Cal State San Bernardino President Tomás D. Morales has been appointed as the California State University Presidential Advisor to the chancellor and Board of Trustees for Native American Initiatives by interim Chancellor Jolene Koester.

“It is an honor, and a great responsibility, to serve as the CSU Presidential Advisor for Native American Initiatives,” Morales said. “We, as the nation’s largest public university, need to do the very best we can in advancing tribal relations, enhancing the education of Native American students, expanding the academic knowledge of indigenous communities, and preserving their cultural heritage.”

In this role, Morales will advise fellow CSU presidents and university system leadership to further develop respectful and culturally competent relationships with sovereign tribal nations. 

One of Morales’ priorities will be to complete the repatriation to California’s tribes of the remains of Native Americans and artifacts that are currently held by CSU campuses, which complies with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (CalNAGPRA).

“The CSU is committed to laying the crucial infrastructure that will accomplish repatriation in a timely manner and demonstrate our deep respect, regard and alliance with Native American communities,” Koester said.

In 2022, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) of the state Legislature recommended that the California State Auditor (CSA) audit the California State University’s compliance of both NAGPRA and CalNAGPRA. The audit surveyed all CSU campuses regarding the ancestral remains and cultural items in their possession and what progress has been made toward repatriation since the federal law was enacted in 1990 and implemented in 1995. ​The audit, published in June, said that while the CSU has taken steps in the repatriation effort, more must be done to comply with NAGPRA and CalNAGPRA.

Morales steps into this role previously held by Gayle Hutchinson, who recently retired as president of Chico State University.