Colorado State University will strengthen its relationships with Indigenous and Native peoples through its first administrator dedicated to advancing University initiatives and programs responsive to the needs of tribal and Indigenous communities.

Patrese Atine joined CSU on March 1 as Assistant Vice President for Indigenous and Native American Affairs. Atine most recently worked as director of congressional and federal relations at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, focusing on maintaining partnerships with federal agencies to meet the unique needs of tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), students, and tribal nations.

Atine is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and earned a master’s in education, policy, planning and administration from Boston University.

Atine reports directly to CSU’s president, Amy Parsons, and leads the University’s outreach to tribal communities, works with the campus community on Native and Indigenous issues, and partners with tribal leadership to increase student recruitment and retention.

The position was created after a recommendation from CSU’s Native American Advisory Council in 2021. The council studied how a leadership position focused on Native American and Indigenous peoples could benefit the University community, meet the needs of Native American students, and build and maintain better relationships with tribal nations.

“The hiring of an Assistant Vice President for Native American and Indigenous Affairs represents an important moment in CSU history,” said Roe Bubar, a professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies and member of NAAC. “Moving beyond a land acknowledgement [adopted by CSU in 2019] is critical in accepting responsibility for the land this university resides upon. We look forward to the future efforts of Patrese Atine in increasing our recruitment and retention of Native students, staff, and faculty, representing the interests of Native nations, and supporting CSU’s Native American Cultural Center in the years ahead.”

Native lands and the Morrill Act

Under the Morrill Act of 1863, states or territories could set aside federal lands to create colleges that benefited students of the agricultural and mechanical arts. While states usually sold these lands to fund their land-grant schools, Colorado still owns some parcels – originally Native lands – and receives revenue generated from mineral and grazing leases on them.

These funds come to CSU from the State Land Board and are overseen by the CSU System Board of Governors. NAAC recommended these funds be used to support efforts to address Native American and Indigenous issues.

In October, with the support of Interim President Rick Miranda and CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank, the board voted to move stewardship of the land-grant fund revenues directly to the University president and the new AVP; $500,000 will be allocated annually to support these efforts.

“The other big piece of it is about what this means for CSU’s relationships with tribal nations and Indigenous communities,” said Lindsey Schneider, assistant professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies and co-chair of NAAC. “Education was one of the key promises made by the U.S. government in most treaties with tribal nations, and many tribal leaders see it as a promise that has largely gone unfulfilled.”