CORVALLIS - Strengthening ties between Oregon State University and the nine sovereign Native American tribes of Oregon is one of the first goals of the university's new Indian Education Office coordinator.
"Oregon State University has long-standing relationships with the tribes, going as far back as the 1930s," said Allison Davis-White Eyes, adding that she would like to expand and enhance the university's efforts to build bridges to those cultures.
New programs to preserve Native American culture, language and tradition are a major part of Davis-White Eyes' initiative. Some natural fits would be for the university and tribal governments to work toward expanding opportunities for collaborative research in fields such as land and resources, including forestry, and fisheries and wildlife, Davis-White Eyes said.
Key to the success of the OSU tribal initiative is smoothing communication between tribal and university government, first regionally and eventually nationwide.
Although not a native Oregonian, Davis-White Eyes said she has quickly grown to appreciate the Pacific Northwest.
"My tribal affiliation is Cheyenne, Kiowa and Muskogee Creek," she said. "When I first came to Oregon, I came here with a distinct attitude and very little understanding of the state and it took me some time to change. I feel very fortunate. I'm learning to step out of my world and to expand and grow."
Davis-White Eyes received her bachelor's degree in history and her master's in American Indian studies from the University of California at Los Angeles. After graduation she worked at the University of Oregon moving into the spot of assistant director of admissions before accepting the Indian Education Office position at OSU.
While in Eugene, Davis-White Eyes proposed a project that eventually resulted in the Aboriginal Rights Project, which addresses Native American tribes that have been split by modern political boundaries or forced out of their original homes. The project recognizes the sovereignty of Oregon's nine federally recognized and grants in-state tuition rates to students who are members.
Students who are members of other Native American tribes whose traditional tribal boundaries once included the state are included.
The OSU Indian Education Office works to expand awareness of and responsiveness to the skills, knowledge and history in Indian cultures and values, she said. Among the services the office offers to the community are: recruiting and retaining Indian students, faculty and staff; support and counseling on academic, career and personal issues; Indian scholarship information; and serving as a liaison between OSU and tribal communities. The office was a model for the university's Minority Education Offices, which opened in the fall of 1997.
The university also maintains the Native American Longhouse, a cultural center that offers an array of social, cultural and recreational events to the community each year. The Longhouse focuses on supporting students of color, as well as educating the community.