Native American Partnerships Grow at University of Wyoming

Hoop dancer Amya Spoonhunter dances with the Eagle Spirit Dancers following the WY Wind River Economic Development and Entrepreneurship Symposium. “Circle of Dance” was sponsored by Wyoming Humanities and UW’s High Plains American Indian Research Institute. (UW Photo)

The Wind River Indian Reservation and the University of Wyoming (UW) are growing partnerships across the board — from education and research to economic development — and it’s all having a positive effect on UW’s American Indian enrollment.

Many of the Native American partnerships at UW are highlighted in the just-released fall 2019 issue of UWyo Magazine.

American Indian UW students and alumni featured in the issue include Josie Trosper, Taryn Jim, Darrell Bell Sr., Reinette Tendore, Jordan Dresser, Wolf Star Duran, Aldora White Eagle, along with many others.

The growth in partnerships with the Wind River Indian Reservation is a crucial part of UW’s land-grant mission to serve the higher education needs of all Wyoming communities. The momentum derives from a multitude of collaborations by UW educators, administration, donors and Tribal leaders.

The University of Wyoming’s Upward Bound Program seeks to foster a supportive learning environment that encourages students’ academic success. The high school students get to spend time on campus and work on their project. At the end of their project, they present their findings. On July 15, 2019 the students were working on their presentations at Coe Library.

“Just as UW has been a huge asset to the state across so many areas, we are working in the same way to support people on the reservation,” says James Trosper, who has worked at UW’s High Plains American Indian Research Institute (HPAIRI) since 2014.

“Higher education changes lives, improves the quality of life for individuals and creates opportunities,” he adds. “We want that for the residents of the reservation.”

All the work on building partnerships is attracting more Native American students to UW.

“Those of us working in this area are definitely seeing an increase in students from the reservation,” Trosper says. He has noted an uptick in students using the Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center that opened in 2017.

The center provides advising, recruitment and retention services to American Indian students, helping reduce the culture shock of moving between the Wind River Indian Reservation and Laramie.

Many scholarships are available for American Indian students. These include the scholarships endowed by the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes, as well as others funded by private donors. See American Indian scholarship opportunities here.

Josie Trosper, of Fort Washakie, dances in Shoshone regalia as part of an Eagle Spirit Dancers “Circle of Dance” performance, which followed the WY Wind River Economic Development and Entrepreneurship Symposium April 17 at the University of Wyoming. (UW Photo)

Prospective students who want to get a taste of university life can attend the Native American Summer InstituteUpward Bound and the Upward Bound Math-Science Summer Program.

Once students enroll at UW, they can get support from Reinette Tendore, adviser with UW’s Native American Program.

UW offers many off-campus outreach and economic development resources designed to benefit reservation communities. For example, HPAIRI and UW’s Wyoming Technology Business Center (WTBC) host a $25,000 startup challenge for American Indian entrepreneurs. Those interested in applying should contact the WTBC at [email protected] or (307) 766-6395.

Additionally, HPAIRI helps UW researchers connect with professionals and consultants on the reservation to make sure research goals align.

One example of this approach is a project to identify migration corridors of deer and elk on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The work is being conducted by Shoshone Arapaho Tribal Game and Fish, Wyoming Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and UW’s Wyoming Migration Initiative.

Other recent highlights of partnerships between UW and the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone include:

— Launching the inaugural Native American Scholarship and Awards Banquet in 2019. This is the first event of what organizers hope will be an annual tradition recognizing the accomplishments of Native American students.

— Creating a Native American Affairs Strategic Plan for the university, through a 17-member Native American Affairs Advisory Committee and 15 listening sessions on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

— Creating an agricultural plan to increase productivity on the Wind River Indian Reservation, while giving control to Tribal members.

— Researching the effects of gardening on health with the Growing Resilience project.

— Securing a pilot grant to study the effects of Shoshone ancestral foods on health, identity, culture and well-being.

— Partnerships on chronic disease and aging with the Wyoming Center on Aging.

— Offering Tribal culture trainings to the Department of Defense, which include a service project component.

— Microbiome mini-grants for Wind River students through UW’s EPSCoR program.

— Revitalizing the Northern Arapaho language, including creating a place-based augmented reality app for mobile devices.

— Leading a National Endowment for the Humanities project on the role of elk on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

— Holding the April 17 WY Wind River Economic Development and Entrepreneurship Symposium. Gov. Mark Gordon attended, joined by Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow, state Sen. Affie Ellis (Navajo), Rep. Andi Clifford (Arapaho) and keynote speaker Gary “Litefoot” Davis (Cherokee).

These Native American partnerships and more are profiled in the fall 2019 issue of UWyo Magazine, also available at this link: www.uwyo.edu/uwyo/current.

James Trosper speaks at the Native Business Summit in May 2019. (Photo by Sean Capshaw for Native Business)

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