A mural of a sunflower, a woman with a flower crown and two women holding hands.

Isaac Hoops / Nevada Sagebrush
The mural in The Multicultural Center in the Joe Crowley Student Union on Oct. 4, 2021. The new Director of Indigineous Relations is being hired to work directly with Indigenous students and Indigenous communities.

The University of Nevada, Reno officially listed a new job opening to hire a Director of Community Indigenous Relations. The position is being hired from a nation-wide search by a search committee composed of majority Indigineous persons.

This directorship will be tasked with three major work areas which can be summed up as external Indigenous relations, advising directly to the president as a member of the President’s Council, on-campus policy and Indigenous student retention.

The new director will not only be working to build a direct relationship with both in and out-of-state Indigenous communities, but also external sources such as the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada.

Brian Sandoval, president of the university, said he expects the new position to be reaching out to tribal chairs and Indigenous organizations.

“I think it’s premature to say where the majority of their efforts are going to go,” said Sandoval. “I think it’s really important that they work externally and do outreach to the tribes so we can better understand how we can better serve them and the Indigenous community’s people within the state of Nevada and those tribes that are in close proximity to the state.”

The director will also be expected to advise Sandoval on issues and policies which affect Indigenous communities and the Indigenous students of the university.

“It’s really important that we raise the profile in regards to relations with the Indigenous tribes,” said Sandoval. “There are a lot of questions that come up on a daily, if not weekly, basis with regard to cultural sensitivity.”

The director is also expected to assist in the creation of university policies and programs designed to meet the needs of Indigenous students, and to assist in providing Indigenous students with more opportunities and representation on campus.

Markie Wilder, The Multicultural Center’s coordinator of Indigenous student services, will assist in the creation of programming.

Wilder said they are excited to see the new position filled, as she will now have another colleague involved in the help, support and success of Indigenous students.

She is looking forward to having the freedom to focus solely on student retention, graduation programming and student services.

“[The director] is really going to be a liaison to the community and university and work closely with a lot of stakeholders that I have been working with,” Wilder said. “If they can’t show up because they have things to do for the university, we can help each other. Before, it would either be me or nothing representing the university.”

Overall, Indigenous students currently attending the university have a positive outlook on the new position.

“I definitely feel like UNR is slowly getting there towards recognising their Indigenous communities,” said Alicia Reyes, an Indigenous student on campus and member of the UNR Indigenous Student Organization.

Reyes was also critical of current university representation of the Indigenous community.

“Institutions don’t even realise what lands they’re occupying, because this is a land grant institution,” said Reyes. “That’s super important when recognising Indigenous communities and peoples. So, make sure you know what lands you’re on and how you can be an ally and relative.”

Kiana Vance, an Indigenous student on campus and member of the Indigenous Student Organization, talked about the Nevada System of Higher Education fee waiver bill, the recognition of the university as a land-grant institution and the normalization of land acknowledgement statements.

“They have taken steps, such as the free tuition waiver, and those are good steps. However, it’s not enough,” said Vance. “I would like to see more in regards to the Indigenous people.”

Both Vance and Reyes are excited to see what steps the new director of Indigenous relations position will take in regards to making the university more inclusive to Indigenous communities.