American Indian Achievement Center

Jingle dancers, wearing red to symbolize awareness for violence against Native American women, perform during an opening ceremony for the William R. Lowe Native American Achievement Center on the MSUB campus Wednesday, September 27, 2017.

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

University officials and Native American leaders celebrated the official opening of a new location for the Native American Achievement Center at Montana State University Billings on Wednesday. 

The American Indian Outreach Office moved into a former child care facility on the west end of MSUB's campus, rechristened the William R. Lowe Native American Achievement Center.

The program has long provided academic support for Native American students and been a hub for cultural activities. Officials hope the new location would provide space for the program to pursue activities like a Natives-in-Residence program or demonstration classroom with tribal experts and elders. 

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Reno Charette

Reno Charette of the American Indian Outreach Center gifts Michael Comes at Night with a blanket as part of the opening ceremonies of the William R. Lowe Native American Achievement Center on the MSUB campus Wednesday, September 27, 2017.

As part of the ceremony, office director Reno Charette introduced several Native American students attending Billings high schools. 

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American Indian Achievement Center

Dancer Olivia Stead guides her daughter Kimimila, 3, into place as they prepare to perform during an opening ceremony for the William R. Lowe Native American Achievement Center on the MSUB campus Wednesday, September 27, 2017.

"It's my hope that these students are incoming freshmen at MSUB, because that's what we're all about," she said. 

Fewer Native American students attend or complete college in Montana compared to their white counterparts. A variety of programs at the high school and collegiate level, including the outreach office, work to bridge that gap. 

Acting MSUB Chancellor Ron Larsen said the new building would support the school's "effort to recruit and retain Native American students."

He also noted the building's child care roots, saying it would support parents with children. MSUB closed the child care center last fall after its contracted provider pulled out. The university said it was unable to take on the costs of operating the center. 

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Veteran Michael Comes at Night

Veteran Michael Comes at Night of the Blackfeet Nation counts coup on the William R. Lowe Native American Achievement Center on the MSUB campus Wednesday, September 27, 2017.

Michael Comes At Night performed a capture ceremony, recognizing the building and a teepee on the lawn. Dancers wearing jingle dresses performed on the campus lawn. 

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.