CSU retiree donates Native art books to tribe in southern Colorado

photo of Jacobs

A retired CSU faculty member has donated about 700 books on Native American art and culture to the Ute Mountain Ute tribe in southern Colorado.

It is the latest chapter in an ongoing effort to expand the holdings of a small library on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation south of Cortez. Earlier this year, Irene Vernon, head of CSU’s Department of Ethnic Studies, gave the tribe more than a dozen boxes of her books by and about Native Americans.

Jacobs received this piece of pottery from the tribe as a symbol of its gratitude.
Jacobs received this piece of pottery from the tribe as a symbol of its gratitude. Photo by Waylon Plentyholes

Peter Jacobs, a professor emeritus in CSU’s Department of Art and Art History, was inspired to donate his books after reading a story about Vernon’s gift in SOURCE.

“We are so appreciative of these books,” said Tanya Amrine, education division director for the tribe. “It’s nice to know that a big university all the way across the state has a genuine interest in us way down here.”

The delivery

Jacobs and his wife, Nancy, a retired Poudre School District art teacher, drove the books to the reservation on  Monday, Nov. 2, using a van from the CSU motor pool, and a host of events were scheduled for Tuesday. After breakfast with Amrine and the tribe’s K-12 director, Jacobs visited the Ute Mountain Trading Company in Cortez to see some of the tribe’s signature pottery. He got a tour of the tribe’s educational facilities in Towaoc, followed by a lunch reception with tribal leaders and community members where he received a commemorative platter and an invitation to deliver a series of workshops in the future.

Amrine said Jacobs’ books on Native art will be housed in a dedicated reading room at the library, in a former classroom that was cleaned out to make room for couches and shelving.

Jacobs, whose 39-year career at CSU has included service as department chair, university mediator and faculty advisor to the women’s ice hockey team, said he was happy to find a place where his collection will play a valuable role.

“I’d hate to see them go somewhere they weren’t useful, and I wanted to keep the collection intact,” he said. “I’m really thrilled that they’ll be going somewhere they’ll be read. And this falls at a good time, because November is Native American Heritage Month.”

Art expertise

Jacobs’ research specialty is Native American art, especially in the Northwest. From 1980 to 2000, he spent part of every summer lecturing in British Columbia and Alaska, with World Explorer Cruises, using Semester at Sea ships. He was also an adjunct professor in Ethnic Studies. He said his collection of books is broad and touches various Native cultures across North America.

Gary Hayes, a tribal council member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, unloads boxes of Jacobs' books.
Gary Hayes, a tribal council member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, unloads boxes of Jacobs’ books. Photo by Waylon Plentyholes

Jacobs was connected to Amrine by Patricia Vigil, director of university partnerships and student success and head of CSU’s Alliance Partnership, which works with racially diverse high schools in the state that have high numbers of first-generation students and free/reduced lunches.

The ties between the tribe and CSU go beyond book donations. In June, the university hosted the annual Tri-Ute Youth Leadership Conference. In addition, as part of the Alliance Math in Action in Computer Science camp, Native American students from Cortez Middle School visit campus each summer for a week-long hands-on training to learn about math concepts and their applications to computer science. The middle school also brings all 150 of its eighth grade students to visit CSU each spring, to be exposed to a college campus and explore the career opportunities that a college education can provide. And CSU Alliance representatives visit Montezuma-Cortez School District leaders twice a year to discuss expanding their students’ participation in Alliance programs, among other topics.

The departments of Art and Art History and Ethnic Studies are in CSU’s College of Liberal Arts.