Indigenous Peoples Day: Releasing UNI's Mission Stewardship Statement

Monday, October 11th, 2021

Dear Panther Family,

The University of Northern Iowa is proud to release its Mission Stewardship Statement to recognize the original caretakers of the land on which the university sits and to honor Native and Indigenous Peoples in our work on campus and throughout the community.  

The University’s mission stewardship statement has been developed over more than a year of listening, learning, and relationship-building with Native and Indigenous peoples and communities throughout the Cedar Valley and State of Iowa. Starting last summer with a conversation hosted by the Tribal Council of the Meskwaki Settlement near Tama, we centered our mission stewardship work on the needs and opportunities conveyed to the UNI community by Native and Indigenous Peoples. Since then, many UNI faculty, staff, and students have been hard at work with partners on the Meskwaki Settlement and Native and Indigenous organizations across Iowa to bring mission stewardship to life. Key efforts over the past year have included: 

  • At the request of Meskwaki Settlement School, two professional development workshops by UNI faculty for the language and culture educators at the school to introduce and reinforce classroom management and whole-child learning concepts and practices; 
  • In partnership with the Higher Education Program of the Meskwaki Settlement School, a week-long summer experience for Meskwaki youth to take place on the UNI campus during the summer of 2022. The purpose of the experience will be to support the development of a college identity in Meskwaki youth through fun and interactive activities with UNI faculty, staff, and students;
  • A scholarship fully covering UNI tuition offered to graduates of the Meskwaki Settlement School or South Tama High School and are the first in their families to attend college or are eligible to participate in a federally-funded TRIO program; 
  • The development of a new student organization for Native and Indigenous students on campus; and
  • A year-long collaboration with the Meskwaki Settlement to gather input from members of the Meskwaki Tribe to help UNI develop a resonant and meaningful statement of mission stewardship. This input has been directly incorporated into the mission stewardship statement launched today. 

You will notice the statement is written to the Native and Indigenous Peoples we serve. What do we hope Native and Indigenous Peoples will see of our university as we grow in our work to steward the mission of UNI? What stories do we hope Native and Indigenous Peoples will be able to share with current and future generations? Our statement is a symbol that all we do to live mission stewardship has begun through ideas shared with us by Native and Indigenous Peoples, and this work must—and will—remain centered on the needs and opportunities our Native and Indigenous communities share with us.   

The actions we have taken to date are just the beginning. UNI’s mission stewardship statement is a milestone in an enduring journey to honor Native and Indigenous Peoples in our work on campus and throughout the community. In the weeks, months, and years to come, the UNI community will grow in our work to develop and implement strategies and practices that enhance a welcoming and inclusive living, learning, and working environment for Native and Indigenous students and employees; grow the work we do to live mission stewardship in our community outreach efforts; and honor Native and Indigenous People and Culture at UNI. 

Please join me in thanking the members and tribal leadership of the Meskwaki Settlement, members of the Great Plains Action Society, and UNI’s Mission Stewardship Statement Workgroup for their thoughtful and compassionate work to create a mission stewardship statement we share with Native and Indigenous Peoples of the Cedar Valley, State of Iowa, and beyond.   

Panther Proud!

Mark A. Nook