Jodi Rave: Groundbreaking for Indian center at UM

"Gregory Cajete told his audience on Saturday that the University of Montana's new Native American Center would inspire a new era in leadership, vitalize Native studies and become of cornerstone of tribal community.

“Community is the foundation of identity,” Cajete said. It is the place where one comes to know what it is to be Native, said the author and educator, who provided a keynote speech before more than 300 people who gathered in the frosty morning shadow of Mount Sentinel. His audience arrived to celebrate a groundbreaking ceremony marking a first-of-its-kind Native campus center in the United States.

“The commemoration of the Indian studies center here at the University of Montana is so important to the overall development and evolution of Native studies, nationally, as well as internationally,” said Cajete, the Native American Studies director at the University of New Mexico. It will provide “a new expression of indigenous community,” he said.

The 19,900-square-foot building will house a Native American Studies department, Native student services and related campus programs. Construction on the nearly $10 million building is expected to begin this summer. About $2 million is still needed to complete the project by fall 2009.

Major donors, tribal leaders, politicians, students and community members shared tobacco offerings and stories about what the new center means to current and future generations. Speakers also acknowledged past generations, namely the Salish and Pend d'Oreille people, who once had an established community on what is now the sprawling UM campus.

Every speaker agreed more needs to be done to recognize the tribal knowledge that has sustained Native people for thousands of years. The task will get a boost from a proposed pantheon of tribal initiatives to be housed in the Native American Center."

Get the Story:
Jodi Rave: Dream realized: University of Montana's Native American Center holds groundbreaking (The Missoulian 4/20)

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