The impetus for the origin of the Native American House (NAH) is years of Native student activism and lobbying efforts of university-affiliated individuals and Champaign-Urbana community members. Beginning in the late 1980s, the Native higher education community at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, including their supporters, called for the creation of and sustained investment in a space that can serve as a hub for Native student life. Additional recommendations included having the institution commit resources toward establishing a first-rate academic program and an assistant dean position to oversee recruitment and retention efforts and to advocate for issues related to Native student success.
In 2002, the NAH launched and operated out of an office on Green Street in Champaign. By 2003, the NAH was relocated to 1206 West Nevada Street in Urbana. During this same year, the Committee on Native American Programs was formed and, in part, was charged with integrating a core program that included academic, cultural, and student support. Initially, the Committee reported directly to the Chancellor, but during the 2004-2005 academic year, they were repositioned within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Finally, in 2005, the NAH moved into 1204 West Nevada Street, where it currently operates as a standalone structure.
In 2009, the NAH joined the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations, now known as Student Success, Inclusion & Belonging. The NAH continues to function as an institutionally supported unit that utilizes a strengths-based approach and culturally responsive programming to serve Native students.
Dr. Carlos Montezuma
This is the story of Dr. Carlos Montezuma, the first Native American alumnus of the University of Illinois. Montezuma was born in 1866 in the Arizona territory. As a small boy, he was stolen from his family and sold as a slave. He spent his early childhood on the road with an Italian photographer, and performed with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show before starting school in Chicago.
In 1884, Montezuma was the first Native American to graduate from the University of Illinois and later became one of the first to earn a medical degree. After working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a reservation doctor and witnessing the widespread poverty and bureaucratic corruption, he fought tirelessly for Native American rights and citizenship. When his own Yavapai tribe faced removal from their ancestral home, Montezuma went to Washington, D.C., to fight for and finally secure their land and water rights, setting a precedent for other Indian nations. Narration is by Hattie Kauffman, longtime CBS news reporter/anchor and a member of the Nez Perce tribe.