University of Montana President Royce Engstrom announced Wednesday afternoon the creation of the Eloise Cobell Land and Culture Institute within the Payne Family Native American Center on the UM campus.

University of Montana President Royce Engstrom

The new facility will be constructed in the garden level of the Native American Center, and  will enable University of Montana students learn about the complexities of Native American Land ownership.The estimated cost of the new addition will be $1.2 million dollars.

Dr. Christopher Comer

At a ceremony on Wednesday, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Christopher Comer introduced several speakers; including Jonas Rides-at-the Door, a member of the Blackfeet tribe,m a University of Montana student, and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps who served several tours in Iraq where he won the Purple Heart.

Jonas Rides-at-the-Door

photo by Peter Christian

Rides-at-the-Door spoke about the importance of the Payne Family Center, and how it became a second home for him and other native and non-native students.

photo by Peter Christian

Also speaking was Terry Payne, for whose family the Native Center Center was named. Payne gave the initial gift to establish the Eloise Cobell Land and Culture Institute. Cobell died of cancer before the $3.2 billion dollar lawsuit she initiated on behalf of Native American peoples was completed.

Terry Payne

Dr. Comer invited the crowd that had gathered back in about 6 months for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the completed facility.