Support for Native People in Higher Education Includes Permitting Sharing of Tribal Affiliations

May 13, 2024 | Blog, Featured Post, President's Blog

When John Little, a member of the Standing Rock Lakota Nation and the director of Native recruitment and alumni engagement at the University of South Dakota, used his tribal affiliation and his gender pronouns in an email signature, he was told to remove them.

The reason? Little was told he was in violation of the Board of Regents Policy 1.7.6 concerning communications and branding. He was told the policy was enacted to “create standards and expectations for institutional communications and brand management to preserve and protect a cohesive message and image.”

Support for Native People in Higher Includes Permitting Sharing of Tribal Affiliations - Board of Regents Policy 1.7.6 concerning communications and branding.Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, a member of the Oglala na Sicangu Lakota and director of Native Student Services, shared on Instagram she was also told she was in violation of the Regents’ policy for including her tribal affiliation on her email signature.

The Board of Regents oversees the University of South Dakota and five other state higher education institutions in that state. Employees who fail to comply with the new policy face the possibility of discipline, suspension, or termination for noncompliance, despite the fact that gender pronouns and tribal affiliations are not specifically mentioned in the policy.

Cheryl Crazy Bull, Sicangu Lakota and President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, and a graduate of the University of South Dakota (USD) and South Dakota State University, says the action is troubling because it represents the lack of systemic support for Native students, faculty, and staff in mainstream higher education institutions. Crazy Bull shared she has appreciated that USD, through the leadership of both Little and Red Shirt-Shaw and other Native advocates, had maintained a clear commitment to honoring and supporting Native students and alumni through a variety of activities, including both on-campus and off-campus events.

Having Native identities, voices, cultures, and perspectives recognized and respected in the same manner as any other group is important to Indigenous student, faculty, and staff success in higher education.

The American Indian College Fund asks its allies to stand with Native faculty, staff, and administrators to include their tribal affiliations and identities (or other cultural identities if non-Native), and gender pronouns in their e-mail signatures as a sign of support.

The newest higher ed battleground: college email signatures

In South Dakota, administrators faced retribution for including their tribal affiliation: https://mile-markers.beehiiv.com/p/newest-higher-ed-battleground-college-email-signatures

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