We are writing to express our concern about proposed budget cuts to both American Indian Student Services (AISS) and the Native American Studies Department (NAS) that might impact the success of Native American students at the University of Montana. Native American students are unique. Although many of our Native American students at UM are high achievers, many also face barriers and challenges distinct from the conventional college student population. Working with Native students requires cultural sensitivity and knowledge. Just as UM works with veterans, international students, and student athletes, the University recognizes the varying needs of diverse populations in its efforts to promote academic success.
Studies show that providing culturally based student services, academic advising and curriculum are the key to Native American student success. These are currently being met to a significant degree by AISS and the NAS staff. The growing numbers of Native American students and the high numbers of American Indian students graduating from UM are evidence of our success.
The services provided by AISS are based on proven retention methods that help American Indian students from reservation communities in Montana and beyond to successfully immerse themselves in university culture. AISS provides a comfortable, culturally recognizable space that allows Native American students to find their footing at UM and thrive within the larger university community. AISS supports Native American students by providing advocacy, referrals, programs and activities. AISS partners with academic departments and student support services across UM, as well as agencies within the surrounding Missoula community. The academic advising by NAS staff assists Native students to navigate the academic system and to stay on track for graduation. These two offices, with the help of others across campus, work to ensure the success of more than 700 Native American students.
Native American student success is the responsibility of UM because of treaty obligations by the federal government and constitutional mandates by the State of Montana. UM has long recognized its responsibility and has slowly built a solid foundation with both AISS and NAS. While we understand the gravity of the current budget situation at UM, we, the undersigned want to emphasize that maintaining and strengthening programs that promote Native American student success at UM make fiscal, ethical, and academic good sense. Let us remember in these difficult fiscal times to keep UM’s powerful principles of inclusion and diversity strong.
The following American Indian Support and Development Council members:
David Beck, Professor, Native American Studies Department
Royelle Bundy, Director, American Indian Student Services
Julie Biando Edwards, Associate Professor, Ethnic Studies Librarian and Diversity Coordinator
George Price (Assonet Wampanoag), Lecturer, Native American Studies, African American Studies, and History
Neyooxet Greymorning, Professor, Native American Studies Department and Anthropology
Kevin Kicking Woman, Tribal Outreach Program Coordinator
Rosalyn LaPier (Blackfeet/Métis), Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies Program
Wilena Old Person (Yakama/Blackfeet)
Maegan Rides At The Door, MA, (Nakota/Dakota/Absentee Shawnee)
Kathryn Shanley (Nakota), Professor of Native American Studies
Aaron Thomas (Navajo), Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Rick van den Pol