U of M emphasizes continued focus on Tribal relationships
The University of Minnesota committed in MPact 2025, its systemwide strategic plan, to rebuilding and strengthening relationships with Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities and the Board of Regents updated its policies to require U of M leaders to provide an annual report on progress toward that commitment. Karen Diver, the University’s first senior adviser to the President on Native American affairs, outlined in that report today recent and continuing initiatives.
The report emphasized the importance of ongoing dialogue, primarily listening, in nurturing these relationships over time. Diver shared that Interim President Jeff Ettinger intends to meet with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council this fall, carrying on a recent history of regular meetings between Tribal leaders and the U of M President. American Indian Advisory Boards at the Crookston, Duluth, Morris and Twin Cities campuses also remain active, while Rochester leaders, including Chancellor Lori Carrell, regularly meet with the nearby Prairie Island Indian Community.
As it has with all students, the University prioritized access and affordability for Indigenous students this past year, including the launch of the Native American Promise Tuition Program. Diver discussed with the Board outcomes from the program’s initial year and feedback, both positive and critical, for consideration as the program grows in the years ahead. Diver also mentioned this U of M program would likely be affected by the American Indian Scholars program, a state-run initiative approved by the Minnesota Legislature in 2023 to dramatically expand access to a tuition-free education for Native learners throughout the state, including on U of M campuses.
Diver also highlighted longer term, ongoing work that acknowledges the University’s past and begins the necessary work to address that history. This includes the repatriation of Mimbres ancestors and Mimbres-affiliated artifacts — a complex process that began in earnest following Board action in February 2022 and continues as the University works with Tribal leaders in the southwestern U.S. to repatriate items held by the University. It also includes the University’s intent to return approximately 3,400 acres of land to the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, land wholly located within the Fond du Lac Reservation that is currently operated as the University’s Cloquet Forestry Center. The Fond du Lac Band continues to work with U of M leaders to determine amenable terms for allowing continued research on the land. At the same time, the University, the Fond du Lac Band and the State of Minnesota continue to make progress on complicated real estate details related to the property. Related to research, widespread consultation took place during spring semester to advance Indigenous research guidelines that could be considered for official policy in the near future — policy that would be critical to ensuring mutually beneficial and respectful research collaborations between the U of M and Tribal partners.
Finally, Diver recapped the primary outcomes of the Towards Recognition and University-Tribal Healing (TRUTH) Report, publicly released in April 2023. It was produced by Minnesota’s 11 Tribal Nations and other contributors who thoroughly researched, analyzed and consulted on how the University and its work has affected Tribes throughout its history. The TRUTH Report offers a series of recommendations for the Board and University leaders to consider, ranging from increasing Indigenous representation across the University system to the return of land and monetary reparations. Board Chair Janie Mayeron acknowledged, with appreciation, the work of those who produced the TRUTH Report at the Board’s May meeting, asking Interim President Ettinger to consider the report’s findings with other University leaders and produce recommendations for next steps that can be discussed by the Board. Further conversations are expected in the year ahead.
The Board also:
- Received a formal introduction to the University’s new vice president for University Services, Alice Roberts-Davis.
- Discussed public safety planning for the 2023-24 academic year with Interim President Ettinger and Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Myron Frans.
- Received annual reports from the University of Minnesota Alumni Association and Gopher Athletics.
The Board of Regents is scheduled to meet next on Sept. 7-8, 2023. Visit regents.umn.edu for more information.