October 10, 2022


Today is officially Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the City of Fort Collins and other communities around the country. As a university, we honor many holidays, and we don’t send a campuswide message for each one. This one is quite a bit different, though, because of its direct connection to the history of our University and our mission to provide access and opportunity to all people through education.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a time to honor the significant and ongoing contributions and achievements of Indigenous and Native American people to our community, state, and country.

At CSU, it is also a time when we should acknowledge the enormous debt our nation’s land-grant university system owes to the Indigenous peoples whose traditional homelands were confiscated and sold to fund the creation of state universities like CSU. This is not a statement of “wokeness” – it is established fact, and as a university, we have an obligation to the truth. We also have accountability, and while we can’t change history, we can act thoughtfully in the present and acknowledge that CSU’s founding came at a dire cost to the Tribal communities of the West – and commit to do better. Today, we want to share how CSU is expressing its commitment through its actions.

We are investing in our relationships with Tribal Nations, Indigenous communities and their members through a new leadership position that will establish and oversee CSU initiatives, research, and programs that relate to and impact Indigenous and Native peoples and Nations. The Assistant Vice President for Indigenous and Native American Affairs will report directly to the University President. The AVP for Indigenous and Native American Affairs will lead CSU’s outreach efforts to Tribal communities and schools and work with Tribal leaders to determine partnerships to increase student recruitment and retention. Internally, this AVP will work to help educate and inform the University community on Native and Indigenous priorities on campus and at the local, state, and national levels.

One of the responsibilities of the AVP will be managing funds for projects and initiatives that benefit Native American and Indigenous peoples. Last week, at the recommendation of our Native American Advisory Council, the Board of Governors of the CSU System took the unprecedented step of amending its Real Estate Investment Funds policy to designate that the university use annual revenues from its Endowment Land Income Fund specifically to benefit members of federally- and state-designated Tribes. This may include programs for undergraduate and graduate students, programs for faculty and staff, and outreach and engagement activities.

Colorado State University earns revenue from lands that were part of the original land grant designated under the Morrill Act, all of which were Tribal lands when they were granted to Colorado for the purpose of starting CSU in the 19th century. This income is generated from such activities as mineral and grazing leases that are managed by the State Land Board. Managing the use of land-grant income from the State Land Board is a fiduciary duty delegated by state statute to the Board of Governors of the CSU System.

Under the policy change approved last week, the new Associate Vice President for Indigenous Affairs and the CSU President are authorized to recommend expenditures from this fund to benefit Native American and Indigenous people. The Board has delegated authority to the CSU System Chancellor to approve these recommendations up to $500,000. The President will provide annual reports about the funded programs to the Board, and The Board will review this Policy and the programs funded by the Annual Revenue every three years.

Thank you to our Native American Advisory Council for leading this initiative and the creation of the AVP position – and for helping CSU more justly honor its history and obligations and the essential role that Indigenous people continue to play at CSU, in Colorado, and in the U.S. as a whole.

In that spirit, we also want to encourage our community to participate in the opportunities offered today for learning and engagement. At 6 p.m. tonight in the Longs Peak Room of the Lory Student Center, CSU’s Native American Cultural Center and RamEvents are presenting Beth Wright, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe and an attorney from the Native American Rights Fund, who will lead a discussion on the Indian Child Welfare Act. This federal law under review with the U.S. Supreme Court protects the well-being and best interests of Native children and families. The talk is free and open to the public.

We recognize we have much to do in fully honoring Indigenous Peoples and establishing a truly equitable relationships with Native communities, including ongoing emphasis on the recruitment, support, and graduation of Native American students. We want to express our personal gratitude, and that of the entire university, to the strong community of Native American and Indigenous students, faculty, staff, and alumni at CSU for their leadership, support, and counsel as we undertake this work together. By the time we honor this day next year, we expect we will have real progress to report as the result of efforts now underway.

Thank you,

Dr. Rick Miranda

Interim President

Dr. Kauline Cipriani

Vice President for Inclusive Excellence