Land-grant revenue redirected to support members of Native American and Indigenous Tribes

Income generated from the lands that established the land-grant college that has become Colorado State University will now support members of federally- and state-recognized Native American and Indigenous Tribes.

CSU’s Native American Advisory Council recommended the change — approved by the Board of Governors of the Colorado State University System at its October meeting — to amend its Real Estate Investment Funds policy. Patrese Atine, the new Assistant Vice President for Indigenous and Native American Affairs, will oversee the use of the funds.

“The Advisory Council was conducting the research that would ultimately become the basis for the AVP position proposal, and we looked at how other land-grant institutions are handling the funds they received from Morrill Act parcels,” said Lindsey Schneider, assistant professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies, and co-chair of CSU’s Native American Advisory Council. “We became aware that CSU still owns most of the land that was granted through that process and continues to make money on these parcels through leases managed by the State Land Board.”

The research offered insight into what other universities were doing to support Native American students and build relationships and partnerships with tribal communities, said Ricki Ginsberg, associate professor of English education in the Department of English, and a co-chair of NAAC.

“One glaring finding from the research was that university representatives described the significance of having a person in a high-level leadership position who reports directly to the president,” Ginsberg said.

While many land-grant institutions sold their parcels, CSU is among the few institutions that still holds the land.

“For the Advisory Council, this quickly became a cornerstone of the AVP position: the chance to make good on the commitments we espouse in the land acknowledgment by redirecting the money gained from stolen lands,” Schneider said.

Colorado State University earns revenue from lands that were part of the original land grant designated under the Morrill Act of 1863, all of which were Tribal lands when they were granted to the Colorado territory for the purpose of starting CSU in the 19th century. This income is generated from such activities as mineral and grazing leases that are managed by the State Land Board. Managing the use of land-grant income from the State Land Board is a fiduciary duty delegated by state statute to the Board of Governors of the CSU System.

It is a major and unprecedented step in helping CSU more justly honor its commitments to Native American and Indigenous peoples, said Interim CSU President Rick Miranda.

“Thank you to our Native American Advisory Council for leading this initiative and the creation of the AVP position – and for helping CSU more justly honor its history and obligations and the essential role that Indigenous people continue to play at CSU, in Colorado and in the U.S. as a whole,” Miranda wrote to in a message to campus announcing the change and recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day.

Under the policy change approved by the Board of Governors, a new Associate Vice President for Indigenous and Native American Affairs and the CSU President are authorized to recommend expenditures from this fund to benefit Native American and Indigenous people.

The Board has delegated authority to the CSU System Chancellor to approve these recommendations up to $500,000. CSU’s president will provide annual reports about the funded programs to the Board of Governors, and the Board of Governors will review this policy and the programs funded by the annual revenue every three years.

Moving the fund and establishing the assistant vice president position can help correct institutional structures that made higher education inaccessible for Native people.

“Creating the AVP position is part of that, and it’s really exciting to see the recognition that Native people are not just an underserved or marginalized population, we’re also members of sovereign nations who have a unique relationship with the government as a result,” Schneider said. “But the position alone isn’t enough to repay that ‘dire cost’ that tribal nations paid, and that’s where the funds can help.”