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Meskwaki Nation, University of Northern Iowa to craft statement noting campus sits on land once home to the tribe

The University of Northern Iowa and members of the Meskwaki Nation are looking seven generations ahead.



a sign on the side of a road: The campus of The University of Northern Iowa sits deserted on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, in Waterloo. All classes at the university through the summer have been moved to online only.


© Brian Powers/The Register
The campus of The University of Northern Iowa sits deserted on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, in Waterloo. All classes at the university through the summer have been moved to online only.

UNI and members of the Meskwaki Nation Tribal Council announced Monday that they are in the process of creating a land stewardship statement acknowledging that the university sits on land that was first home to the Meskwaki Nation, the only federally recognized tribal nation in Iowa.

The statement is among the new initiatives of a university and tribal partnership intended to support Indigenous students, faculty and programming.

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The partnership’s goals are guided by a principle common among many Indigenous knowledge systems, which advise that people should consider how descendants seven generations in the future will be affected by decisions made today.

“The university is located on land formerly stewarded by members of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Meskwaki Nation and other Indigenous tribes. The university acknowledges our responsibility to continue the legacy of stewardship by caring for the land on which the university sits, delivering our mission for the people and communities of Iowa and beyond, and ensuring our actions today lay a strong foundation for generations to come,” reads a statement from Mark Nook, UNI’s president, and Judith Bender, chair of the Meskwaki Tribal Council.

The announcement of the partnership came Monday, which was also Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Iowa.

The Meskwaki people were forced out of present-day Iowa by the U.S. government in the mid-1800s and, except for a handful of people who stayed behind in hiding, were sent to a reservation in Kansas. In 1856, Iowa enacted a law allowing the tribe to remain in the state, and in 1857 the tribe formally bought 80 acres of land in Tama County. The settlement has since grown to include more than 3,000 acres.

UNI has an enrollment of around 9,500 students, 0.1% of whom are Native American or Alaskan Native. The school is in Cedar Falls, which is part of Black Hawk County, a neighbor to Tama County.

UNI administrators and the Meskwaki Tribal Council began conversations in July about ways the two could collaborate, Andrew Morse, an assistant to the president for board and governmental relations at UNI, told the Press-Citizen.

Along with drafting a land stewardship statement, the university is developing scholarships for students from the Meskwaki Settlement School and South Tama High School.

UNI is also creating a program for faculty to work with teachers at the Meskwaki Settlement School, which is on Meskwaki Nation land, to support language and culture programming. The partnership will also drive the reinstatement of a summer camp for Meskwaki youth focused on the transition to higher education.

“It wasn’t that we recognized