Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

‘Honor the treaties’

Artist Kathy Whitman Elk Woman (center) unveils the commissioned "Honor the Treaties" sculpture alongside Wayne Mitchell '60 (right) and his wife, Marie Mitchell, at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Heard Museum/Melissa Malork)

When Wayne Mitchell ’60 first came to the University of Redlands main campus, he was moved by the view of the Memorial Chapel from the Administration Building. “I thought it was one of the most beautiful campuses I had ever seen,” says Wayne, who received a scholarship from the Mandan tribe of Fort Berthold, North Dakota, to attend the University. The Mandan tribe is part of the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara, or MHA, Nation.

Among Wayne’s favorite memories as a Redlands student was hearing Carl Sandburg read his poetry at the Chapel. He also enjoyed watching the Los Angeles Rams football team practice on campus. A member of Chi Sigma Chi fraternity, Wayne was the only Native American student on campus at the time, but was “made to feel welcome” at the University.

After earning government and sociology degrees at U of R, Wayne attended Arizona State University, where he completed a master’s and a doctorate in education. Wayne spent 32 years with the Indian Health Service (IHS), a division within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services where he organized numerous initiatives for Native Americans, including substance abuse and mental health programs. He also gave presentations around the country. “I was proud of my work,” says Wayne, who was honored as the IHS employee of the year in 2002, before he retired in 2003.

The sculpture's theme is “Honor the Treaties,” due to the historical importance of more than 370 treaties signed between Native American tribes and the U.S. Government between 1771 and 1868. (Photo by Heard Museum/Melissa Malork)

Because of his work in Native communities, Wayne and his wife Marie, who is professor emeritus in linguistics and English of the Maricopa County Community Colleges, developed a special association with the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. “We had our first date at a Heard exhibit opening,” says Wayne. “I even remember what she was wearing.” Dedicated to the presentation, interpretation, and advancement of American Indian art, Wayne was honored, first as a Heard trustee, and then as a life trustee in recognition of his longtime board service. Marie has also contributed her time to the organization.

As part of their legacy to the Heard Museum, the couple commissioned Kathy Whitman Elk Woman (also a member of the MHA Nation) to create a sculpture. For the piece, Marie suggested the theme, “Honor the Treaties,” due to the historical importance of more than 370 treaties signed between Native American tribes and the U.S. Government between 1771 and 1868. “It was an important theme to us,” says Marie, who dedicated the sculpture with Wayne in November 2021 as part of the museum library’s permanent collection. “In the present day, Indian treaties are being examined to see if some government commitments can still realized,” explains Wayne. “These efforts have brought about a resurgence in Indian treaty rights in recent years.”

Wayne is pleased to see how his alma mater has expanded its Native Student Programming (NSP). “It is very gratifying for me to see the support of one of the local tribal nations, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, at Redlands,” says Wayne. “How wonderful that the tribe and the University have such a partnership.” The couple also has included a provision for the University’s NSP in their estate plans. “I would like to see more Indian students learn and benefit from Redlands as I did,” says Wayne. “They, in turn, can contribute in various ways to their home communities.”

Learn more about Native student programs at Redlands.