The Center for Native Health & Culture at Heritage University was first conceptualized by President John Bassett and Yakama tribal member, Dr. Michelle Jacob. In a series of discussions during 2011 and 2012, Bassett and Jacob brainstormed ideas for increasing the capacity and visibility for research at Heritage. In the spring of 2012, Dr. Jacob visited the Heritage University main campus in Toppenish, WA, on the Yakama Nation, to discuss the formation of the Center with a collective team of administrators, faculty, staff, students, and community members. Discussions indicated widespread support to launch the new Center. Dr. Jacob began her work as a Faculty Fellow and Director of the Center for Native Health & Culture in July 2012. The Center’s Grand Opening was held in October 2012. Dr. Jacob transitioned to the University of Oregon in December, 2015 and Dr. Jessica L. Black assumed the responsibilities of the Interim Director in January, 2016. Dr. Black was confirmed at the permanent director of the Center in September, 2016. The Center’s was changed to reflect broadening, global partnerships with indigenous groups from Central America and is now the Center for Indigenous Health, Culture & the Environment. Dr. Black is Mexican-American and is also an Associate Professor of Environmental Science at Heritage University.
The Center's graphic identity was designed to honor indigenous peoples and cultures. The pattern at the top of our logo honors the Klickitat basketry tradition. The three eagle feathers represent the holistic Native health philosophy of mind, body, and spirit. One cannot think merely of one aspect of health without considering how they impact the other two.
Our Center's motto was gifted to us by Dr. Virginia Beavert, longtime Heritage University faculty member and master Sahaptin/Ichishkíin speaker and teacher, as well as Yakama tribal elder.
Our motto is: Nákx
wit, wáwnakwshash, ku wak
(We are strengthening mind, body, and spirit).