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American Indian Advisory Committee

The University of Minnesota, Morris American Indian Advisory Committee (AIAC) was established in 1988 to advise the chancellor. The AIAC is constituted to reflect the region’s American Indian communities. Members serve as liaisons between their communities and UMM, consulting with campus leaders on “matters related to campus programs and services on behalf of American Indian students; interests and concerns of the immediate American Indian community; methods to encourage and foster the educational advancement of American Indian students in admissions, retention, and achievement of educational objectives; and efforts to develop and increase support for American Indian educational advancement…at the community, state, and federal levels.” (University of Minnesota Board of Regents Policy – American Indian Advisory Boards, January 14, 1994) The Morris AIAC is the strongest advisory committee in the University of Minnesota system.

The AIAC has helped UMM recognize and act on its unique obligations and opportunities as a Native American Service Non-tribal Institution on the site of an American Indian boarding school (1887-1910), including:

  • Recommending American Indian language courses with a particular focus on Ojibwemowin and Dakota Iapi – the languages indigenous to this place – to meet UMM language requirements.
  • Recommending UMM actively partner in indigenous language revitalization in Minnesota.
  • Supporting the creation of a visiting elders program.
  • Providing direction on Salt Springs endowed funds for scholarships, student travel, and powwow support.
  • Assisting in increasing the diversity of faculty, staff, visiting scholars, and community faculty/staff partners.
  • Recommending strategies to increase American Indian student enrollment, success, and graduation rates.
  • Establishing and hosting UMM’s annual Honoring Ceremony recognizing American Indian graduates.
  • Reviewing UMM’s legislatively mandated American Indian tuition waiver and its application.
  • Reviewing current issues, with recommendations to enhance UMM’s American Indian student experience.
  • Reviewing efforts to increase the visibility of the campus boarding school history, origins of the tuition waiver, and campus programs and resources for American Indian students.

American Indian Advisory Committee

Merlin Williams, Sr., AIAC Chair (1993 - present)
White Earth Band of Ojibwe
Long time director and educator American Indian Education Program, retired 
Elk River School District 
Co-chair, Minnesota Legislature Volunteer Working Group on Dakota and Ojibwe Language Revitalization and Preservation, 2011 

Marisa Anywaush, Askedutawin (2017- present)
Upper Sioux Indian Community
Vice Chairwoman

Sisoka Duta, Wayne (Joe) Bendickson (2013 - present)
Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate 
Dakota Language Teaching Specialist
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Kathy Denman-Wilke (2000 - present)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe 
Director, Department of Indian Work 
‎Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul 

Leslie Harper (2014 - present)
Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe 
Government Relations Specialist
Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

Joan LaVoy (1999 - present)
White Earth Band of Ojibwe 
Past Director of Education 
White Earth Nation 

Heather Larsen (2015 - present)
Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate 
Research Specialist, Tribal Education Department
Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate 

Jennifer Simon (2006 - present)
Cheyenne River Lakota 
Director, American Indian Student Services
Augsburg College

Circle of Nations Indigenous Association Student Co-Chairs

Michelle Brownlee ’18

Tarlynn Tone-Pah-Hote ’18

American Indian Science and Engineer Society (AISES) Co-Chairs

Adrianna Pollak ’19