Tribe seeks millions from University of Nebraska foundation campaign over use of culture
Lincoln Journal Star
July 4, 2010
A Nebraska tribe is seeking 10 percent of the University of Nebraska Foundation's $1.2 billion endowment campaign for a university professor's use of what the tribe calls its "intellectual cultural property."
In a letter recently sent to NU Foundation President Clarence Castner, the Omaha Tribal Historical Research Project, the tribe's cultural authority, called on the foundation to pay for what it says is the unapproved, for-profit use of the tribe's culture by a university professor.
Mark Awakuni-Swetland is an assistant professor of anthropology and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he has taught since 1999. He has said he received support from the Omaha Tribe in 1999 when he first began teaching the Omaha language at UNL.
The Omaha Tribal Historical Research Project says Awakuni-Swetland has claimed to be an adopted tribal member, though his adoption has never been approved by the tribe's members.
Dennis Hastings, director of the Omaha Tribal Historical Research Project, said in his letter to Castner that Awakuni-Swetland's research was fraudulent and his appointment was an example of the "institutional racism the Omaha have expressly experienced" with UNL's City Campus for 40 years.
"Since the early 1970s, the University of Nebraska, through its publications, research and academic activities, has commoditized for its growth and self-interest the ancestral and contemporary culture of the sovereign Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and Iowa, with little consultation nor recompense," Hastings said in the letter.