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New Mexico State University

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NMSU president reaches out to Native American communities through new council

New Mexico State University President Michael Martin has formed a President's Council on Native American Relations (PCNAR) to guide him toward a better understanding of the diverse roles of Native Americans in New Mexico.

Americans represent a special part of New Mexico history, culture, economy and society," Martin said. "I think it is important as the president of the state's land-grant university to do my best to understand the cultural uniqueness of the nations and pueblos in New Mexico and forge new partnerships in those communities."

Martin said the idea for the council came out of a conversation with NMSU alumnus Arthur "Butch" Blazer, director of the New Mexico Forestry Division.

"Butch approached me about reaching more aggressively into the Native American communities in the state and I asked if he would help me become more attuned to the different cultures."

The council includes six Native American leaders from different nations and pueblos in the state, all of whom attended NMSU. The council will meet regularly in the beginning to provide Martin and other university administrators with advice on ways to build bridges to the Native American communities, Blazer said.

"We really want to bring a greater understanding to the university administration on how to effectively link with tribal leadership," Blazer said. "Although we will not be representing the interests of the tribal leadership because we have been appointed by Martin and not the tribal leaders, we are members of these tribes and want to see good things happen for our tribal students."

Martin and Blazer, who serves as president of the advisory committee for the on-campus American Indian Programs, agree that this is in no way a replacement for that advisory committee.

"The American Indian Programs Advisory Committee should focus on recruiting and retaining students to attend NMSU, but as the needs of the tribes and students have grown over the years the scope of the committee had expanded beyond recruitment and retention," Blazer said. "That committee can now get back to the focus of providing opportunities for students and organizing programs aimed at keeping them at NMSU."

Martin has tasked PCNAR with five target objectives:
? Provide insight and advice on ways NMSU can better serve the Native American community and citizens beyond traditional campus-based programs.
? Serve as a liaison group between NMSU and the Native American leaders statewide.
? Assist in developing programs through NMSU which will educate all New Mexicans about Native American history, culture and contemporary issues.
? Assist NMSU in forging partnerships and collaborative programs with the state's tribal colleges.
? Assess and evaluate NMSU's efforts to serve the state's Native American pueblos and nations.

"We could be doing more to reach into these important New Mexico communities and this council will really help us build bridges for the larger university," Martin said. "Butch has cleverly helped assemble people who care about NMSU and will guide us on what we should care about. These terrific people are enthusiastic about serving."

Council members include Blazer, a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe; Sherry Rita Allison, a supervisory education specialist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Indian Education Programs; Nelson Cordova, Taos Pueblo water rights coordinator and former governor of Taos Pueblo; Tsosie Lewis, general manager of Navajo Agricultural Products Industry; Raymond Loretto, a veterinarian and former governor of the Pueblo of Jemez; and Claudia Vigil-Muniz, former president of the Jicarilla Apache Nation.