There is finally a place for Native American students to
call their own on the University of Montana campus.
of tribal and state leaders joined students and alumni to celebrate
the formal dedication of the Payne Family Native American Center
on Thursday. The $8.6 million facility located on the UM Oval will
house the Native American Studies Department, along with student
services and campus programs for Native Americans.
all of this under one roof is especially useful, officials said,
given that for years classes and support services were spread throughout
the campus, making college life more difficult for Native American
of them would never find us," said Fredricka Hunter, American
Indian Student Services director.
days are gone with the completion of the 30,000-square-foot center
that was a decade in the making. UM officials say the center is
the first building of its kind on any university campus in the nation.
day began with a "coming home" walk. The balance of the
day featured tours, festivities, a lunch and ceremonies, along with
the formal dedication.
also was a blessing of the Bonnie HeavyRunner Memorial Gathering
Space. HeavyRunner was a Blackfeet woman who was a trailblazer at
the university's Native American Studies Department and was instrumental
in the creation of the center. She died of cancer in 1997.
center was called many things by keynote speakers, students and
university officials Thursday.
Cobell of Browning, a Blackfeet woman most famous for her long-running
trust reform lawsuit against the federal government, said the center
is a bridge between the Native American world and the nonNative
speakers called the center an inspiration, a place for future tribal
leaders to write the blueprint of Indian reservations and a new
standard for buildings serving Native American students.
exemplifies pride in our Native culture and community," said
Dustin Monroe, a 28-year-old business student from Browning.
health sciences student Bruce Grant said the center shows that the
university cares about Native American students. Grant said that
in the past students felt overlooked at times.
feels like we're a part of the university," said Grant, 27,
of Missoula. "It makes Native students feel welcome on campus."
called the department's old facility a "little shanty shack"
that was so cramped, Native American studies classes had to be taught
in other buildings. That facility was actually an old house, he
on the new building began in April 2008. Private donations made
up most of the center's funding, with UM alum and Missoula businessman
Terry Payne providing funding when financial support lagged. Donations
also came from Cobell and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes,
center has 12 sides, representing the 12 tribes of Montana. The
seals of Montana's seven reservation-based tribes, along with the
landless Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians, are carved into
the building. The tribes' flags are flown along the main entrance
to the building.
of Native American culture surround the center, from an oval-shaped
storytelling space to the center's native herb gardens.
center's entrance leads to a circular lobby, with a canted roof
and a skylight made to capture the first rays of the daylight. At
night, the building's fiberglass panel recreates the glow of a teepee
with an internal campfire. The building's lead architect, Daniel
Glenn of the Crow Tribe, based his design on Salish teepees. Inside,
the classrooms are state-of-the-art.
center is the first building in the Montana University System to
be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certified,
with dozens of environmentally friendly features.
hopes the center will help recruit students from throughout the
state and beyond. She said people at universities in Arizona and
Utah already are taking note of the Payne Family Native American
get the sense that this is a going to go on a very different level,"
said Cris Stainbrook, a representative with the Indian Land Tenure
Foundation, which was a lead donor for the project.
believes the center will help retain students by giving them a place
to see other Native Americans, which can be crucial for students
from the reservation who can feel lost sometimes on the campus.
said Native American enrollment at UM is growing, and the excitement
surrounding the Payne center is a part of that.
students have a place on campus," she said.