Editorial: Regardless of future, U. owes Ute tribe for use of name
It's almost too tempting to compare an upcoming meeting of the Ute Tribe and officials at the University of Utah with treaty negotiations between whites and Native Americans 150 years ago.
But we do hope the Utes get better results than early tribes got from the U.S. government.
The thing is, the university has for decades used Utes and their symbols as its mascot and logo with the consent of the tribe. But tribal members have received little in return.
That situation has got to change, and tribal leaders seem determined to make sure it does.
With growing sensitivity to icons and logos that could be offensive to American Indians and other minority groups, college athletics is taking a hard look at their mascot names and other branding items. Illinois (Illini), Central Michigan (Chippewas), Florida State (Seminoles) and Mississippi College (Choctaws), like the U., have permission from tribes and the NCAA to market their teams using American Indian symbols, but there is growing support for mascots with less cultural symbolism.
It may be with the expectation that university officials in Utah are apt to back away from the Ute name that tribal leaders are making their move now. But it shouldn't matter whether the Utes remain the Utes into the future. The tribe's name and symbols have been utilized for many years, and the tribe should be compensated.
In a letter to the University of Utah, a committee of the Fort Duchesne-based tribe requests a task force to negotiate a formal agreement to create an Office of 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.
Only 171 University of Utah students identify themselves as American Indians. As those with the most obvious ties to the university, tribal Utes should be able to attend classes and earn degrees at no cost. That seems little enough to ask and not much of an expenditure considering what the school has received.
Having a Ute as special adviser to the U. president for American Indian affairs also seems reasonable. As the smallest minority group at the U. and the only one holding special status, tribal Utes deserve direct access to the administration.
Just as major donors get special status (and their names on buildings), so should members of the Ute tribe who have donated the use of their name and symbols for many years without getting much in return.