October 9, 2020

To our Cougar community:

Please join us Monday in celebrating WSU’s third Indigenous People’s Day. The Office of Tribal Relations and Native American Programs will host a series of events to mark the occasion.

On October 8, 2018, we declared through proclamation that the second Monday of October would be Indigenous People’s Day at Washington State University. We are committed to not only building relationships comprised of trust, respect and reciprocity with Indigenous Peoples, but also to ensure we honor the sovereignty of Native American Tribes and peoples.

In 1997, Washington State University entered into a MOU agreement with six local tribes and established a Native Advisory Board to the President. Since then, six more tribes have signed the MOU agreement. As the President and Provost, we are committed to meeting with the board bi‑annually to conduct meaningful tribal consultation. These meetings will contribute to the finalization of an Executive Policy on Tribal Consultation that will guide WSU’s policies and practices on research and programs that impact Native American peoples or take place on tribal lands. We are also committed to expanding MOU agreements with additional tribes.

To develop and maintain our vital relationship with Native American tribes and peoples, we rely heavily on our Office of Tribal Relations and Native American Programs. This work is led by our Executive Director of Tribal Relations, Dr. Zoe Higheagle Strong, a Nez Perce Tribal member and Assistant Professor in the College of Education. She works closely with tribes and other key positions across the university to help ensure culturally revitalizing and sustaining (CRS) policies and practices.

Last month, the Tribal Relations Office was awarded a “New Beginnings for Tribal Students” grant, funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture‑USDA. This grant will examine CRS strategies to improve Native American student recruitment and retention at WSU and will expand the Tribal Nation Building Leadership Program to serve Native American students at all WSU campuses. We also appreciate the Asian American and Pacific Islander Student Center and Native American Health Sciences for their extraordinary support and care for our Indigenous students.

As we celebrate Indigenous Peoples as the first peoples and caretakers of our regional lands and waterways, we also need to acknowledge the tragic history of the disposition of Indigenous lands by coercive and violent means, and disregarded treaties. We wrestle with this past, and we must deeply question and consider our current responsibilities as a land grant institution. The Morrill Act of 1862 established land‑grant institutions by providing each state with “public” and federal lands, which are traced back to the disposition of Indigenous lands. In 1890, the state of Washington received 90,081 acres of Indigenous Lands designated to establish Washington State University. WSU retains the majority of these lands to this day.

In response, we have updated our land acknowledgement statement. We will also commission a team of WSU and tribal representatives to investigate this matter further and determine the best plan for reconciliation.

As noted in the university’s statement, we acknowledge that the disposition of Indigenous lands was often taken by coercive and violent acts, and the disregard of treaties. For that, we extend our deepest apologies. We owe our deepest gratitude to the Native peoples of this region and maintain our commitment towards reconciliation.

Best regards,

Kirk Schulz
President

Elizabeth Chilton
Provost and Executive Vice President