Announcement of the Elouise Cobell Land and Cultural Institute
By Jonas Rides At The Door
Hello and good afternoon,
I want to welcome you here to the Payne Family Native American Center, and also to the traditional territory of the Salish and Kootenai people.
My name is Jonas Rides At The Door, and I am a student here. I am majoring in Native American Studies and Political Science, and I am on my in my 4th year here now. I am a member of the Blackfeet Nation and a veteran of the Marine Corps.
First, I want to talk about the positive impacts that the Payne Family Native American Center has had on students and the community.
From my personal perspective, when I first came to UM 4 years ago, the Native American Studies Department was housed in that 4-bedroom log cabin right down the road. It was just a place of come and go, there was no room to hang out, study, or meet people, particularly other natives. I felt out of place, but not so much that I wanted to go back to Browning.
It wasn’t until this place was built, that I felt like I belonged, that I felt accepted in a place where I felt comfortable. I made this place my second home. I remember during the grand opening, thinking as I counted coup on this building with Joe Medicine Crow’s coup stick, that this place is going to be much more than just another academic department at the University of Montana.
The Center is an intellectual breeding ground for our future leaders of Indian Country. Here they come to meet, to learn, to exchange ideas and experiences, and this strengthens the self-determination of Indian people in Montana and around the country. The instruction and environment definitely provides the fuel for the inner fire, indeed to take on the issues and struggles that one may take on in Indian country.
This building is not only important to Native Americans, but to everyone else as well. For hundreds of years, Native Americans have been stereotyped through the grinder time and time again, to the point that American history has been misconstrued. Taking classes here, a person will receive what I call, the real American history. This is essential in the healing process of that which is called de-colonization, and it’s only respectful to learn about the people’s land in which you now live.
When I first heard about the plan to include a Land and Culture Institute named in honor of Elouise Cobell, I thought there is no better place to put it than the Payne Family Native American Center, at the University of Montana. Here I believe it will thrive beyond its expectations, much like Elouise Cobell did, when she won her settlement case against the most powerful government in the world. The institute will provide students the opportunity to get an in-depth look at contemporary Native American lands and resources and their issues, and here it will be possible to find solutions to these issues, and continue to fight for our rights, as Elouise put it.