The University of Utah has both historical and contemporary relationships with Indigenous peoples. Given that the Salt Lake Valley has always been a gathering place for Indigenous peoples, we acknowledge that this land, which is named for the Ute Tribe, is the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Shoshone, Paiute, Goshute, and Ute Tribes and is a crossroad of the Indigenous peoples of Utah. Through this statement, the University of Utah recognizes the enduring relationships between many Indigenous peoples and their traditional homelands. We are grateful for the territory upon which we gather today and respect Utah’s Indigenous peoples, the original stewards of this land. We value the sovereign relationships that exist between tribal governments, state governments, and the federal government. Today, approximately 60,000 American Indian and Alaskan Native peoples live in Utah. As a state institution, the University of Utah is committed to serving Native communities throughout Utah in partnership with Native Nations and our Urban Indian communities through research, education, and community outreach activities.
The Department of Communication supports the University of Utah’s land acknowledgement statement but also recognizes that a land acknowledgment is only a starting point for supporting and pursuing equity with Indigenous peoples and their sovereign Nations. A land acknowledgement alone risks being an empty symbol if it is not accompanied by substantial changes in the policies, practices, and culture of our University. The Department commits to a process of moving beyond land acknowledgement by:
- evaluating and critiquing how our Department benefits from settler colonialism
- reflecting on how our policies and practices support settler colonialism
- implementing meaningful and research-informed changes in policies and practices
We have much work to do in this regard, but we commit to engaging in an ongoing process of seeking equity with Indigenous peoples and extending diplomacy. While Black, Latinx, and other peoples of color have different histories and political/national orientations than many Indigenous peoples (and often have intersectional identities with them), we would like to acknowledge our solidarity with these communities as well as our commitment to critical analysis and intervention into intersecting systems of privilege and marginalization through participation with the Department’s anti-racism task force.
Faculty and students in the Department of Communication are currently involved with several research and teaching projects that support Indigenous communities, through education about Indigenous experiences, public scholarship, collaboration, service, and outreach. Faculty and graduate students work on research regarding Indigenous media and technology, representation, social movements, environmental justice, and mascots. For example, Dr. Ashley Cordes’ research program not only contributes to theoretical innovation in our understanding of digital Indigeneity and representation but also tangibly impacts Indigenous communities through the development of protocols for the use of cutting-edge communication technologies such as AI and cryptocurrency in relation to Indigenous epistemologies. She also engages in community-based research for the Coquille Nation, resulting in policy documents and pedagogical resources. Dr. Danielle Endres has created a digital archive of the University of Utah’s use of Indigenous symbols and mascots from the late 1800s to present, which can be used for research and teaching. As a University that uses a nickname with permission from the Ute Nation, we believe it is part of our responsibility to teach our students about Indigenous experience and the University’s historical use of Indigenous symbols. She has also analyzed the rhetoric of nuclear colonialism and nuclear decolonization in relation to the disproportionate impacts that Indienous people and their lands have experienced from the development of nuclear technologies. Further, one of our graduate students, Taylor Johnson, focuses on Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition (BEITC), a group of Indigenous Nations working to protect land in Southern Utah. Another graduate student, Oscar Mejia, is doing research on the intersections between Latinx and Indigenous media. We are committed to supporting these diverse projects and building the area of Indigenous Communication in meaningful ways.
The Department offers an undergraduate class on Indigenous Communication (Comm 3290), which provides instruction on a rotating set of topics related to research in Indigenous Communication.
We can do more. Over the next year and beyond faculty in the Department of Communication will work to create a set of resources and a concrete plan of action for supporting and engaging in Indigenous Communication research and teaching. We welcome all members of the Department of Communication to not only acknowledge the land on which we live and work as Indigenous land, but also to commit to meaningful actions that will work in solidarity with the needs of Indigenous people.
For more information on the University’s land acknowledgement and commitments to Indigenous peoples, see: https://attheu.utah.edu/facultystaff/indigenous-land-acknowledgement