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American Indian Gateway

University of Montana is located on traditional Salish territory. UM is committed to providing education for and about American Indian people and communities in Montana, the United States, and beyond.


The purpose of the American Indian Gateway web portal at UM is to highlight “all things Native” in one place. It is for everyone on campus and across Griz Nation. The American Indian Gateway provides access to University webpages that feature academic programs, research and studies related to American Indian communities, American Indian faculty and staff members, student programs and clubs, alumni relations, the University’s Strategic Plan and news and events across campus and within the community.

The University of Montana opened the Payne Family Native American Center (PFNAC) in 2010. It is a Platinum LEED Certified building, the first on campus. The PFNAC provides a bridge between Native American and mainstream cultures. It serves as an academic center, social and cultural hub, and gathering space. It provides a symbol of goodwill, unity, and intersection.

The Payne Family, UM and the College of Humanities and Sciences joined together to honor the life and work of Elouise Cobell by creating The Elouise Cobell Land and Culture Institute. Housed within the Payne Family Native American Center, the Institute will engage students in project-based learning and outreach.

The entrance to PFNAC

Smudging Policy

The University of Montana recognizes that time-honored indigenous traditions and ceremonies involving smudging have passed from generation to generation. In support of the cultural integrity of these native traditions, the University has designated venues on campus for smudging.

American Indian Identification

"The definition of “American Indian” is both legal and personal.

Legal definition: Tribes in the United States define their own membership or citizenship based on their own set of criteria. Tribes in turn are recognized by the federal government (or sometimes state government) with whom they maintain a government to government relationship. The U.S. government does not decide who or who is not a member of a tribe – tribes have the sovereign right to do this. When a person states that they are “enrolled” or are a “citizen” of a tribe, that means that they meet the criteria for membership in that the tribe. It means they are a legal member or citizen of the tribe.

Personal definition: There are some people who self-identify as having American Indian or Native American heritage (without legal tribal recognition). There are complex and complicated reasons why a person self-identifies as a Native person. Most often the person may have tribal heritage but does not qualify for tribal membership, as defined by the tribe. Or sometimes a non-Native person is adopted by a Native family.    

At the University of Montana there are individuals who fall into both categories: they are a legal tribal member of a tribe or they self-identify as Native." -- Rosalyn LaPier, Faculty, Environmental Studies