The San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians has announced a contribution of $2 million to Northern Arizona University for designing and building a Native American cultural center on its Flagstaff campus.

NAU aspires to be the nation’s leading university serving Native Americans and has launched a $5 million “Native Roots, Native Futures” fundraising campaign to build a central facility, strengthen programs, and expand scholarships to recruit, retain and graduate Native American students.

“We are encouraged by NAU’s outreach to the Native community and are confident the center will be a source of pride for students and lead to further increases in Native enrollment and graduates,” said San Manuel Chairman James Ramos. “We are especially impressed by the commitment of NAU’s Native students to see the Native American cultural center become a part of the campus.”

The cost for strengthening NAU’s Native American programs and building the center is $8 million. The university will match tribal and private funds of up to $3 million and commit resources to the center’s planning and design, allocate land for the facility, and assume full annual operation, staffing and maintenance costs. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2010.

The center will not only serve NAU’s Native American faculty, staff, and students, it also will serve the broader campus in increasing its understanding of Native American culture, history and issues.

It will offer a network of student support services including the university’s Native American Student Services, admissions support, financial aid guidance, classrooms, a computer area, a kitchen, a venue for presentations, gatherings and ceremonies, and lounges to help develop peer and mentor relationships.

The “home away from home” for Native and non-Native students will bridge traditions with contemporary education and promote a community of respect and understanding that will enhance the retention of students. NAU will work with the Native community to ensure the unique facility features sustainable design principles and traditions from Southwestern Indian cultures.

San Manuel believes NAU’s proximity to government centers and several prominent Indian
nations in Arizona will make the center a model for others to work with tribal nations. “An environment of this nature begs for a strong and progressive relationship between the tribes and the university,” Ramos said.

NAU President John D. Haeger personally expressed NAU’s gratitude to San Manuel during a check presentation by the tribe at the Forging Hope Community Luncheon on January 6 at the National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino, California.

“We are grateful to the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians for its generous support that will allow us to move forward toward our plans for a Native American cultural center to encourage new ideas and enhance the academic, social and cultural center for all of our students,” Haeger said. “The center will underscore the vital role of cultural diversity and multicultural understanding on campus, in the region and across the globe.”

For the past five years, NAU ranked nationally in the top 10 institutions for enrollment of Native American students. It is in the top five for awarding Native Americans undergraduate and graduate degrees. More than 1,300 Native American students represent 62 tribes at the university.

The San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians is a federally recognized American Indian tribe located near Highland, Calif. The Serrano Indians are the indigenous people of the San Bernardino highlands, passes, valleys and mountains who share a common language and culture. The tribe was established in 1891 and recognized as a sovereign nation with the right of self-government.

For more information about participating in the “Native Roots, Native Futures” campaign, please contact Shelley Silbert, development officer in University Advancement, at (928) 523-7635 or e-mail Shelley.Silbert@nau.edu.