Tribe seeks new benefits from U. of U. for use of Ute name, logo
Thanks to a long-standing informal agreement, the University of Utah uses the drum-and-feather logo and Ute tribal name for free.
Now tribal leaders want more in return.
Dissatisfied with the benefits it receives, the Ute Tribal Business Committee has requested a meeting with university officials to discuss use of the logo.
In a certified letter signed by committee chairman Gordon Howell and sent to U. President David Pershing as well as The Salt Lake Tribune, the Utes are asking for a Nov. 22 meeting as the tribe seeks a formal agreement for use of the logo.
According to the letter, the Fort Duchesne-based tribe intends to establish a task force to negotiate a formal agreement that would create an Office of the Special Adviser to the President on American Indian Affairs with a Ute tribal member serving as adviser. The Utes also want tuition waivers instead of scholarships for enrolled members of the tribe.
The demands are born of a belief the tribe would receive such benefits in 2005, when the parties renewed a memorandum of understanding that allows the U. to use the Ute name and symbols.
According to the letter, the tribe continues to support use of the logos but claims the school hasn't done enough to promote tribal human resources.
Howell or other tribal leaders could not immediately be reached Friday.
U. Vice President Fred Esplin said the parties are engaged in ongoing discussions about the 2005 agreement. He said the letter's official request is part of those discussions.
"We've been looking forward to a meeting," he said, "and it comes as no surprise."
Esplin said the tribe's terms will be discussed. "We need to meet with them and talk about things, but we do want to strengthen and honor our relationship with them."
According to 2012-13 data, the most recent available, the U. has 171 students who identify themselves as American Indians, making them the smallest minority group on campus.
All American Indian students have access to the American Indian Resource Center, which offers tutoring, scholarships, classes and more.
The tribe's recent request is just the latest in the seemingly ever-changing dialogue between the parties as the school tries to maintain its Ute ties but also meet today's politically correct standards. Before 1972, the nicknames "Redskins" and "Utes" were used interchangeably until the use of the former term fell out of favor because it was deemed an ethnic slur.
The U. adopted the nickname "Runnin' Utes" after an agreement with the Ute Tribe in 1972.
The school renewed its agreement with the tribe in 2005 after the NCAA identified several schools that were subject to restrictions for having American Indian nicknames and images.
Florida State (Seminoles), Illinois (Illini) and Central Michigan (Chippewas) all received waivers and maintain their ties along with Utah.
However, even with the tribe's approval, the school's use of the logo and symbols has been controversial.
As it stands, the athletic department is the only school branch that uses the drum-and-feather logo and even then its use is strictly monitored. The logo no longer is used on items or buildings deemed as permanent, or those lasting for more than a year. It now is referred to officially as the "circle and feather."
The logo is used on uniforms, apparel, media guides and promotional bits, but more and more the less inflammatory "Block U," stands as the symbol for the Utes.
Read the tribal panel's letter
O The letter the Ute Tribal Business Committee sent to University of Utah President David Pershing is available online. > sltrib.com