Governor Gary Herbert appointed UVU professor Dustin Jansen as the new director for the Utah Division of Indian Affairs. His appointment follows the longtime former director Shirlee Silversmith’s retirement last year. The appointment was announced at the end of January, and officially took effect on Feb. 8.
“Dustin Jansen’s background, expertise, and dedication have prepared him to serve with great effectiveness in this new capacity. I look forward to working with him.”Press release from Gov. Gary Herbert
An assistant professor since 2015, Jansen teaches American Indian studies with a special emphasis on tribal government and federal Indian law, as well as political science. A member of the Navajo Nation, Jansen served as a Tribal Court Judge for the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation and held several positions within the Navajo Nation’s tribal government.
“I feel good about the relationships I have with tribes in Utah,” Jansen said. “[The state] asked for help. The whole purpose in my education was to help in native affairs. That’s why I went to law school…everything I’ve done has been to try to work with and serve native populations.”
Jansen’s view of the role of the director of UDIA is as a skilled liaison between the state of Utah and the governments of the tribes. Utah is home to eight separate tribes of American Indians throughout the state.
Jansen plans to visit and survey Utah’s tribes to determine the priorities that state policy can help with. Among those he cited were:
- Economic development
- Access to healthcare
- Cultural retention
- Jurisdictional disputes
- Preservation of artifacts and cultural sites
- Prevention of violence, in particular against American Indian women
Jansen is also optimistic about his role and the future of the relationship between Utah’s tribes and the state. He credits Utah’s state government for appointing Native Americans to lead the UDIA, pointing out that this isn’t a requirement in the statute, as well as Gov. Herbert’s push to codify requirements for state agencies to consult tribes when state action may impact them.
“Hopefully we can be forward looking and solutions-oriented on those things that we don’t currently agree on,” Jansen said, “But I think it all comes back to having that good communication with each other and feeling like you can communicate with each other. That’s something I hope I can help with.”
These issues affect UVU students as well. According to Kumen Louis, assistant director of UVU’s Multicultural Student Services, there are around 700 self-identified American Indian students at UVU.
Jansen stated that UVU has the highest population of enrolled American Indian students in the state.
These students face similar challenges to the ones Jansen describes. In an email, Louis said, “Many of the American Indian students face monetary challenges when in school and educating people from other cultures about stereotypes and misconceptions.”
“Some hardships being faced by our students is having to educate people that the American Indian tribes are alive and well. Many come from reservations that are thriving and preserving culture, traditions, and language.”
“Regardless of what challenges American Indian students face they overcome and find a wealth of opportunities and choices in higher education.”
“If I were to sum up Professor Jansen and his purpose in this life, it would come from a Navajo blessing, “Walking with beauty all around him.” He carries the responsibility of generations upon his shoulders and will help guide and direct them down a path that is beneficial to future generations,” Louis said.Kumen Louis, Multicultural Student Services Assistant Director
Louis also sees Jansen as well-suited for the directorship. “Having Professor Jansen in his new role at a state level will give him better opportunities to inform and educate on the American Indian people. He is sensitive to many issues happening on and off reservations,” Louis said.
Jansen will continue to teach at UVU during his time at UDIA.