Horizon Foundation $4.8 million gift launches OU Native Peoples Initiative

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OU ranks among the top universities graduating Native American students. Each year, graduates are honored at the American Indian Achievement Celebration and are gifted with handmade stoles.

OU ranks among the top universities graduating Native American students. Each year, graduates are honored at the American Indian Achievement Celebration and are gifted with handmade stoles.

A $4.8 million gift from the Horizon Foundation of Dallas will help establish the University of Oklahoma as the premier center for Native American research and teaching.

The gift to the OU Foundation will formally launch the OU Native Peoples Initiative, which places the cultures of Native peoples and the sovereignty of Native Nations at the center of academic study across all three OU campuses.

“We are incredibly thankful to the Horizon Foundation for this extraordinary gift and for its commitment to advancing OU’s excellence in Native American teaching and research and our collaboration with Tribal Nations,” said OU Interim President Joseph Harroz Jr.

The Horizon Foundation’s gift will establish three $1.5 million endowed chairs attracting nationally recognized scholars in Native American Studies – Native American spirituality and the environment, Native American history and culture, and Native American language preservation and revitalization.

An additional $300,000 gift will underwrite a building study to provide a home for the OU Native Nations Center and the Native American Studies Department, as well as classrooms and spaces for community events and interdisciplinary research.

“The Horizon Foundation is very pleased to make this gift, which we hope will deepen engagement with the Native Nations and communities in Oklahoma and across the country,” said Horizon Foundation President Rod Sanders.

“We believe it is important that there is a better understanding of Native American cultures, spirituality, values and views of the world. The highly regarded University of Oklahoma, situated as it is in a state where 39 Tribal Nations are headquartered, is the perfect location for an initiative of this size, scope and relevance.”

Amanda Cobb-Greetham is leading the Native Peoples Initiative as director of OU’s Native Nations Center, or NNC, which was recently endowed by the Chickasaw Nation. She formerly was chair of the OU Department of Native American Studies.

She said the NNC’s Native Peoples Initiative will help advance issues of tribal sovereignty, provide a fuller understanding of Indigenous cultures in Oklahoma and the United States, and enrich the experiences of Native students.

“This initiative highlights collaboration with Oklahoma’s 39 Native Nations, Cobb-Greetham said. “We are committed to listening closely and responding to tribal needs and are establishing an advisory board, chaired by OU Tribal Liaison Officer Warren Queton, to ensure strong community engagement.”

“The Horizon Foundation’s gift to launch the Native People’s Initiative, in combination with the Chickasaw Nation’s recent endowment of the Native Nations Center, demonstrates that Native American research and teaching are a key OU strength, an area for significant growth, and an opportunity to achieve excellence,” she added.

OU currently ranks sixth in the number of bachelor’s degrees and first in master’s and doctoral degrees awarded to Native American students when compared to all public, four-year universities in the nation. OU has the 10th highest number of enrolled Native American undergraduate students, is first among the number of enrolled Native American graduate students and sixth in Native American instructional faculty, said OU Senior Vice President and Provost Kyle Harper.

“OU has both a profound obligation and a unique opportunity to stand at the forefront of Native American Studies,” Harper said. “The Horizon Foundation’s remarkable generosity will propel us forward in this pursuit while also nurturing a supportive environment for our Native American students.”