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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
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American West Center moves to Ft. Douglas

By Clayton Norlen

The American West Center held a housewarming ceremony on Sept. 26 to celebrate its relocation to the historic area surrounding Fort Douglas.

“The American West Center was originally founded in 1964 by two professors in the history department who were dedicated to preserving the West,” said Dave Pershing, senior vice president for academic affairs. “With the stories that the center has preserved and will continue to capture, their dream lives on.”

The center has moved from its home of 40 years in the Annex Building to a historic building located near Fort Douglas.

Matt Basso, director of the center, said the new location, near the Center for American Indian Languages and the Fort Douglas Military Museum, is a fitting place for the center.

“The mission of the center is the same, but now there is a greater emphasis on digitalization and making our research more accessible to all people,” Basso said. “We work to tell the complicated nuanced stories of the West.”

A new focus that the center will be adding to its agenda is the Pacific Initiative. As home to one of the largest Pacific Islander populations in the United States, Utah and the West have been changed by the influence of these communities.

“It’s important to focus on the Pacific Initiative because it looks at all of the Pacific Islander population in the U.S.,” said Anapesi Ka’ili, program director at the center.

“As early as 1830, the first islanders arrived with (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) to help in the construction of the temple. Through oral histories, we’re able to document the current communities’ migration, what brought them here and their full story,” Ka’ili said.

The Pacific Archives will be collecting oral histories, documentaries and writings about Pacific Islanders in Utah.

Basso said the center wants to work alongside members of the community to record the history of their people and impact on the West.

With the help of the Marriott Library, the center houses thousands of oral and biographical histories compiled by professors, oral historians, graduate and undergraduate students.

Under the direction of Floyd O’Neil, a former U professor, the center has collected the oral histories of more than 2,000 individual American Indians and published 17 books on individual American Indian tribes in the West.

The center is working to digitalize the majority of its materials so they are more accessible to students, faculty and the public.

“The digitalization of these materials is utterly crucial,” Basso said. “We don’t want these oral histories and historical records to be lost to technological advancement.”

At the opening reception, O’Neil was recognized for his commitment to preserving Western history with the establishment of the Floyd A. O’Neil American Indian Archive under the special collections archive at the Marriott Library.

“Fort Douglas has been a figure to the West, but (a) complicated figure because it was originally a cavalry force that was used to exterminate Utahn natives (American Indians). During World War II, Fort Douglas served as a base for our forces and supplies,” Basso said. “We celebrate those cavalries like the cowboys, but the Center hopes to raise awareness on these complications in the American West’s history.”

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