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Petitioning Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, University of Oregon Dr. Yvette Alex-Assensoh and 3 others

President Michael Gottfredson, University of Oregon: Creation of a new Assistant Vice President of Tribal Affairs

1. Recognizes the sovereign status of Tribes.
2. Demonstrates Government to Government consultation as a best practice.
3. Creates a welcoming community for Tribal students, staff, faculty and community.
4. Addresses the unique history, rights and needs of Tribal communities.
5. Upholds the University's dedication to the principles of equality of opportunity and freedom from unfair discrimination for all members of the university community and an acceptance of true diversity as an affirmation of individual identity within a welcoming community.

Letter to
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, University of Oregon Dr. Yvette Alex-Assensoh
Assistant Vice President for Strategic Communications Phil Weiler
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, University of Oregon Dr. Yvette Alex-Assensoh
and 1 other
University of Oregon, President President Michael Gottfredson
It is with the highest degree of concern that I take the time to write to you today during the holiday season, and this effort reflects the urgent nature of the situation happening within the University of Oregon as it relates to Tribal and American Indian/ Alaskan Native relations from here forward. In the restructuring of Dr. Tom Ball's department you are losing not only one of the single most accomplished American Indian/ Alaska Native representatives the University has had to date, but you have also eliminated the highest ranking American Indian/ Alaska Native specific position in Higher Education in the State of Oregon. This action symbolizes a clear attack upon recognizing and respecting Tribal Sovereignty, the Government to Government relationship the State has with Tribes and the commitment the United States Government made with the Tribes and their descendants: those that hold Sovereign Authorities over what we now call the United States.

Further, in the decade that has seen the creation and acknowledgment of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and countless Offices of Indigenous Relations, and academic programs focusing on the legal and political rights of Indigenous People in mainstream higher education institutions (including most recently the University of Washington) within the Pacific Rim (NZ, Canada, Australia and the US), the action of the University of Oregon is one that also symbolizes an unmistakable step backwards and reflects poorly upon the Institution and the Oregon University System.

Specifically, there are numerous examples that demonstrate both the success of the Office that Dr. Ball held as well as his exceptional skills that were informed by his past experiences both as a member of academia and an elected Tribal Leader to catalyze scholarship, create and maintain relationships with Tribes which ushered in an unprecedented period of growth for the University of Oregon. His explicit support helped move forward the implementation and physical creation of the Many Nations Longhouse in a way that was respectful and informed by area Tribal Nations, numerous American Indian / Alaska Native focused grants and scholarship—including the University’s oldest Indian Graduate.

I am concerned that this change was made without consultation with the President’s Native American Advisory Board whose charge it is to advise the University and the President on government-to-government relations with Oregon’s federally-recognized tribes. This relationship affirmed the University’s institutional commitment to honor tribal sovereignty and opened productive lines of communication, dialog and collaboration between the institution and tribal communities.

I urge you to reevaluate the consequences of this decision and take action to reinstate institutional support for American Indian/ Alaska Native students and Community at the University. I advocate for the creation of an Office of Tribal Affairs with a Director at the AVP level who reports directly to the President. This level of commitment would demonstrate the rightful and respectful government to government relationships Oregon’s Nine Tribes and the broader Native community deserve.

The unique history, rights and needs of American Indian/ Alaska Native students and the sovereign status of Oregon Tribes cannot be adequately served and addressed by an omnibus community outreach professional. Therefore I, along with many other community members, alumni, students, and faculty across the State, are advocating that the Office of the President commit to establishing a new position dedicated to sustaining and improving relations between the University and Oregon’s Nine federally recognized Tribes.

Oregon Indian Education Association started this petition with a single signature, and now has 316 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.