Land that Oregon State University is built on once belonged to Native Americans, but was ceded long ago in treaties with the U.S. government. Acknowledging this complicated history is a starting place to advance relations with tribal nations in Oregon and throughout the Pacific Northwest.
“As a land grant university, Oregon State has a legal, moral and ethical obligation to engage with First Nation people of this area,” says Allison Davis-White Eyes, director of community diversity relations.
Davis-White Eyes, an expert in tribal engagement, along with Native American faculty members, leveraged the OSU150 celebration of the university’s 150th anniversary to raise awareness of issues affecting indigenous people.
They brought forward a speaker’s series, We Are All Treaty People, with topics on indigenous issues. Events continue in 2019, along with the College of Forestry's Starker Lecture Series, which focuses this year on tribal forestry.
Last year, Oregon State hosted the Oregon Indian Education Conference, with more than 200 participants. The conference brings Native American educators together to discuss educational opportunities. Based on the success of the conference, Oregon State was able to garner interest and support from tribal communities to engage in more intentional ways.
Feedback from the education conference also led to an invitation from President Ed Ray to tribal leaders for a summit. In October, representatives of Oregon’s nine tribes came to Oregon State to discuss improving student access and success with Ray, Provost Edward Feser, Vice President for University Relations and Marketing Steve Clark and Vice President Chief Diversity Officer Charlene Alexander. The leaders also talked about possible partnerships between tribes and the university. Previous summits have resulted in a variety of collaborative projects that benefit tribal communities.
In addition, as a symbol of the continued presence and sovereignty of Oregon’s tribal people, the flags of Oregon tribes have also recently been added to the international flags displayed in the Memorial Union concourse.
Beyond symbolic gestures, the work by Davis-White Eyes and others to increase a tribal presence ensures that the university’s land grant mission extends to serve all the people of Oregon.