Mar 7, 2013 11:37 AM by Dennis Bragg (Missoula)

New UM center named for Native American leader Elouise Cobell

MISSOULA - The history of Native American rights leader Elouise Cobell is being given a special place in Missoula, with the naming of a new institute on the University of Montana campus.

Cobell fought to win a $3.4-billion dollar land claims settlement before her death almost two years ago.

University leaders and students gathered at UM's Payne Family Native American Center on Wednesday to announce a new program which will be geared to education and research on land use and indigenous cultures.

The Native American Center is already establishing itself as a unique facility focusing on Indian education and tribal issues for students from all cultures.

Now, thanks to another gift from businessman Terry Payne and the Payne family, the university will build the new "Elouise Cobell Land And Culture Institute," finishing off the lower level of the center with new labs and research space.

That's where students will be able to learn and do research on land issues impacting indigenous cultures.

UM president Royce Engstrom said that Cobell's legacy lives on in the center and the new institute.

"So now UM students, Native and non-Native alike, are empowered to turn, or return, to tribal Montana to do good work."

Payne said, "She was an inspiration to me and to so many other people, and it is with the utmost admiration and respect for her that I had the idea to honor her by completing the lower level of this center."

Design of the new center will begin this week and construction should be complete within six months.

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