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Identity

Native American halftime performance shows how college sports and tribes can get along

The Utes and the University of Utah have a great relationship.

ute tribe, university of utah, college sports

"Ute Proud" game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

On Saturday, September 17, the University of Utah played its ninth annual “Ute Proud” game against San Diego State at Rice-Eccles stadium. The game featured recognition of the Ute Tribe Business Committee and a traditional performance by the Ute tribe.

In the 1600s, the Ute tribe inhabited what is now Utah, Western Colorado and parts of Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico.

The University of Utah uses the Ute name with permission from the tribe and is careful to note that the team’s mascot is Swoop, a red-tailed hawk. This understanding is an example of the positive relationship between the university and the tribe.

The win-win relationship stands in contrast to many college sports programs and professional teams that have appropriated Native American tribal names and customs.

In 2020, the Utes and the university signed an agreement where the tribe “encourages the University of Utah to use the Ute name for the University's sports programs with its full support.”

In return, the University provides scholarships for Ute students and educates its students on Ute history and the tribe's ongoing cultural and economic contributions to the state. It’s a wonderful example of what can happen when a sports program celebrates the positive aspects of Native American culture while also giving back to the tribe.

To celebrate this warm partnership, members of the Ute tribe shared a traditional performance during halftime of the “Ute Proud” game. The Utes beat San Diego State 35 to 7.

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