University of Montana students will learn about the complexities of Native American land ownership in a new on-campus facility.
UM President Royce Engstrom announced the creation of the Elouise Cobell Land and Culture Institute during a March 6 ceremony. (The new name is subject to Board of Regents approval later this week.) Located in The Payne Family Native American Center, the new facility will engage students in project-based learning and outreach.
Cobell, who died in 2011, was a passionate advocate for Native rights. A member of the Blackfeet tribe, she was instrumental in obtaining a $3.4 billion Indian trust settlement from the federal government.
“Elouise was a great friend to UM, the state of Montana and Native people across the United States,” UM President Royce Engstrom said. “The Elouise Cobell Land and Culture Institute will ensure that future generations carry on her work through state-of-the-art education about land use and indigenous cultures.”
Terry Payne, whose family was the lead donor for UM’s Payne Family Native American Center building, also provided the launching gift for the Elouise Cobell Land and Culture Institute, which is established in honor and memory of Cobell.
Payne received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UM in 1963. He is the founder of Terry Payne and Co. Inc. and chairman of PayneWest, an independent insurance agency based in Missoula.
“UM students will graduate with greater ability to contribute to their communities,” Payne said. “I am eager to see how the future of Native American land rights and management evolves because of the teaching and learning at this new institute.”
The institute will bring together existing UM programs for a new level of work around land and culture. Located on the garden level of The Payne Family Native American Center, it will include a large gathering space and two laboratories: one for study of land use and one for studying culture. Construction will begin in July.
“The launch of this new institute is a great day for The University of Montana,” said Chris Comer, dean of UM’s College of Arts and Sciences. “It will provide a place for students, faculty and community members to gather and study across disciplines and use top-tier technology to solve real-world problems.”