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UW President Taps Native American Advisory Committee

August 14, 2017

University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols has assembled a seven-member committee to advise her on Native American affairs.

The advisory committee will work to develop a strategic Native American plan with the university and Wind River Indian Reservation communities for education, research and service that will benefit UW, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes, and Wyoming.

“I appreciate the willingness of these individuals to provide broad advice and input to me on our work to develop a more open, inclusive and positive environment for Native American students,” says Nichols, who has made it a priority to connect with the tribes, including several trips to the Wind River reservation. “I also anticipate this group will help us facilitate a positive and productive relationship with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.”

As outlined in the university’s new strategic plan, “Breaking Through: 2017-2022,” the university aims to increase its enrollment and graduation of Native American students, while expanding partnerships with both tribes.

Chairing the advisory committee is James Trosper, former UW trustee and director of the university’s High Plains American Indian Research Institute (HPAIRI) and the new Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center.

Other members are:

-- Affie Ellis, of Cheyenne, state senator, attorney, UW graduate, enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and the first Native American woman elected to the Wyoming Senate.

-- Jason Robison, associate professor in the College of Law, whose research and writing focus primarily on transboundary water law and policy in the American West, including that involving indigenous people.

-- Ken Gerow, professor of statistics, whose research has included extensive statistical analysis regarding natural resources. His paternal grandmother hails from the Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation in northern British Columbia, Canada.

-- Debra Littlesun, UW Student Financial Aid associate director; enrolled member of the Crow Tribe and descendant of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe; adviser for Keepers of the Fire, the university’s Native American student organization; and endowment administrator for the Northern Arapaho endowment and the Chief Washakie Memorial Scholarship.

-- Lay-nah Blue Morris-Howe, assistant professor in the counseling program in the College of Education and co-chair of the College of Education Advisory Council on Diversity. As a student at UW, she was a member and council member of Keepers of the Fire.

-- Angela Jaime, associate professor of educational studies in the College of Education and an enrolled member of the Pit River and Valley Maidu of northern California. She specializes in American Indian education, the study of Native women and their experiences in higher education, multicultural education and women’s studies.

The advisory committee met for the first time last week.

Under Nichols’ leadership, the university is working to update its memoranda of understanding with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.

Additionally, UW is preparing to open a Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center in the former home of the UW Honors Program at 10th and Ivinson streets. Classes, lectures, research, performances, exhibitions, meetings, collaborative work, traditional meals and traditions of Native peoples will be celebrated in the facility, which will be home to HPAIRI and the American Indian Studies Program.

And, earlier this summer, UW hosted the Native American Summer Institute, which brought 28 Native students to campus for a week of activities focused on college preparation; academic, career and cultural exploration; personal and community development; and recreational and other activities.

“The university has a unique opportunity to work with the tribes on important research, and to recruit and graduate more Native American students,” says Trosper, the son of a Northern Arapaho father and an Eastern Shoshone mother. “Our group hopes to help President Nichols move forward in these relationships so that the tribes know and understand UW has their best interests in mind.”

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