Welcome to the Utes Nickname Project, an effort to promote awareness, education, and research about the history and contemporary usage of Native American symbols by the University of Utah, particularly the use of the “Utes” nickname. On this website you will find a history of the University of Utah’s use of the “Utes” nickname, likeness, insignia, and other symbols; answers to frequently asked questions about the “Utes” nickname; access to archival materials related to the “Utes” nickname; lesson plans for college courses with a diversity focus; and more.
The Utes Nickname Project provides resources on significant issues surrounding Native American experiences, including sovereignty, (de)colonization, U.S. government-Native American relations, institutionalized racism, and Native American resistance. The Project is animated by three goals: 1) the creation of an accessible digital archive of historical and contemporary texts that document the use of the “Utes” nickname and other Native American symbols by the University of Utah; 2) the development of a set of lesson plans and other teaching materials that can by used by instructors at the University of Utah to teach about the Utes nickname and the University’s relationship to the Ute Native Americans; and 3) the establishment of research opportunities and collaborations that use the archives.
by Danielle Endres
Before colonization, Nunt’z (Ute) peoples lived in roughly eleven autonomous bands in most of the present day state of Utah.[i] According to historian Barry Pritzker, “The Utes and their ancestors have been in the Great Basin for as many as 10,000 years.”[ii] Ute oral history suggests that Sinauf, a half-wolf half-man deity, carried the Nunt’z (Ute) peoples to the Great Basin region in a magical bag. Nunt’z people lived in roughly twelve autonomous bands in most of the present day state of Utah, and parts of Colorado.[iii] Historian Ned Blackhawk argues that the history of interaction in the Great Basin between indigenous people—Ute, Paiute, and Shoshone—and European colonizers is especially violent and painful for all participants, including conflict between Europeans and indigenous peoples and inter-indigenous conflict.[iv] A series of confrontations, treaties (some not ratified), land cessions, removals, and settlements occurred between the United States and the Utes from 1852 to 1953, revealing a complex history of resistance, conciliation, and survival that resulted in the current political organization and land-base of the Utes.[v]
There are now three federally registered Ute nations, each with Reservation land: the Southern Ute Indian Tribe/Reservation in Southwest Colorado, the Northern Ute or the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uinta-Ourey Reservation in Northeast Utah, and the Ute Mountain Tribe/Reservation (including the White Mesa Ute Tribe) in the four corners region (specifically Utah, New Mexico and Colorado).[vi] It is the Northern Ute nation that granted permission to the University of Utah to use the Ute nickname and associated imagery.[vii] The Northern Ute are a living, breathing, and changing people who, like most American Indians, live what may appear to be a standard everyday life in line with the dominant culture. For example, on a regular day, most Ute people do not wear the traditional ceremonial garb—feather headdresses and beaded vests—that many non-American Indians expect of them. Moreover, the Ute are an important economic player in the state of Utah, through oil, gas, and mineral development, and other endeavors. Yet, as historian Clifford Duncan notes, “for all the appearances and trappings of modern life, many Utes are still experiencing the culture shock of a conquered people.”[viii]
Although the Utes nickname and associated imagery has become indelibly related to the University of Utah, it is not the first nickname for the University. In 1892, the University approved Crimson and Silver as the school colors, and until the mid-1920s, athletic teams and students were mainly referred to as “the Crimson.” Rather, the Utes nickname and associated imagery and mascots developed in an ad hoc way through a series of campus traditions over about 80 years.
In the mid- to late-1920s, as seen in the archives of the Daily Utah Chronicle (student-run newspaper) and the Utonian (student-run yearbook), the terms “Indians,” “Utes,” “Redskins,” and “Redskin Braves” began appearing and were used interchangeably to refer to athletic teams and students at the University of Utah. By the 1930s the use of the nickname was quite common among students, reporters, and alumni. For example, the 1931 Utonian, in describing a football rally, states,
The discordant crash of a hastily mustered band, a howl—‘Yoo-o Redskins’—, the harangue of yell leaders and the hiccoughing of Bacchanally-disturbed youths, and the Utes were all set to win another football game.[ix]
Imagery began to emerge in this time period as well, such as stereotypical caricature cartoons in the 1933 Utonian (see Figure 1).[x] The use of the “Utes” and “Redskins” nicknames persisted through the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Notably in the 1940s, images of an American Indian child began to appear in relation to the University. In 1947, this “l’il Ute mascot” was officially named Ho-Yo, based on a contest held by the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU) to name it (see Figure 2).[xi] During this time period in the 1950s and 1960s, some students began coming to games with “war paint” on their faces and feathers in their hair.[xii]
The late 1960s and 1970s saw a change in attitudes about the University’s nickname and mascots. During this time period, students, faculty, and alumni started raising concerns about the stereotypical and harmful nature of the nicknames and imagery. This time period also saw the development of Indian Awareness Week, A Native American Affairs Advisor, and the Intertribal Student Association (ITSA) on campus, not to mention the national Red Power movement that was gaining recognition for several prominent protest events such at the takeover of Alcatraz Island (1969-71) and the standoff at Wounded Knee (1973). In response to raised awareness of American Indian social justice, the University retired Ho-Yo and the “Redskins” nickname and adopted the “Utes” nickname, with the approval of the Northern Utes, in 1978.[xiii] Yet, this did not assuage all of the concerns about the mascot, as evidenced by a controversy that erupted over stereotypical depictions of Utes and American Indians generally in the Student Almanac in 1978.[xiv]
In 1985, the University introduced a new mascot to go along with the Utes nickname, carefully labeling it “not as a mere mascot, but as a symbol.”[xv] The “Crimson Warrior,” a mounted person dressed in supposedly authentic Ute garb, rode a horse leading the football team onto the field after kickoff (see Figure 3). Ted Capener, the vice president for University Relations at the time, stated that the mascot/symbol would be done in a “appropriate and dignified way responsible to Native Americans.”[xvi] On the one hand, a 1985 article in the Daily Utah Chronicle reported that the new mascot/symbol had unanimous support from the Ute Nation, but mixed feelings from the ITSA and American Indian students on campus.[xvii] A 1986 article reported that “considerable progress has been made toward portraying the Ute as a dignified symbol, say members of the U. Intertribal Student Association.”[xviii] On the other hand, throughout the late 1980s, there appear to have been a variety of negative reactions to the mascot/symbol among the student body. For example, a 1986 opinion article in the Daily Utah Chronicle states,
As long as our athletic teams are called the Utes, the Ute will be considered a mascot. And as a mascot, it has no hope for attaining the respect it deserves. The whole purpose of mascots is to arouse school spirit through laughter, antics and display. Animals and fictional characters are conducive to this role; human beings are not. Unless the U. is willing to accept the idea of Mormons, Blacks or Caucasians as mascots, it should no longer consider using Utes in such a way.[xix]
Further, in 1988, the ITSA argued against the live mascot/symbol, despite the support of the tribe, calling it “discriminatory and sacrilegious.”[xx] Even in the earliest manifestations of Northern Ute permission in the 1970s and 1980s and continuing through the 90s, American Indians on campus had mixed reactions to Utes symbols. Indeed, depending on its leadership, the ITSA alternated between support and opposition to the Utes nickname and affiliated symbols.
In 1993, the University retired the live mascot/symbol and began investigating new mascots and nicknames. A poll reported in the Salt Lake Tribune in 1993 demonstrates that 74% of polled students wanted to keep the Ute nickname.[xxi] However, Beverly Sutteer, the University’s Native American Student Advisor, stated, “This is not an honor. If the U. wants to honor the Utes, they need to change their mascot. They should also acknowledge that the land the U. is sitting on was taken from the Utes by pioneers.”[xxii] The University decided to retain the Utes nickname, but to adopt a new mascot in 1996: “Swoop,” a Red Tailed Hawk.
In 2005, the NCAA announced a policy banning “hostile and abusive” American Indian mascots, nicknames, and imagery. The University of Utah successfully appealed the NCAA decision and has been allowed to retain the use of the Utes nickname and associated imagery.[xxiii] The appeal letter written by former President Michael Young indicates that the University of Utah believes that the use of the name and symbol honors the Utes, as an “admirable synecdoche for what remains good in society.”[xxiv] Young’s letter states,
The University has proudly used the ‘Ute’ name and imagery through the years with the permission of the Tribe . . .The University has the current support of the Tribe for its continued use of the Ute and imagery. Under these circumstances, and as demonstrated by the recent NCAA decision concerning Florida State, the University of Utah clearly should not be included
in the NCAA list of violator schools. He goes on, “most critical to this appeal, is the University’s unique relationship with the Northern Ute Indian Tribe and the Tribe’s support for this appeal.” [xxv] Included in Young’s letter are a memorandum of agreement between the University of Utah and the Northern Ute, a letter to the NCAA from Northern Ute Tribal Chair Maxine Natchees, and the Northern Ute Resolution 05-281 that affirms support for the use of the Ute nickname. For example, Fred Esplin, the vice president of university relations at the University of Utah stated,
The University will continue to honor tribal members and the state’s heritage by using the “Ute” name in association with it’s athletic teams because the University always shows respect when using the “Ute” name and because the school has permission for use of the name from the Ute tribe.[xxvi]
Citing honor, respect, and pride in the University’s use of the Ute name and symbol, the Tribal Business Committee of the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uinta and Ouray Reservation (a.k.a. Northern Utes) gave permission to the University of Utah to use their name.[xxvii] In a letter to Bernard Franklin, vice president for Governance and Membership of the NCAA, Maxine Natches, chairwoman of the Tribal Business Committee (the governing body of the Northern Ute), wrote, “The Ute Indian Tribe has formally approved the University of Utah’s use of the Ute name and supports the University’s continued use of it. The Tribe requests that the NCAA action, insofar as directed at the University of Utah, be reversed.”[xxviii] The letter goes on to state that the Utes and University of Utah have has an “effective partnership,” the Utes have “benefitted from the many ways the University has helped preserve the Ute culture,” and that the members of the Ute Tribe are “proud of the Ute name.”[xxix] The letter includes a copy of Resolution 05-281 from the Ute Tribal Business Committee, stating that the Tribe does not believe the “University’s use of the Ute name is ‘hostile or abusive.’”[xxx] The letter also referenced a memorandum of agreement between the University of Utah and the Utes that was adopted in 2003 to establish “cooperative education programs and initiatives for the mutual benefit of the Ute Indian Tribe and the University of Utah” including the University of Utah helping to seek outside funding for scholarships and initiatives, offering limited financial assistance to academically qualified Ute students, and supporting the American Indian Resource Center (AIRC).[xxxi]
After the NCAA announcement and during the appeals process, the Ute Business Council, and various members of the Utes nation displayed support through public statements in support of the “Ute” mascot, statements in local newspapers, and tribal members attended sports games with signs that showed their support of the mascot. Forrest Cuch, member of the Ute Tribe and former head of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs states: “Indian people are proud now that the Ute is the mascot for the University of Utah. Other than that there are no other landmarks, so to speak, that there were Indian people in the [Salt Lake] Valley.”[xxxii] However, he also mentioned that the University could do more to support Ute students and provide financial compensation to the Ute Tribe; “Frankly, in all due respect, this is the business world and that’s the way it works.”[xxxiii] In contrast, there were also Utes and members of other tribes who oppose the Utes nickname.[xxxiv] It is important to note that, as is the case for most governments, permission by the Ute Tribal government does not mean all Northern Utes agree with the decision.
Despite the permission from the Ute Business Council, there is still opposition to the continued use of the nickname and symbols among American Indian students, faculty, and staff on campus (which were all treated in just one newspaper article).[xxxv] Former faculty member Bryan Brayboy (Lumbee) noted, “My sense is that the university community and the indigenous students, staff and faculty are not necessarily united.”[xxxvi] Sadie Tsosie, for example, wrote in an email to President Young, “I being a Native American woman don’t want my Indianness portrayed as a whooping hollering war dancing cartoon character. I see no honor in portraying my people in this light. Finally, we are: PEOPLE NOT MASCOTS”[xxxvii] Anthony Shirley (Navajo) from the University’s Center for Ethnic Student Affairs stated, “The suggestion that we are either on the same level or less than an animal is downright rude. There is no honor in being on the same level as animals.”[xxxviii] Finally, student Emma Mecham, noted that the Ute Tribe is not unanimous in its support, and argued that “it is better for the university to respond to the concerns of those adversely affected by the current mascot than to turn away and validate only those opinions that are in line with current policy.”[xxxix] The NCAA was not the first controversy that erupted over the Ute nickname. Over the history of the University of Utah, there have not only been a variety of manifestations of American Indian nicknames, mascots, and images, but also several times when the symbols were called into question.
Currently, the University of Utah officially uses the licensed nicknames UtesTM, Utah UtesTM, Runnin’ UtesTM; has a Circle and Feather® logo (colloquially referred to as the drum and feather logo; see Figure 4); and uses the mascot Swoop.[xl] The University has permission from the Northern Ute tribe to use these symbols under a Memorandum of Understanding that was renewed in 2014.[xli] In 2014 the University and Utes Nation initiated the “Ute Proud Campaign” including a website with information about the relationship between the University and the Utes and suggestions for appropriate fan behavior, a Ute Proud T-Shirt, and a scholarship for Ute students (see Figure 5).
Image from the Ute Proud website
Beyond these specific symbols, there are rituals and symbols that also tie into the
connection with the Utes, and American Indians more generally. According to the Official
Website of Utah Athletics, one the fan rituals is the “U of U Chop, which occurs every time the band plays a specific percussion song and involves MUSS
[Mighty Utah Student Section] members forming a U with their hands and ‘chopping’
to the beat of the music” (emphasis in original).[xlii] A student who has been to several Utes football games described the U of U chop as
uncomfortable because of its clear relationship to American Indians; the band plays
similar music to what is used by the Atlanta Braves for the Tomahawk chop.[xliii] In addition to this ritual, there are other Ute symbols on campus. A statue of a
“Ute Brave” is prominently placed outside the student union (see Figure 6) and the
streets in Research Park are named after Ute Chiefs (e.g., Wakara).
The Ute Brave Statue outside the Student Union building.
The placard reads:
“Ute Brave by Avard Fairbanks Gift of the Classes of 1946, 1947 and 1951.”
Photo used by permission from James Fisher.
The University argues that it has been responsive to concerns from American Indian students, the Northern Utes, and other American Indians over the nickname, mascot and other symbols. According to former President Michael Young,
As mores and sensitivities have changed through the years, so have the University’s names, mascots, and imagery. Through dialogue with the Northern Ute Indian Tribe, the University has retired certain names (“Redskins”), images (cartoon characters), mascots (a Ute Warrior), clothing (feathered headbands for the drill team), and cheers.[xliv]
The University and supporters of the Utes nickname argue that the current usage is tame and responsible in comparison to a mascot like Chief Illiniwek, former mascot of the University of Illinois. The current Ute Proud website declares,
The University of Utah uses the name “Utes” for its sports teams, as it has done with full support of the Ute Indian Tribe since 1972. The University, as the flagship of higher education in Utah, takes pride in carrying the name with understanding and respect toward our state’s namesake people. This website was created to encourage the entire U community—students, faculty, staff, fans, alumni, supporters—to learn more about the Ute culture, heritage and the history of our region. Ute history is Utah history so that we can all be “Ute Proud.”[xlv]
Yet, there remains controversy over the use of the “Utes” nicknames by students, faculty, and staff who are concerned with unsanctioned behaviors, stereotypes, lack of awareness and racial (micro)agressions that they see as linked to the use of the Utes nickname. For example, the Indigenous Students and Allies for Change has sponsored a variety of events to raise awareness about the use of the Utes nickname in relation to broader national discussions Native American stereotypes and mascots.
Portions of this brief history are duplicated from: Danielle Endres, “American Indian
Permission for Mascots: Resistance or Complicity within Rhetorical Colonialism,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 18, no. 4 (2015): 649-689.
[i] Barry M. Pritzker, “The Great Basin,” in A Native American Encyclopedia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA, 2000), 220–48; Clifford Duncan, “The Northern Utes,” in A History of Utah’s American Indians (Salt Lake City, UT: Utah State Division of Indian Affairs/Utah State Division of History, 2000), 167–224; Utah Division of Indian Affairs, “Prehistory [web Page],” 2012, http://indian.utah.gov/tribes/history.html. See especially pp. 242-246.
[ii] Pritzker, “The Great Basin,” 242.
[iii] Utah Division of Indian Affairs, “Prehistory [web Page].”
[iv] Ned Blackhawk, Violence over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West (Harvard University Press, 2006).
[v] Duncan, “The Northern Utes.”
[vi] Note: first contact with Europeans was with the Spanish in the mid 1500s, and the Utes did fairly well from this time to the mid 1800s, establishing trade networks and no subject to colonial rule by the Spanish. After the 1848 Treat of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the U.S. took control of the region and divided Ute lands into terretories of the United States. Utah Division of Indian Affairs, “Prehistory [web Page]”; Pritzker, “The Great Basin.”
[vii] Although I was unable to find any documentation of why the other two Ute nations were not required to provide permission, my guess is that the Northern Ute nation is the one that is completely located in Utah and contains the people who originally inhabited the region in which the University lies.
[viii] Duncan, “The Northern Utes,” 221.
[ix] Preston Iverson & Milo Marsden, Eds. The Utonian,1931 (Salt Lake City, UT: The Annual Publication of Junior Class of the University of Utah, 1930), 18.
[x] Alden C. Goates, Ed. The Utonian, 1933 (Salt Lake City, UT: The Annual Publication of the Junior Class of the University of Utah, 1932), 170.
[xi] Darrell Knight, Big Chief Alumni Returns, Celebrates Ho-Yo’s Birthday,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 18, 1951, p. 8.
[xii] Interview with Kirk Baddley.
[xiii] “Indians See Red, Hide Skins to Utes,” Daily Utah Chronicle, April 19, 1972, p. 2.
[xiv] Anthony Salazar, “Stereotypes Indicted: TV Indians and the U Mascot, Daily Utah Chronicle, January 29, 1979, n.p.
[xv] Amy Page, “Ute Indian Returns to Athletic Events,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 18, 1985, p. 1, 4.
[xvi] Amy Page, “Ute Indian Returns to Athletic Events,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 18, 1985, p. 1.
[xvii] Amy Page, “Ute Indian Returns to Athletic Events,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 18, 1985, p. 1, 4.
[xviii] “Ute Indian Symbol Becoming More Authentic, Less of a Hollywood Ideal,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 14, 1986, p. 9.
[xix] Shauna Boa, “Reconsider Ute Mascot,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 14, 1986, p. 8.
[xx] Christian Aggler, “U Mascot Labelled Discriminatory,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 26, 1988, p. 1.
[xxi] Joan O’Brian, “Survey Shows Folks Still Like Utes Nickname, Salt Lake Tribune, December 8, 1993, C1.
[xxii] Camilla Moore, “U considers changing the Ute mascot, Daily Utah Chronicle, September 29, 1993, p. 2.
[xxiii] Mike Sorensen, “NCAA Says Tribal Approval Is Key to Keeping Names,” Deseret News, August 20, 2005, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/print/600157223/NCAA-says-tribal-approval-is-key-to-keeping-names.html; Associated Press, “NCAA Approves Utah’s Use of American Indian Nickname,” Deseret News, September 2, 2005, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/print/600160638/NCAA-approves-Utahs-use-of-American-Indian-nickname.html; Mike Sorensen, “Utes Get to Keep Name,” Deseret News, September 3, 2005, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/print/600160847/Utes-get-to-keep-name.html; Stephen Speckman, “U. Officially Files Appeal on Utes Nickname,” Deseret News, September 1, 2005, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/600160110/U-officially-files-appeal-on-Utes-nickname.html?pg=2; Michael Young, “University of Utah Appeal of Standing as an Affected Institution under New NCAA Policy Concerning Hostile or Abusive Mascots, Nicknames or Imagery,” August 31, 2005, University of Utah Governmental Records Access Management Act.
[xxiv] Jason Edward Black, “The ‘Mascotting’ of Native America: Construction, Commodity, and Assimilation,” The American Indian Quarterly 26, no. 4 (2002): 607.
[xxv] Young, “University of Utah Appeal of Standing as an Affected Institution under New NCAA Policy Concerning Hostile or Abusive Mascots, Nicknames or Imagery,” 1.
[xxvi] Micheal C. Lewis, “Nickname no insult to Utes, says Young,” Salt Lake Tribune (August 9, 2005), p. A1 (accessed from lexis nexis on August 25, 2005).
[xxvii] See Exhibits A & B from Michael Young’s appeal to the NCAA for official correspondence from the Tribal Business Committee of the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uinta and Ouray Reservation. Young, “University of Utah Appeal of Standing as an Affected Institution under New NCAA Policy Concerning Hostile or Abusive Mascots, Nicknames or Imagery.”
[xxviii] Exhibit B, p. 1. Ibid.
[xxix] Exhibit B Ibid., 2.
[xxx] See Exhibit B. Young, “University of Utah Appeal of Standing as an Affected Institution under New NCAA Policy Concerning Hostile or Abusive Mascots, Nicknames or Imagery.”
[xxxi] See Exhibit A Ibid.
[xxxii] Sean P. Means, “Group says Indian Names Too Steeped in Racism,” Salt Lake Tribune (August 6, 2005), p. D1 (accessed from lexis nexis on august 25, 2005).
[xxxiii] Stephen Speckman, “Glimmer of Hope for Ute Nickname | Deseret News,” Deseret News, August 24, 2005, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/print/600158146/Glimmer-of-hope-for-Ute-nickname.html.
[xxxiv] Stephen Speckman, “A Handful Do Object to the U.’s Nickname | Deseret News,” Deseret News, September 18, 2005, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/605155493/A-handful-do-object-to-the-Us-nickname.html.
[xxxv] Ibid. Speckman
[xl] The University of Utah owns the trademark for UtesTM, Utah UtesTM, and Running UtesTM. They have also registed the Circle and FeatherR logo. From: University of Utah Logos and Trademark Verbiage, available from “Utah Traditions.” (accessed March 31, 2011).
[xli] Young, “University of Utah Appeal of Standing as an Affected Institution under New NCAA Policy Concerning Hostile or Abusive Mascots, Nicknames or Imagery”; “Memorandum of Understanding between the Ute Indian Tribe and the University of Utah | University of Utah Office of the President,” accessed July 21, 2014, http://admin.utah.edu/ute-mou.
[xlii] MUSS is the name for the University of Utah student sports fan club. University of Utah Athletics, “Utah Traditions,” 2016, http://www.utahutes.com/sports/2016/6/10/trads-ute-trads-general-html.aspx.
[xliii] Personal Communication with George F. McHendry, Jr.
[xliv] Young, “University of Utah Appeal of Standing as an Affected Institution under New NCAA Policy Concerning Hostile or Abusive Mascots, Nicknames or Imagery.”
[xlv] “Ute Proud,” 2016, http://uteproud.utah.edu/.
[xlvi] Alden C. Goates, Ed. The Utonian, 1933 (Salt Lake City, UT: The Annual Publication of the Junior Class of the University of Utah, 1932), 170.
[xlvii] Darrell Knight, Big Chief Alumni Returns, Celebrates Ho-Yo’s Birthday,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 18, 1951, p. 8.
[xlviii] “Ute Indian Symbol Becoming More Authentic, Less of a Hollywood Ideal,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 14, 1986, p. 9.
We have assembled a wide range of archival records to assist students, faculty, and community members in their efforts to better understand the history of the relationship between the Ute Native American people and the University of Utah, and particularly the University’s historical use of the “Utes” nickname, symbols, and likenesses. In the archives you will find articles from the Daily Utah Chronicle, the University of Utah’s student-run newspaper spanning nearly 100 years; images and stories from The Utonian, the University of Utah’s annual yearbook (no longer active); key documents, such as memoranda of understanding between the Ute Indians and the University of Utah, appeals submitted to the National Collegiate Athletic Association after it encouraged universities to remove any potentially offensive references to Native Americans, documents pertaining to scholarships established to support Ute and other Native American students, and more.
Daily Utah Chronicle
In 1891, several University of Utah students began publishing a periodical called the Lantern. Although the Lantern closed shop just a year later in June 1892, by December 1892 the University of Utah had established a student-run paper of its own, the Chronicle. Since 1946, the Chronicle has been published daily. As such, the University’s newspaper offers an important record of transformations in the University’s engagement with the Ute people and with its use of the “Utes” nickname, Native American mascots, and other symbols, as well as of criticisms and debates about the University’s material and symbolic relationships with the Ute and other Native Americans. The Daily Utah Chronicle archives consist of more than 100 records, including articles, opinion pieces, images, and cartoons. Highlighted below are a few key records from the Chronicle. To receive access to the full Daily Utah Chronicle archives, email Dr. Danielle Endres.
- November 9, 1926: “Redskins Scalp Pioneer Eleven”
- November 21, 1930: “The Redskin Outgrows His Toys”
- November 9, 1933: “Hello-Homecoming Celebration Inaugurated”
- November 10, 1938: “‘U’ Homecoming Starts Indian War”
- October 20, 1947: “‘Hoyo’ Tagged on L’il Ute”
- October 20, 1950: “Indian Plays Important University Role”
- October 9, 1951: “Indian Youths Enter U on Tribal Grants”
- October 5, 1953: “Transfer Student Plays Hoyo for U Ball Games”
- October 29, 1985: “Return of the Ute Must Be Done With Respect and Dignity”
- September 30, 1987: “Chronicle Urges New U. Mascot”
- October 1, 1987: “New Policy Distinguishes ‘Utes’”
- October 6, 1992: “Abandoning Mascot Just a Politically Correct Concept”
- October 15, 1992: “Mascot Trivializes Tragedy”
- November 12, 1992: “Ute Mascot Increases Pride”
- September 29, 1993: “U. Considers Changes ‘Ute’ Mascot”
- January 3, 1996: “Search for Mascot Gives U. the Bird”
- January 17, 1996: “Red-Tailed Hawk to Generate Hysteria in Fans”
- February 20, 1996: “No Agreement Between Pres. Smith, Ute Leaders”
- May 14, 2004: “Swoop”
- September 1, 2005: “Tribes Should Get to Decide”
- September 19, 2006: “Utes Fed Up With U”
- November 4, 2009: “Ute Scholarship Program a Myth”
- September 17, 2012: “Native American Justice Revisited, Logo Debated”
- December 9, 2013: “Group Petitions for Name Change”
- April 16, 2014: “Ute Name Here to Stay”
The Utonian was an annual yearbook published by the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU) from 1906 to 1981. Like most yearbooks, The Utonian included listings of students; images and notes about significant student activities; photographs documenting the year; and essays highlighting changes to the University landscape. Several volumes of The Utonian demonstrating the extent to which the University of Utah’s identity is entangled with Native American imagery, traditions, and lore. Like the Daily Utah Chronicle, The Utonian offers an expansive record of the University’s relationship to the Ute Indians and its deployment of symbols related to Native Americans. The Utonian archives consist of more than 300 records. Highlighted below are a few key records from The Utonian. To receive access to the full Utonian archives, email Dr. Danielle Endres.
- 1914: Utonian title page
- 1920: Images of “Ute Club” members Pt2
- 1926: Description of Utah football team
- 1928: Line drawing of University’s “New Camping Grounds” (football stadium)
- 1929: Utonian title page
- 1929: “The Story of the Utes”
- 1929: Description of Utonian theme
- 1930: Image of “Ute” mascot
- 1933: Illustration of “Ute Redskin” football player
- 1939: Utonian title page
- 1945: Freshman opening page
- 1945: Image of University students dressed as Indians
- 1947: Images of Homecoming decorations
- 1951: Image of Utah cheerleaders in Indian headdresses
- 1953: Images of Homecoming decorations
- 1956: Illustration of Native Americans
- 1960: Photo of live “Hoyo” mascot
- 1965: Photo of “Hoyo” mascot at Homecoming
- 1966: Photo of “Hoyo” at football game
- 1968: Photo of live “Hoyo” mascot on horseback
Memoranda of Understanding
In 2003 and 2014, the University of Utah and the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee co-signed Memoranda of Understanding that outlined the intentions of both parties to support American Indian students seeking higher education. In the 2014 Memorandum, the Ute Indian Tribe “encourage[d] the University of Utah to use the Ute name for the University’s sports programs with its full support.” This archive includes the 2003 Memorandum, a 2005 renewal, and the 2014 memorandum, as well as related documents.
- 2003 “Memorandum of Understanding”
- 2005 “Memorandum of Understanding Renewal”
- 2014 “Memorandum of Understanding”
- Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee Request for New Memorandum of Understanding, 2013
- “Ute Indian Tribe and University of Utah Renew Agreement,” University of Utah News, April 15, 2014
- “Ute Indian Tribe and U Renew Agreement,” FYI Faculty for News and Staff, April 25, 2014
In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) issued guidelines to its member schools, including the University of Utah, that “[prohibited] colleges or universities with hostile or abusive mascots, nicknames or imagery from hosting any NCAA championship competitions.” The University of Utah was found to be potentially in violation of the 2005 policy. Former University of Utah president Michael K. Young filed an appeal to this decision on August 31, 2005, with support from both the Ute Indian Business Tribal Council and the Mountain West athletic conference. The University won the appeal and the NCAA allowed it to continue to use the Utes nickname.
- NCAA press release: “NCAA Executive Committee Issues Guidelines for Use of Native American Mascots at Championship Events,” August 5, 2005
- University of Utah appeal to NCAA mascot guidelines, August 31, 2005
Following the 2014 Memorandum of Understanding co-signed by the University of Utah and the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee, the University established a scholarship program for tribal members. Eligible students can apply for the Ute Indian Tribe Scholarship or the Native American Scholarship. Additionally, the Nick and Helen Papanikolas Scholarship Fund supports students who are members of Native American tribes.
- “U Establishes New Scholarship Fund for Ute Tribe Students,” University of Utah News, September 11, 2014
- Ute Indian Tribe Scholarship Details
- Native American Scholarship Details
- Nick and Helen Papanikolas Scholarship Details
“Ute Proud” Campaign
Since 2014, the University of Utah has hosted a “Ute Proud” website, which includes information about the Ute Indian Tribe, the University’s relationship with the Tribe, and tips for respectfully cheering on “Utes” athletic teams. Over the years, the website has changed. This archive includes PDFs of the way the website has looked over the years. The current website can be visited here.
- 2014: “Ute Proud,” FYI News for Faculty and Staff
- 2014: Ute Proud Homepage
- 2014: Ute History
- 2014: Relationship
- 2014: Respect
- 2015: Ute Proud Homepage
- 2015: University of Utah Homepage featuring “Ute Proud”
- 2016: Ute Proud Homepage
- 2016: Ute History
- 2016: Relationship
- 2016: Respect
University of Utah Athletics
The Athletic Department of the University of Utah includes information about the school’s mascot, including brief historical notes, information about Utah athletic traditions, and promotional materials for the “Ute Proud” campaign. The current website can be visited here.
- “Utah Traditions,” University of Utah Athletic Department
- “Utah Athletics is Ute Proud,” University of Utah Athletic Department
- “Mascot/Nickname History,” University of Utah Athletic Department
Various groups have created and disseminated short videos through YouTube that document recent developments in the relationship between the University and the Utes nickname.
- University of Utah signs new deal with the Ute Indian Tribe
- The Tailgating Tale of Apache McLean and the Utah Utes
- Ute Tribe Utah Football Halftime Performance
- Ute Tribe Halftime Performance
Indigenous Students and Allies for Change (Coming Soon)
No, in the early days of the University of Utah, athletic teams were referred to as the “Crimson.” Later, monikers like “Redskin” and “Indians” were adopted. In 1972, the University officially adopted the “Utes” nickname, abandoning others. In 2003, 2005, and 2014, the University co-signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee that outlined its use of the “Utes” nickname.
What is the University Mascot?
The current mascot of the University of Utah is “Swoop,” a red-tailed hawk that is native to the state of Utah. Prior to “Swoop,” from 1985 to 1993, the University’s mascot was the Crimson Warrior, a University student dressed in traditional Native American garb. Before that, the University’s mascot was “l’il Hoyo,” an Indian caricature decided in a contest in 1947. Images of each of the mascots can be found in the Daily Utah Chronicle and The Utonian archives.
Does the University have the Ute tribal government’s permission to use the nickname?
Yes. Beginning in 2003, the University and the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee co-signed non-binding Memoranda of Understanding in which the Northern Utes give the University permission to use the “Utes” nickname. In 2005, the two parties renewed the Memorandum of Understanding and in 2014 a new Memorandum was signed. The Memoranda of Understanding archives includes these and related documents. Notably, the University does not have permission from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe/Reservation in Southwest Colorado or the Ute Mountain Tribe/Reservation.
Do Ute students get scholarships?
In 2014, the University established two scholarship funds for Ute Indian students: the Ute Indian Tribal Scholarship and the Native American Scholarship. The scholarships were stipulated in the 2014 Memorandum of Understanding that both the University and Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee signed. The Memorandum declared that the University would create the scholarship “to support Ute students, and that an ongoing source of funds will be created from revenue sources such as merchandise sales, private donors and/or other sources to be determined; the intent of the agreement is that these funds will be dedicated to support Ute students and not diverted to other needs.” Applicants are evaluated on academic merit, leadership, commitment to citizenship, school activities and community engagement, in addition to tribal affiliation.
If you are interested in learning more about the Utes Nickname Project, contact:
H2 Professorship, University of Utah College of Humanities and Honors College
Diversity Requirement Fellowship, University of Utah Office of Undergraduate Studies
Department of Communication, University of Utah
Joshua Trey Barnett, Research Assistant
Rebecca Loughridge, Website