Indigenous Students and Allies for Change
Students dress up in face paint and headdresses and can be seen at every game.

The University of Utah Utes: Working Toward Understanding

Christina Rose

According to Valoree Dowell, a communications specialist in the University of Utah’s Marketing/Communications Office, “Negotiations for an MOU between the school and the tribe would permit the use of the name. Conversations between the tribe and school are going well,” she said. “We are negotiating for use of the Ute name and the tribe is supportive about it. It’s an ongoing process.”

When asked how the school feels about the behavior of the fans at games, Dowell said, “Fan behavior is important to the school in general.”

Students dress up in face paint and headdresses and can be seen at every game. (Indigenous Students and Allies for Change)

Eldridge is frustrated by the lack of communication between the student group and the tribe. “A lot of their community members don’t go to these games, and they are not in there and seeing what’s going on. Our students feel threatened, and in trying to educate the students, they (mainstream students) felt threatened. They feel ownership and it’s such a strong tradition, they don’t understand how they are appropriating our culture.”

The ISAFC feels that change will be difficult for the school and students. “This has been going on since the University of Utah teams were referred to as the Redskins, and it is something our students have always dealt with. We have seen how things can escalate. Rather than see something happen to our students, we avoid the games altogether,” Eldridge said.

Fan behavior at the University of Utah games frequently includes disrespectful representations of sacred objects. (Indigenous Students and Allies for Change)

Monique Thacker, MaCaw from Washington State, PHD program at the university, agrees. “The Utes became the official name in the 1970s,” she said, noting that the previous mascot was named Ho Yo, and had an oversized head and nose, with his tongue hanging out. “He was put into place in 1947, voted in by the student body,” Thacker said.

Originally, Thacker, who has fought team names and logos before, didn’t want to apply to the school because of the mascot issue. “But I loved the program and they offered me a government scholarship and have paid for my tuition.”

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Utahute72's picture
Submitted by Utahute72 on
I think both sides are missing an opportunity here. I would love the see a required general education class where all students at the university are taught about the history of the tribe and native Americans in general. I would guess that if the student body were educated we would be less likely to find offensive behavior. I would also like to see one of the football halftimes turned over to the native American community to present to the fan base cultural and educational information. I wish we could make the school a model for cooperation with the native Americans we are supposed to represent.