The UMass Native Advisory Council regularly convenes to address topics related to the Native community at UMass, provide education and guidance on Native issues, foster mutual relationships with area Native Nations, and advise university leaders on matters related to positive campus climate for Native students, faculty, and staff. Comprised of a circle of campus administrators, faculty, staff, and students, the Council represents a braided network of over thirteen different programs, departments, and resources. Our aims include:
- Providing expertise and recommendations to support optimal inclusion for Native students, staff, and faculty
- Serving as a resource for enabling positive and reciprocal government-to-government relationships between the university and Native Nations
- Developing within the UMass community fuller awareness and understanding of Native American issues and sovereignty
- Identifying opportunities for increased education and awareness for the campus community
- Providing counsel and recommendations on Native issues
- Modeling Indigenous principles of leadership
- Encouraging and supporting campus initiatives and strategic planning that seek to imbed specific focus and awareness for Native people
- Monitoring campus performance and guiding goal setting for the ongoing recruitment, retention, and success of Native students, staff, and faculty
Our Current and Ongoing Work
Advising on Native Issues
The Council advises campus leadership on issues and policies that affect the well-being and inclusion of Native members of the university community and the relationships between the university and the Native Nations in the region. For example, in recognition of the cultural and religious significance of tobacco, the Council recently reviewed the UMass Tobacco Policy and provided recommendations to university leadership that reflected best practices for traditional use. As a result, the university amended the campus tobacco policy to allow for use in the practice of traditional, religious, or cultural activities by Native and non-Native members of the campus community. This amendment supports the campus to uphold its commitment to diversity and inclusion while maintaining its commitment to bettering public health.
An advisory group of representatives from area Tribal Nations works closely with the UMass Native Advisory Council to provide advice and guidance. To date, the Tribal Advisory Council has focused on increasing pathways to college for Native youth; exploring reciprocal avenues for collaborative community-based research and education; and fostering positive, reciprocal government to government relationships with UMass Amherst.
In collaboration with Tribal Advisors from local Tribal Nations, our Council is collaboratively developing a UMass Amherst campus Land Acknowledgement. This acknowledgement will affirm the connection and relationship to this land the campus is built upon and the continued connection of the Nations who were the original inhabitants and caretakers of this land. The Acknowledgement will also demonstrate our connection and responsibility to the 82 Native nations west of the Mississippi whose homelands were sold through the Morrill Act of 1862, sales which established this campus as a land-grant institution. The Council understands this work of acknowledging the lands on which the UMass campus is located, as part of the broader—and essential—effort of building and sustaining relationships and partnerships with the Native nations to whom we, as a University community, are linked.
The Land Acknowledgement may be utilized by the campus community as a means to recognize and reaffirm existing relationships to people and land, honor the complex and difficult history that impacted Native peoples, and educate students, faculty, and staff. The Acknowledgement will be inscribed by Campus Facilities and Planning on a physical installation that will be erected centrally on the campus. The Council is also developing materials to continue to educate our campus and the wider community of Western Massachusetts, about the purpose and meaning of Acknowledgement, protocols for its use, and the opportunities for action and engagement that it offers.
Native Student Recruitment and Enrollment
Representatives from the UMass Office of Enrollment Management serve on the Council to share best practices and collaboratively develop strategies to attract and recruit Native students. In consideration of the Native homelands on which our campus is located, the immediate focus is on the recruitment of Native students in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast. Our Council is currently developing a 5-year strategic plan to increase Native student enrollment.
Native Student Support and Retention
UMass Amherst is committed not only to recruiting Native students to UMass but also supporting their educational journey and providing services and opportunities for them to graduate and succeed beyond UMass. The Council partners with the leadership of the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Services (CMASS) and the Josephine White Eagle Cultural Center (JWECC) to support education and awareness for students, faculty and staff.
Indigenous Pedagogy and Educational Space
In partnership with the UMass Intertribal Coalition, the Council is working toward building a traditional teaching lodge on campus. The UIC has obtained initial seed funding from Gedakina, a Native non-profit in the region. We envision that the initial lodge will be erected seasonally as a collaborative, educational partnership between UMass students, faculty, staff and Native Traditional Knowledge Keepers. The Lodge will serve as a place of learning using transdisciplinary Indigenous pedagogy that centers land-based knowledge and relationality.
UMass Amherst respects the sovereignty and cultural practices of Native peoples and their associated rights to have their ancestral remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony respectfully returned through the process of repatriation. These legal, moral and ethical obligations are fulfilled through respectful consultation and meaningful engagement with Tribal Nations throughout repatriation processes and a commitment to sustaining respectful and lasting relationships beyond.
To ensure that the university's processes of repatriation are accomplished respectfully, ethically, and expeditiously, the university has a full-time Repatriation Coordinator in Julie Woods, and has established the UMass Repatriation Advisory and Oversight Committee. The Committee is the oversight body for matters relating to all ancestral remains and related cultural items on the UMass Amherst campus, including compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Its membership includes:
Christine Wilda - Associate Chancellor for Compliance (Sponsor)
Julie Woods - Repatriation Coordinator (Chair)
Sonya Atalay – Anthropology
Rolanda Burney – Chief of Staff
Emmanuel Adero – Office of Equity and Inclusion
Sid Ferreira – Student Affairs and Campus Life
Banumathi Subramaniam - Women’s Studies
Please read the University’s policy on our mission, compliance standards, and protocols regarding NAGPRA.
Current Native Advisory Council Members
Emmanuel Adero – Co-Chair
Deputy Chief Officer for Equity and Inclusion
Office of Equity and Inclusion
Sara Littlecrow-Russell – Co-Chair
Assistant Vice Chancellor of Shared Services
Student Affairs and Campus Life
Associate Director of Diversity Recruitment and Enrollment
Office of Enrollment Management
History of Art & Architecture Department
Assistant Vice Chancellor of Advocacy, Inclusion, and Support
Student Affairs and Campus Life
Associate Chancellor for Compliance
Administration and Finance
Office of Compliance
Assistant Director Academic Support
Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success (CMASS)