History

Celebrating the profound contributions of Native American students, alumni, and programs at Brigham Young University.

From the 1960s to the 1970s, Brigham Young University (BYU) “claimed to have the largest university enrollment of American Indians in the United States, with approximately 600 on campus.”[1] This was due, in large part, to the Indian Student Placement Program (ISPP) began by Spencer W. Kimball, future president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While student experiences within the program varied greatly, the stated goal of the ISPP was to provide Native American students with the opportunity and support to study in off-reservation public schools. With many students starting the program as children in the 1950s, the ISPP became a pipeline for Native American students to BYU. By 2000, the Church discontinued the ISPP.

Despite the vast and diverse history of Native American students at BYU, this webpage is the first formal effort to gather the history of Native American students at BYU and make it accessible to the public. This webpage represents the efforts of Native American and allied students, faculty, and alumni, who are committed to remembering, preserving, and improving the educational and cultural experiences of Native American and Indigenous students at BYU.

We are indebted to the BYU Native American Alumni Chapter for their guidance and perspective during the course of this project. Under our “Stories” tab, you can find their full video interviews where they discuss their lives and experiences (both good and bad) at BYU. Many of the pictures on this website and in the photo gallery at the bottom of this page have been recovered from BYU’s L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library to reflect the Native students while they were here. Finally, we would like to give special thanks to Diné (Navajo) photographer and BYU alumnus Eugene Tapahe who took and provided the header image of Monument Valley for this website.

[1] Metcalf, Warren. “’Which Side of the Line’: American Indian Students and Programs at Brigham Young University, 1960-1983.” “Nor any manner of –ites”: American Indians and Mormons, edited by P. Jane Hafen and Brenden W. Rensink. University of Utah Press, 2019, pp 540–604.

Native American Studies Research Guide

A research guide created through BYU’s Harold B. Lee library to help students and other researchers of Native American and Indigenous studies.

L. Tom Perry Special Collections Photo Gallery

A small gallery of photos from the L. Tom Perry Special collections in BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library.

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