The University of Utah is returning $2 million in federal grant monies, which funded its American Indian Teacher Training Program. The money was awarded to the U of U by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Indian Education. University officials said that it would cost the university approximately $1.5 million over the next four years, and they didn't want to commit the funds necessary to continue the program. The program has graduated 30 Indian teachers. If continued, the program would have graduated another 20 Indian students.
Gwen Spotted Elk, the program's director, disputes the $1.5 million figure. She said that the program could have been managed for $90,000 per year, which the university had previously allocated for the program. Spotted Elk has questioned the university's commitment to tribal students.
Honor Indians Institute would like to suggest that the U of U voluntarily retire the ''Ute'' mascot as well. If not, we suggest that the Ute Tribe rescind its approval of the mascot, which could lead to the return of the American Indian Teacher Training Program at the U of U.
If the Ute Tribe rescinds its permission to use the ''Ute'' mascot, the NCAA would have to invoke the ''hostile and abusive'' tag on the U of U. This would lead to the revocation of the NCAA's exemption of the mascot.
Once the NCAA bans the mascot, angry Ute alumni would more than likely create a special Ute Mascot Defense Fund and contribute millions of dollars to sue the NCAA and thereby save their beloved mascot. If the University of North Dakota alumni can raise and spend $2 million for legal fees to sue the NCAA to save their ''Fighting Sioux'' mascot, it should be nothing for the U of U to raise the necessary funds to rescue their mascot.
Once the money has been collected, we would suggest that instead of litigation, the money be transferred to the university budget to pay for the American Indian Teacher Training Program. This proposal is similar to our ''Indian Mascot Offset'' program. To ensure the continuation of the American Indian Teacher Training Program, we would suggest that a permanent ''Ute Indian Mascot Offset'' program be implemented. The U of U could require season ticket holders to purchase a yearly ''Ute Indian Mascot Offset.'' The funds generated by the permanent ''offset'' would be dedicated to Indian education efforts at the university.
If the university does not want to fund a successful Indian teacher training initiative, we say no Indian teachers, no Indian mascot!
- Ed Zendejas
Honor Indians InstituteOmaha, Neb.