Native Bruin- Past, Present, & Emerging – Eric Morrison

This FEBRUARY 2023 we are highlighting Native Bruin Eric Morrison from the Tlingit tribe, the first group of native students to attend UCLA in 1968.
Eric (Tlingit name Koon’esh) Morrison has served as executive director of the Salamatof Tribe in Alaska since 2017. He has also served on the National Tribal Water Council for 20 years and as an executive member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, the country’s oldest Native civil rights organization. Eric currently lives in the Kenai area of Alaska, working to protect the traditional values of Native people. He also advocates for the use of traditional knowledge in work with local, state, and federal agencies whose policies involve natural resources. Eric was among the first Native students recruited in 1968 to participate in the newly formed High Potential Program at UCLA before the American Indian Studies Center was formed. At UCLA, Eric was quite active, serving as student president, recruiter, and publisher. He is Tlingit-born and belongs to the Coho clan, Raven moiety. He was raised in Sitka, Alaska in a Coho clan house.
“Most of the students recruited to UCLA by the BIA came from Montana, Oklahoma, Alaska, and other places. The BIA considered us savages at that time, whose premise was that we were “good with our hands, not with our minds,” so we were recruited and sent to major city centers to learn a trade and hopefully become “civilized.” That premise quickly dissipated with the first 25 Native American recruits to UCLA. We assisted in ending that history with the BIA and helped forge a new future with scholarships and grants for Native Americans through the BIA. I thank my fellow students for that—not just the 25 Native students and the two first-year law Native students, but also the Black Student Union, the Asian American students, and the Hispanic students with whom we shared a small building called Campbell Hall. We endured and persevered together not just in fighting prejudice but creating opportunities for those who followed and also fighting for what was good for the country, battling to end the Vietnam conflict. Thank you, UCLA. I am forever a UCLA Native Bruin.”