Orem — Utah Native leaders, Gov. Gary Herbert and other community members gathered at the Governor’s Native American Summit on Thursday, hoping to build stronger relations with Utah’s Native American communities.
The theme for the summit was “Embracing Paths to Success.” Key to that success is increasing educational attainment and economic development in Native American communities, Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said.
“When we look at educational attainment in the state of Utah, we’re doing very well. But with our Native American students, we’re still lagging behind,” Cox said.
Native American or otherwise, Cox said students in Utah need to take advantage of the many educational opportunities around them.
“There are more opportunities available to (students) now than ever before, but it takes some initiative,” Cox said. “Put down the phone, put down the video game and look for opportunities … just jump in.”
The economic development among Native American communities and families was also a focus of the summit. Cox said he desires to ensure all Native Americans “have the same opportunities that everyone else does to achieve the American dream.”
Cox said he wants Utahns to discover the rich history of Native Americans in Utah and the major role they’ve played in the state’s development.
“Sometimes too many of us think the history of Utah started in 1847, and it didn’t,” Cox said.
Tami Borchardt Slayton, resident of Enoch, Utah and chairperson of the Paiute Indian Tribe, said she desires the state of Utah recognizes Native American tribes as sovereign nations. While Slayton supports the summit, she wonders about its ability to enact lasting change.
“(The summit) is a good thing … but these are the same issues that have been going on for years. It’s just follow through at this point,” Slayton said.
Carl Moore, founding member and chairman of PANDOS (Peaceful Advocates for Native Dialogue and Organizing Support) — a Utah-based Native American rights organization — presented at one of the summit’s 20 sessions. Moore discussed Native issues, highlighted the importance of peace and unity and suggested ways to support marginalized communities.
“The privileged class needs to start sacrificing,” Moore said. “All of us benefit from the exploitation of land. Start taking action to defend Native American rights … This is Native land and it’s always going to be Native land.”
The main goal of the summit was to establish mutual trust to better support Utah Natives now and in the future, Cox said.
“We’re findings that our goals … (are) actually much more aligned than previously thought,” Cox said. “While there are some disagreements, they’re fairly small — but not insignificant. We’re going to continue to work through those.”
Utah Valley University hosted the 12th annual conference where 20 sessions focused on Native American activism, communities, families and schooling. Native American youth attended a simultaneous conference. Eight sovereign tribes in Utah participated in this year’s summit.