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FLC Board reaffirms its commitment to ongoing reconciliation process as it awaits History Colorado's report
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FLC Board reaffirms its commitment to ongoing reconciliation process as it awaits History Colorado's report

DENVER — Recognizing the profound impact that federal Indian boarding schools had on Indigenous communities, the Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees reaffirmed its commitment to the College’s reconciliation process at its annual retreat in Denver last week.

FLC traces its roots to the Fort Lewis Indian School that operated from 1892 to 1910 in Hesperus—about 20 miles from FLC’s current campus in Durango. That land is currently owned by the Colorado State Land Board and managed by Fort Lewis College.

“FLC’s history creates certain responsibilities to our Native American students and the communities we serve, and this resolution seeks to codify those duties,” said Trustee Ernest House Jr., an enrolled member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

“Reconciliation is an important step in addressing the intergenerational impacts of federal Indian boarding schools and is an on-going process that requires an intentional focus on healing, centering of Indigenous voices, and maintaining respectful and reciprocal relationships.”

The resolution, which passed unanimously 9-0, comes as History Colorado prepares to release the results of a year-long investigation into the boarding school. The research was funded by the Federal Indian Boarding School Research Program Act (HB22-1327), which directed History Colorado to investigate the lived experiences of students at that school, as well as identify potential burial places of students who perished while attending the school.

In 2019, FLC began a reconciliation process focused on improving the well-being of Indigenous students, increasing their sense of belonging, and upholding responsibilities to Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities. As part of this process and in partnership with the Southern Ute Indian and the Ute Mountain Ute tribes, FLC leadership advocated for the passage of HB22-1327.

The report was completed on June 30, 2023, and was sent to the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes for their review and comments. College leaders expect an executive summary of the results will be shared publicly September 1.

Vice President of Diversity Affairs Heather Shotton said the Board’s action is an important step in the College’s on-going reconciliation efforts. To address some of those impacts, she said, FLC has developed an institutional reconciliation plan focused on four key areas – Tribal Nation building, health and wellness, Indigenous culture and language, and language revitalization.

“We hope this model will result in continuous healing across the community, delivery of curriculum and programs that serve the needs of Tribal and Indigenous communities, increased sense of belonging for Indigenous students, faculty, and staff, and improved student outcomes,” said Shotton, a citizen of the Wichita & Affiliated Tribes and a Kiowa and Cheyenne descendant. “In the future, we’d like to share and replicate this model nationally with other institutions, resulting in systemic change.”

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