help others, Wildcat, earlier this year, was invited to be a part of the Senate File 8 bill signing by the governor. Information on missing or murdered indigenous people in Wyoming will improve under legislation that would better manage missing persons reports and potentially coordinate work between multiple jurisdictions.


 

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Student Highlight:

Jasmyne Cooper Thriving for Cowgirls at the Tough Middle Distance

LARAMIE, Wyo. (May 7, 2020) – Jasmyne Cooper joined the Cowgirl cross country and track & field teams just under two years ago, and has recently had her sophomore season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. But, during a shortened 2019-20 track & field season, she set the university record in one of the toughest races in track & field.

Cooper runs the 800m race for the Cowgirls. It is classified as a middle-distance race; the longest of the sprints and the shortest of the distance. As such, it requires a rare blend of speed and endurance.

"The 800 is definitely hard," Cooper said. "With the training, there's certain things you do that sprinters can't quite do, and the distance runners can't quite do. It's only the middle distance runners that can handle it."

This February, she ran the 800m in 2 minutes, 9.20 second at the Mountain West Indoor Championships, setting a new indoor school record during just her second indoor season as a Cowgirl. Cooper didn't even know she set the record at the time.

"I thought it was still slow because I thought the record was a second faster, at least," Cooper said. "It took me a few hours to figure that out. I was like 'did I really break that record?'"

But setting the record wasn't quite the highlight for her as it might be for others. She was only focused on improving her time this year, and she didn't quite run the time she thought she was capable of.

"At the conference meet, I was kind of very disappointed in myself, so it didn't really phase me that I broke it," Cooper said. "I was mad that I didn't get the time that I was supposed to."

"Jasmyne is very competitive and doesn't like not winning races even if she sets school records or personal bests," said head track & field coach Bryan Berryhill. "I know she always expects more from herself and there is a lot more room for improvement. However, when you look at what she has done her first two years at UW it's very impressive."

Cooper has been running middle distances since junior high, when she was allowed to compete on the high school track & field teams. During the trials before the season started, she found out she was one of the fastest on the team and had the endurance to run those tough races.

"In high school what stood out was she had a great blend of speed and endurance," Berryhill said. "That is what it takes to excel at the college level in the 800. You need very good 400-meter speed and still have 5k endurance. When watching her races from high school, you could see how competitive she was and that desire to win races."

Cooper had a solid freshman campaign for the Cowgirls in 2018-19, earning up a pair of event wins during the indoor season. Then, at the MW Indoor Championships, she set a personal-best time of 2:10.29 in the 800m and finished seventh overall. That time was No. 2 all-time in program history.

Then, in the outdoor season, she picked up three more event titles and a pair of runner-up finishes during the regular season. She had another strong showing at the MW Outdoor Championships. Even though she finished ninth in the finals, she posted a personal-best time of 2:09.90 in the preliminary round, which is the fifth-fastest outdoor time in program history.

After the summer, she came back in 2019-20 and ran with the Cowgirl cross country team.

"Running cross country is very important for my ability to run better in the 800 for the track season," Cooper said. "Otherwise, I'd be very out of shape."

Once the indoor season started, Cooper ran a few 400s to test her fitness. She said middle distance runners will base their possible 800m times on how well they run a 400m. That way, they'll know if they need to train harder before running the grueling 800m race.

The cross country season certainly helped Cooper, as she eventually went and set the school record at the MW Indoor Championships. Cooper has had a fast start to her Cowgirl career, with her name already at the top of the record books.

"Jasmyne has put together some amazing races during her first two years as a cowgirl," Berryhill said. "Setting the indoor school record as a sophomore is very impressive and something she should be very proud of. I believe we will see Jasmyne continue to get better throughout her career and continue to reset the school record."

Even though she is the university's record holder, Cooper still has plenty of motivation for the rest of her career.

"I just want to train harder and strive to become an Olympic runner, so I have a lot of motivation for that," Cooper said.

While she's had an incredible first two seasons in the Brown and Gold, the future looks even more promising for Cooper.

 

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