Editor’s note: This is part of a series of updates on campuswide diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives that will continue throughout the year.
In this month's issue, read about Native American Heritage Month and other news you can use, and tap into resources for students, staff and faculty meant to build community and increase sense of belonging at CU Boulder.
November is Native American Heritage Month
Students, staff and faculty can find campus resources and events to observe and celebrate Native American Heritage Month in November while also learning more about the histories, traditions, contributions and priorities of the nation’s First Peoples.
In 1990, Native American Heritage Month received a federal designation as a national observance, but its roots date back to the turn of the last century, according to the Library of Congress, the National Archives and other federal agencies.
The CU Boulder community honors Indigenous Peoples Day in October and Native American Heritage Month in November by hosting discussions and community gatherings and providing academic resources to elevate Indigenous voices and priorities and expand educational opportunities for all students, faculty, staff and community members.
Native American Heritage Month events and resources available to CU Boulder students, staff and faculty this year include film screenings, community gatherings and discussions in addition to research and academic resources recommended by the campus’s academic experts.
Charles Cambridge, first Native American graduate, to speak at C4C
CU Boulder alumnus Charles Cambridge will give a talk titled "Native American Student Experiences at CU Over the Years: Perspectives from the First Native CU Boulder Graduate and PhD Student."
Cambridge's talk, which is free and open to students, staff and faculty, will take place from 4–5 p.m. on Nov. 9 in the Abrams Lounge at the Center for Community (C4C) as part of Native American Heritage Month observances. Sponsors include the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies (CNAIS), the CU Boulder History Project and STEM Routes, a pilot program to improve mentoring for Native American graduate students in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
We Are Water initiative
The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) is highlighting We Are Water, which celebrates the histories and knowledge of Indigenous communities and their connection to water in the Southwest’s Four Corners region. A collaboration among scientists, Indigenous science educators, researchers, librarians and others, the initiative creates a place for people who live in the region—particularly Indigenous and Latine people—to talk about complicated water issues.
The annual University Libraries LibGuide featuring Indigenous research and collective tribal knowledge in North America provides an overview of Indigenous knowledge and starting points for classroom and other discussions.
Engineering student in focus
The College of Engineering and Applied Science is featuring an interview with engineering student Annalise Hildebrand, a member of the Menominee Nation who grew up in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Learn more at the engineering website.
History department recommended reading
The Department of History offers recommended readings for students, staff and faculty, including “Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People” by Elizabeth Fenn, a distinguished professor of early American and Native American history.
The department also recommends “Indians in Unexpected Places” and “Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract,” both by historian and Harvard professor Philip J. Deloria. Deloria’s late father Vine Deloria, an alumnus of Colorado Law, was a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and was regarded as the leading Native American intellectual of the 20th century.
Film screenings, discussion
On Nov. 9, a screening of “La Rebelión de las Flores” and a panel discussion about Argentina’s Native Flower Rebellion will take place virtually sponsored by an Indigenous documentaries and land struggle seed grant from the Research and Innovation Office.
Panelists will include award-winning Mapuche author, screenwriter and activist Moira Millán, filmmaker Laura Vásquez, CU Boulder women and gender studies associate professor Leila Gómez and University of Konstanz professor Kirsten Mahlke. Registration is available via Eventbrite.
On Nov. 30, the College of Arts and Sciences’ Office of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) will host a screening of the acclaimed documentary “Gather,” an intimate portrait of the growing movement among Native Americans to reclaim their spiritual, political and cultural identities through food sovereignty while contending with the trauma of centuries of genocide.
The screening and talk will take place 3–6 p.m. in the CASE auditorium and are free and open to the campus. Registration is required. Panelists will include Brickman House and A-dae Briones from the First Nations Development Institute and ethnic studies professors Clint Carroll and Angelica Lawson.
New leadership roles to strengthen campus work with Indigenous people
This fall, CU Boulder welcomed two leaders to new roles created to strengthen the campus’s work to support Native American and Indigenous students, staff, faculty and communities.
In October, the campus announced the appointment of Benny Shendo Jr. as CU Boulder’s first associate vice chancellor for Native American affairs. In his new role, the New Mexico legislator will liaise between the campus and tribal communities across Colorado. Shendo is a CU Boulder graduate and former tribal administrator and lieutenant governor for the Pueblo of Jemez.
“I cannot wait to get started in this new role at CU Boulder to strengthen our relationships with the tribes of Colorado, and those historically connected to Colorado, and to build a strong, supportive Native American community on campus for our students, faculty and staff,” Shendo said in the announcement.In September, James Rattling Leaf Sr. became the first tribal adviser to the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). The new position will help the research institute’s scientists and researchers build relationships with Native American and Indigenous tribal communities through projects, proposal writing, workshops outreach and training.
CIRES Director Waleed Abdalati helped create the new part-time position, which will allow Rattling Leaf to continue working with two CIRES groups: the North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center and the Environmental Data Science Innovation and Inclusion Lab.
Indigenous perspectives are necessary in environmental research, and Rattling Leaf is the ideal person to build bridges between science and tribal communities, Abdalati said.
Rattling Leaf has worked with CIRES as a tribal engagement specialist for six years and plans to build relationships with other scientists to understand their work with Indigenous people. His work has garnered national recognition, and in a 2020 Interview with National Public Radio’s Science Friday, he discussed global climate change and its impacts on Indigenous communities.
“Let’s be a leader in working with Indigenous people and Indigenous knowledge around environmental science,” he said. “Let’s have scientists, both early career and established, have access to tribal networks and tribal people to create an understanding in working with their cultures, our people and lands.”
Campus marks one-year anniversary of land acknowledgment
In 2022, CU Boulder announced a land acknowledgment to recognize that the campus is located on the traditional territories and ancestral homelands of many Native American tribes with historic connections to Colorado, including the Arapaho, Cheyenne and Ute.
The land acknowledgment includes guidance on how the university will fulfill its commitment to support Native American and Indigenous students, staff and faculty, including “recognizing and amplifying the voices of Indigenous CU Boulder students, staff and faculty and their work.”
Following the announcement, Andy Cowell, the director of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies (CNAIS) answered questions about the history of land acknowledgments and why they matter in a question-and-answer feature.
In part, the campus land acknowledgement reads, “CU Boulder acknowledges that it is located on the traditional territories and ancestral homelands of the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Ute and many other Native American nations. Their forced removal from these territories has caused devastating and lasting impacts.”
Other commitments included in the campus land acknowledgment are “educating, conducting research, supporting student success and integrating Indigenous knowledge” and “consulting, engaging, and working collaboratively with tribal nations to enhance our ability to provide access and culturally sensitive support to recruit, retain and graduate Native American students in a climate that is inclusive and respectful.”