The University of Utah’s athletic teams will continue to be known as the Utes under an agreement worked out with the Northern Ute Tribe.
University President David Pershing and other university officials traveled to the Ute tribal headquarters in Fort Duchesne on Tuesday to announce the agreement. The university will use the Ute name with the full support of the tribe. The U’s trademarked drum and feather logo is not part of the agreement, though tribal leaders are encouraging its continued use.
Michelle Mattsson, a member of the university’s board of trustees, says the agreement also requires the U to address the use of phony Native American costumes and props at games and tailgating parties.
Mattsson tells KUER, “There will be an educational process so that, frankly, our students and fans can learn more about the Ute tribe and the history that comes with that. And also, they’ll be more careful in fan behavior and what is and is not acceptable.”
The deal doesn’t please Samantha Eldridge, a former graduate student and instructor with Navajo heritage. She says changing the nickname and logo is a matter of respect.
“Native American student enrollment has been declining at the University of Utah since 2006, and I think that’s a direct reflection of how native students feel. I mean, they don’t feel like they’re respected or wanted at the university, so they’re seeking out other colleges and universities to go to.”
The agreement does provide for new scholarships for Native American students and the appointment of an advisor to the university president on Native American affairs.