SAHMIE WYTEWA JOINS CENTER FOR INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY
Sahmie S. Wytewa strongly believes in advocacy, and that the first step to offering support — whether it be for a cause, a belief or a marginalized community — is to pay attention.
“It’s important to be able to listen, learn and offer insight,” says Wytewa, USD’s new tribal liaison. “One of my goals is to make sure I authentically show up for the students and faculty members.”
Wytewa is a member of the Hopi Tribe from the village of Mishongnovi in Second Mesa, Arizona. She is the second tribal liaison at USD, which piloted the position in 2012 and institutionalized the role in 2014.
Among the many roles and responsibilities of the tribal liaison is the recruitment, retention and graduation of Native and Indigenous students; development of curricular and extracurricular programming; enhancing cultural empowerment and advocacy; deepening cross-university partnerships; garnering tribal community support, building, engagement and healing; and honing community outreach and organizing.
Wytewa was hired earlier this year following a nationwide search.
“I am delighted to welcome Sahmie to our USD community,” says USD Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Center for Inclusion and Diversity Director Regina Dixon-Reeves, PhD. “She is an accomplished
educator, administrator, tribal leader and liaison. Her work within the Office of the Tribal Liaison will be a great complement to the work being done within the Center for Inclusion and Diversity.”
The tribal liaison role has become common in government sectors but is still relatively new in higher education. Wytewa says the position creates a unique opportunity to connect to both Native and Indigenous populations and discover the values that will assure student success.
“From the perspective of a tribal liaison, one of the biggest components of your work is to prepare to listen and fully contextualize where people are coming from, not only in a professional sector or from the organizational capacity, but spiritually.”
Prior to USD, Wytewa served as tribal liaison and policy coordinator for the Arizona Department of Education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University. The traditional values of the Hopi Tribe center on caretaking, explains Wytewa. “Reciprocity is a very big value of the Hopi people — we are constantly giving and receiving all year,” she says. “Caretaking and stewardship carry over into my work. It’s important that this role is flexible to make it what we need in this time, and that capabilities, skills and talents align the position to the values and mission of the university.”
Wytewa, who considers herself a lifetime learner and educator, says the decision to leave her home in Arizona and come to USD was faith-based.
“Most of my friends and family will tell you that I’m a pretty big believer in the universe,” she says. “We are ultimately the prayers of our ancestors hundreds of years ago. Being able to connect with so many stakeholders just felt right. I’m supposed to be here.” — Matthew Piechalak
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