Many campus, community services available to American Indians

by RITA TOTTEN

American Indians and anyone interested in learning more about Indian culture can visit the many centers in Salt Lake City and at the University of Utah campus.

Transitioning from high school to college or from one college to another can be a difficult process. Assisting in that transition is the American Indian Resource Center at the U. Becky McKean, an administrative assistant at AIRC, said staff work with different offices on campus to establish partnerships.

“We draw from each other,” McKean said.

Some of the groups working with the AIRC are academic, such as the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. Others, like the Inter Tribal Student Association, focus on student life. The Center for Ethnic Student Affairs has within its office a Native American coordinator who advises students and helps with scholarships, McKean said.

She said this year, AIRC Director Beverly Fenton was able to get the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in-state tuition for its students.

“The Ute Mountain Utes are located in Colorado, but since they are part of the Ute Tribe they were granted in-state tuition thanks to Beverly’s work,” McKean said.

AIRC is located near the dorms in a house donated by Fort Douglas. McKean said that when the Fort downsized 15 years ago, the house was given to the American Indians.

AIRC encourages students to use the building as a meeting place for groups and activities and strengthens connections with the community. It also helps students get involved with internships and work-study programs.

McKean said they are trying to be active in bringing people into the center. Twice a week a writing tutor comes to the AIRC to assist students with papers and homework assignments and to help improve their writing, McKean said. The AIRC also has a computer lab available for students and McKean hopes to get a grant to purchase more computers.

“The goal of the Center is to act as a liaison between the U and tribal communities,” McKean said. The Center is currently working on developing a brochure and a Web site to advertise the available services throughout the community. McKean said she hopes to bring the community into the center. This fall, while visiting the U, tribal leaders from across Utah and neighboring states were welcomed into the Center. A potluck was also hosted which brought a sizeable crowd of students and faculty to the Center.

Other on-campus resources include the American West Center, which is working with the Utah Division of Indian Affairs to develop teaching guides for grade school children to inform and educate them on current issues and history of Utah’s American Indians. Also, the Center for American Indian Languages focuses on the study of indigenous languages.

The state of Utah gets its name from the Ute Tribe. Support for members of the Tribe and other American Indian tribes come from a variety of places.

A local resource available to tribal members is the Indian Walk-In Center.

Brenda Chambers, an employee and health specialist for the center, said in an e-mail that the purpose of the Walk-In Center is to support and provide wellness services to people with respect to values and heritage of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The Walk-In Center sees members from tribes all over Utah, including the Utes, Paiutes, Goshute, Shoshone and Navajo. Chambers said the Walk-In Center serves as a meeting place. In addition, anyone who wants to learn more about American Indians can gather at the Center and take advantage of the services and information available.

Chambers said the Center offers services in many different areas, including health services, counseling, community outreach, events and general assistance. Within each area different services are available to the community. For example, people seeking housing can take advantage of housing referral services. Children visiting the center can take part in the literacy project and attend leadership meetings.

A major issue for American Indians is health-related problems such as diabetes. The Walk-In Center offers nutrition information and presentations as well as screenings for diabetes. Health promotion and prevention is a big part of what the Walk-In Center does.

Supporting all aspects of native life is important, but it’s also important to inform non-native people as well. McKean said she hopes the resources available on and off campus will “help educate the community and bring us closer together.”