Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Waniyetu ki lecunhan wicozani luha na iyokipiya yaunkte. -Lakota Greeting
Translation: May the beauty of this season bring you peace, health and happiness.

I wish you a joyous holiday season.
Ocankuye Wasté Yelo (In a good way),
Richard B. Williams (Oglala Lakota)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Native Colleges: America's Best Kept Secret

Check out this excellent article about tribal colleges and the disparity in funding between them and HBCUs which appeared on the Huffington post blog.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-giago/native-colleges-americas_b_152673.html

In Memory of Deborah Yarlott

On Friday evening, Dec. 19, Dr. David Yarlott’s beautiful wife, Deborah, passed on. We are heartbroken to have lost such a kind, loving, and generous person. Prayers are greatly needed by President Yarlott of Little Big Horn College, his family, and the entire Little Big Horn College community at this time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Honoring Our Elders

Tomorrow night in Denver the American Indian College Fund honors the local elders with a buffalo feed for the holidays. Many people have wondered why American Indians honor their elders.

"Tunkashila, Grandfather, Great Spirit." It is this way that we begin our prayers in Lakota. Tunkashila, also means one’s own grandfather. The reason that the words are used this way is because our grandfathers are the elders of the tribe and in many ways personify the sacredness of the goodness and wisdom of the Great Spirit. Grandfathers carry the spirit of the people. Grandmothers are even more sacred because they carry the heart and soul of the people. Grandmothers carry the sacred spirit of the Mother Earth. Grandmothers give us gentleness and caring because they have also given us life. Our elders teach us who are ancestors were. Our elders are our connection to everything in our past. It is with their knowledge that we understand how we fit into the world.

Every grandmother and grandfather are sacred in many special ways. It is because of this that we will always respect our elders.

Hau, Mitaku Oyasin.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sustainable Giving

There has been a lot of talk in the news about sustainability in energy, in business, and more as we have seen difficult times, and as we are faced with rebuilding our nation. It raises the question about sustainability in charitable giving.

When people give money for an unsustainable cause, that money will be spent, and after it is, the need will still exist. Although the cause may be a worthy one, such as providing money for children for Christmas gifts, or a meal in a homeless shelter, your gift has done nothing to eradicate that need.

The American Indian College Fund is an example of a sustainable charity. When you give to an organization like the Fund, you are helping to solve a problem: economic development in Indian country and the betterment of Indian people's lives. Once our scholarship recipients graduate, they go on to help people in their community, while serving as role models for other Indian people to pursue a higher education. As more American Indian people return to their communities with professional jobs, they raise the standard of living there--by providing better education as teachers, better health care as doctors and nurses, and by providing better job opportunities when they create entrepreneurial businesses on the reservation.

Like energy, businesses, and our financial institutions, we want our charities to be sustainable. The American Indian College Fund is a great example of a sustainable charity that is helping to change the face of Indian Country. Thank you for your support in educating our people.

In a good way,
Rick Williams

Monday, December 1, 2008

Heading into the Holiday Season

As we head into the holiday season, I would like to issue a challenge: the best gift of all is to pay it forward. If someone helped you to get an education or encouraged you while you were a student, why not take the time to do the same for someone else?

One of our programs at the Fund allows you to not only give the gift of an education to an American Indian student, but also serve as a mentor through regular contact. Your words of encouragement and advice can inspire a student to stay in school, and may make the difference between just graduating and truly excelling.

To find out more about how you can expand your family by supporting an American Indian scholar, contact Eileen Egan at eegan@collegefund.org

I can think of no better gift this season than the gift of an education, while getting the opportunity to develop a relationship with an American Indian student, learning about another culture in the process.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Giving Thanks

As we celebrate everything that we have to be thankful for, I want to thank each and every one of you for your enduring support over the years. If not for our students, our tribal colleges, our teachers and tribal college presidents, and our supporters, American Indian education would not be where it is today.

Thank you one and all and have a blessed Thanksgiving.

In a good way,
Rick Williams

Monday, November 17, 2008

National Indian Heritage Month

November is National Indian Heritage Month, and city, state, and private events are being held across the nation to mark the occasion.

As we celebrate our heritage, let's also celebrate our endurance as a people. We have achieved so much, and that is largely due to education that celebrates and reinforces our culture.

According to The Institute for Higher Education Policy, educational attainment correlates with economic prosperity. A person who has earned a bachelor’s degree or higher earns almost four times as much as a person who did not graduate from high school, and more than twice as much as a person who holds a high school diploma; this is true for American Indians and the U.S. population in general.

It isn't about the money, of course. Education is about bettering oneself and one's people, bringing them along so that we all as a people can enjoy greater standards of living, greater educational attainment, lower numbers of poverty, lower incidences of disease, and more fulfilled lives as Indian people.

As Sherman Alexie said during a keynote address at the National Indian Education Association meeting in Seattle, he was often asked by people on his reservation after he left to go to school, "Do you think you are better than us?" Alexie replied, "No, we're all better than this."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Veteran's Day

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day. Our Native peoples have a long history of fighting for our country. Per capita more American Indians enter the armed forces than any other group. I would like to take this time to personally thank our brave American Indian men and women for their service and sacrifice to our nation.

In A Good Way,
Rick Williams

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can!

With the historic victory of President-elect Barack Obama, we learned an important lesson last night. Regardless of your political affiliation, the important lesson is that we as a people can do anything we put our minds to. America is the land of opportunity.

Historically Indian people have been the most impoverished in the nation. Yet with an education, like Obama, who was raised by a single mother, one can achieve anything. It takes hard work, persistence, and faith in oneself and the future.

I believe in each and every one of our students and their ability to achieve their education goals and to build a better life for themselves and their people. I believe in the hopes and dreams of people in Indian Country and the ability of those hopes and dreams to transform Indian Country to a vibrant place where our traditions and our people will see a new dawn. I believe in the dignity and ability of each and every person in Indian Country to take control of their lives and to live the life they were destined to live.

It's time now for us to work together for the good of our country and Indian Country. Education will transform our nations and our people. Yes, you can!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Watch for Our New PSA Campaign

We've been busy at the Fund, readying for the Flame of Hope Gala a week from today in New York City, taking in corporate and individual donations that are coming in the door, and preparing for the launch of our new Public Service Announcement campaign designed by our advertising supporter, Wieden+Kennedy.

As you may know, Wieden+Kennedy designed our previous ads, and is known for its outstanding work over the years with Nike. Wieden+Kennedy was also awarded the best ad agency in the world award last year. We think you are going to be wowed by the work they have done to capture how tribal colleges are cultivating and harnessing traditional knowledge to solve modern societal problems.

We'll be unveiling the work at the Glame of Hope Gala next week and the excitement around here is palpable. Watch our web site for the new PSA, as well as your favorite magazines. We will also be unveiling lots of grassroots ideas about how you can help us spread the word about this new campaign.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

There's Still Time to Join Us in New York!

American Indian families have the lowest incomes in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. American Indian students often must choose between attending college or putting food on the table. In tight economic times, students rely even more heavily on scholarship support.

The American Indian College Fund raises monies for much-needed scholarships in Indian Country through its gala, providing support for deserving students attending the nation’s 32 tribal colleges and universities.

We hope you will join us October 29 at Gotham Hall at 6 p.m. Special entertainment will be provided by the Red Hawk Dance Troupe and headliner Jakob Dylan.

Contact Lucia Novara for information at lnovara@collegefund.org or 303-430-5323. If you are unable to attend, your donation is always welcome.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Join Us Oct. 29 for the Flame of Hope Gala!

We hope you will join us at the Fund to celebrate 40 years of tribal colleges at the 13th annual 2008 American Indian College Fund Flame of Hope Gala. This event will take place at Gotham Hall in New York City on Wednesday, October 29 at 6 p.m. The event will raise funds for student scholarships and honor a longtime supporter.

Guests will be treated to special entertainment by singer Jakob Dylan and Native dance by The Red Hawk Dance Troupe. CBS Correspondent Hattie Kauffman will be the evening’s Mistress of Ceremonies.

We will also honor our special friends at Pendleton Woolen Mills, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, for their longtime support of the Fund.

We hope to see you in New York! To purchase a table or if you are interested in sponsorship opportunities, please contact Lucia Novara at lnovara@collegefund.org or 303-430-5323.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Financial Mess

It's been a crazy week, and it's only Tuesday. With the announcement of Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers' insolvencies, the financial markets have gone haywire. And now the threat of the international insurer A.I.G.'s demise may cause world markets to destablize.

It's hard for people to consider giving money to charity in times like these, and even harder for organizations like the Fund to meet its funding goals, but we have a firm responsibility to American Indian students.

You see, the reality is that if times are uncertain for you, imagine what it must be like for American Indian students, 95% of which rely on funding for an education. For you, the choice between giving and not giving might be the choice between purchasing a wide-screen television or giving $1000 to the Fund. But that choice becomes life or death to a student.

A college scholarship is a lifeline to someone who can't afford to go to college and can't afford to leave a reservation, where employment can reach as much as 80%. I don't say that lightly, because an education or new skill can open the door to a new job, feeding a family, and impacting many people. A gift to the American Indian College Fund is doubly beneficial, because even in crazy times, you can still take a tax deduction on your gift--saving you money, too.

We appreciate your past support to American Indian education, and I hope we at the Fund, our students, and our tribal colleges can count on your continued support.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

In Montana

I am writing from Montana, where I am with several friends of the Fund on a Journey for the Mind and Spirit. These journeys take our supporters to Indian country, where they visit American Indian communities and see first-hand the sacred work that the tribal colleges are performing.

They are creating miracles. Graduates leave with self confidence and new skills. They are creating new jobs in their communities, or filling jobs that once were filled by non-Indians. Tribal colleges are providing hope to Indian people.

I always come away from Indian country energized and with a renewed sense of purpose. I know that our friends will leave dedicated to the cause of Indian education.

We are thinking about customizing our visits to Indian country to reflect the interests of our supporters. Drop me a line by posting a comment and let me know the places in Indian country that you would like to see and the tribal college programs you would be interested in learning more about.

In a good way,
RW

Friday, September 5, 2008

Welcome back, students!

Labor Day weekend is officially over, and with it, summer has ended. That means one thing in the world of tribal colleges: back-to-school time!

Whether you are a new student this year or returning to complete your education after a hiatus or are headed towards the final stretch to earning your degree, I want to personally congratulate you for the strength and wisdom it took to enroll in college. Your education will be a constant companion with you throughout your life. You may lose your job, material possessions, or even struggle with illness. But once you have an education, no one can ever take that away from you. It will inform who you are, how you view the world, and how you walk upon this earth. It will impact your children, your extended family, and your partner.

You have embarked on a great personal and community journey. By choosing a higher education, you reflect well upon yourself and your people. Congratulations and good luck. Study hard, ask the hard questions, and never doubt yourself or give up and you will succeed on your journey!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tribal College President to Speak at Democratic National Convention Today

United Tribes Technical College President Dr. David M. Gipp has been invited to address the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

Dr. Gipp will speak to convention delegates assembled in the 20,000 seat Pepsi Center today between 3 and 3:30 p.m. MDT. His will be one in a series of talks by so-called ‘real people’ who have been asked to offer ideas on the theme of “Renewing America’s Promise.”

Dr. Gipp will focus on renewing the country’s promise for American Indians, who are largely invisible in the national consciousness.

“I consider it an honor to be selected,” said Gipp. “It’s uncommon to have access to this kind of audience for expressing a tribal viewpoint. It says something about change in America.”

Dr. Gipp is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Tribe. He has been the leader of United Tribes Technical College since 1977.

Part of his talk will focus on the role of tribal higher education in the process of rebuilding tribal nations.

Dr. Gipp’s invitation to speak came at the recommendation of Senator Barack Obama. He was notified in a letter from Howard Dean of the Democratic National Convention Committee.

We are honored to have Dr. Gipp speak at this presitgious event about the important issue of tribal college education!

Monday, August 18, 2008

An Obligation to End High-School Drop-Outs

Gail Torreano, president of AT&T Michigan, recently wrote in the Detroit Free Press about the nation's drop-out problem, especially among African American, Hispanic, and American Indian students.

"Dropping out is not a victimless choice affecting just the person who decides to leave school," she says. "That choice impacts each and every one of us. Studies have shown that students who are unprepared to enter college cost the economy $3.7 billion annually in lost earnings and remedial education."

AT&T has partnered with the United Way to create a four-year, $100 million program focused on high school retention and workplace readiness. The reason? Statistics show that high school drop-outs are more likely to be jobless, poor, have health problems, or be incarcerated.

Similar partnerships are necessary in Indian Country between corporations, the tribal colleges, and schools. But the task needs to begin before high school, starting as early as elementary school. Children need to see that college is an option, and internalize the idea that they can succeed. It's our job to start this dialog, for the seven generations.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On Being An Indian

Last week I had the great pleasure of speaking at the Association of American Indian Physicians. What a wonderful group of Indian people. The whole conference was covered with a cloud of intellectualism. The students were delightful and their enthusiasm brought great joy to my heart. I shared an old Cheyenne story about always seeking to improve oneself. I am not sure any in the audience needed the advice. I was in awe as I asked several questions:

How many of you have been described as overachievers?
How many of you are competitive?
How many of you can't stop thinking?

After each question nearly everyone in the audience raised their hand.

My next question stumped them. I asked how many have a photographic memory? How have been tested to see if they have a photographic memory? Not many raised their hands. I went on to say that I expected that most of them did have photographic memories and probably never realized it. Indian people by genetic nature have a high propensity for photographic memories.

Think about survival in a land that had constant dangers and the acute memory needed to transverse the land avoiding danger or looking for game. This highly intense focus over thousands of years led to an advanced cognitive process that required photographic memories. Our ancestors excelled at total recall, remembering the smallest details and quickly recognizing even the slightest change in a very complex environment. As the survivors this became a highly developed genetic trait that has been passed on to us. It is part of our natural Indian intellect.

After I finished many of the students came up to me and said that they indeed had a photographic memory but never realized it until I had pointed it out. I felt good because I helped them realize that they were special, and I hope that someday when I am in their care and need their brilliance, they will remember me.

I had another conversation with a young man who was a very successful surgeon. He felt that the field of medicine and rigors of medical school had brainwashed him. Perhaps in this process he was diminished as an Indian person. I shared with him the story of corn. A single kernel of corn, when planted and under the right conditions, will grow into a plant that has leaves, a stalk, an ear, tassels, and even corn pollen. That single kernel will always be corn, no matter where it is planted. I told him that he will always be an Indian just like the corn will always be corn. It is in his genetic makeup and no amount of schooling can change the gift of his ancestors. He smiled and I know he was comforted by what I shared.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Heading into the Future

The American Indian College Fund board of directors spent Friday of last week brainstorming and planning for the organization's five-year strategic plan.

As the economic landscape is changing, the Fund needs to change as well. Although it is important not to be too reactive, swinging the organizational philosophy to meet the economic climate which may change, it is also important to set a course for growth that is attainable and mission-driven.

We are all thrilled and excited as we embark on our journey for the next five years to continue our mission of raising funds to support American Indian students who are setting their sights on earning a college degree so that they can lead their communities, while setting goals that will enable us to increase our support in a myriad of ways.

Stay tuned as the board rolls out its vision and strategy. In the meantime, I am traveling this week, meeting tribal college presidents and continuing to carry on this sacred work that the creator has provided to me.

In a good way,
Rick

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hard at Work on a New Video

Today we are hard at work, filming a new video, bringing information to our donors about the mission of the American Indian College Fund. We are also working to put the finishing touches on maps of Indian country and our tribal colleges to our donors, which also features several of our students and their stories.

Look for this information in your mailbox later this year!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Things to Remember on Independence Day

American Indians are citizens of not only the United States, but our own nations, as well as citizens of the world. Our warriors have fought hard and strong for the United States in its many wars, and we are proud of that, and we are equally proud of our own nations and our Indian heritage.

All peoples are inter-dependent with other humans, animals, and the earth itself. As the Lakota say, "We are all related." We all share both pride and a stake in the future of our nations and our earth for the sake of future generations.

Have a wonderful Independence Day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rising Fuel Costs Will Affect American Indian Education

As gas prices soar to over $4 a gallon, the costs are affecting everyone. But no one is hit harder than the nation's poorest: American Indians. With 85% unemployment on many reservations and American Indians ranking as the poorest Americans in the U.S. Census Bureau survey, they are already at an economic disadvantage. But American Indians have another disadvantage: many live in remote rural locations, and traveling to school requires that they drive long distances to attend classes. As a result, an education that was once out of reach for many is even more so.

This is why supporting the American Indian College Fund is more important than ever. As prices soar, many talented and bright American Indian students will be forced to make the choice between an education and daily necessities. But with your support, these leaders of tomorrow will have the chance to continue their education and see their dreams realized.

I'd like to thank you for your support in the past and your continued support in the future.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Graduation Time

This time of year is a time of celebration. Families across Indian Country are gathering to celebrate the accomplishments of their loved ones in graduation ceremonies at tribal colleges. Learning has become a lifelong vocation for many people in Indian Country, a way to give back to the community and other generations. People like Jacob Holiday, a Navajo man from Kayenta, earned a master's degree through the Center for Dine Education, which is a partnership between Dine College and Arizona State University. He will continue his work in education, and hopes to serve as a role model for Navajo youth.

Jacob isn't alone. Students across the country are earning associates degrees, bachelors degrees, masters degrees, doctorate degrees, and certificates. These accomplishments are the result of hard work and personal and family sacrifice. So please join me in congratulating Jacob and all of our American Indian graduates this spring. Well done! We know you will do great work.

Monday, April 28, 2008

See You in Dallas!

The Fund is hosting a special event in Dallas, Texas to celebrate 40 years of tribal colleges this Thursday, May 1 at the Nasher Sculpture Center. The Fund will also honor the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma by repatriating $25,000 worth of historical artifacts it received from a private donor. Two of the Fund's board members, Steve Denson of the Edwin L. Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University and Chuck Hensley of Williams Financial Group, are co-hosting the event.

I am delighted to be celebrating how tribal colleges are transforming Indian Country through education. In addition, it is a great honor to be a part of preserving the Choctaw nation of Oklahoma culture and tradition by returning historical documents and other national artifacts, which the Fund received as a gift from one of its supporters.

All proceeds from the event will benefit scholarships for American Indian students. I hope to see you all there!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Vote for The Fund in the National Geographic Geotourism Challenge

The American Indian College Fund has entered its Journeys for the Mind and Spirit in the National Geographic Geotourism Challenge. See how we are helping to increase sustainability in Indian Country trough our tours and vote for our program online at The Geotourism Challenge--www.changemakers.net/en-us/node/7713

Twelve finalists will be chosen based on the innovation, social impact and sustainability of their programs, and will present their programs at The Geotourism Challenge Summit this fall. Three winners will be chosen by online voting and will receive $5,000 each.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Help Honor the Code Talkers!!

Language peservation is an important part of tribal college curriculum. But did you know that native languages have helped keep Amercica free?

Native American language used as code was made famous by the Navajos in WWII. Ironically, these men voluntarily served this country and used their language to help win the war six years before the Native American Citizenship Act. It is also ironic that at the same time the Choctaw language was being used to benefit the war effort, Native languages were being banned in government schools.

Help is needed to recognize the original Native American Code Talkers. The Assistant Chief of the Choctaw nation is working with members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives to pass a bill that will make it possible to issue medals for service as a Code Talker. Congressman Dan Boren has introduced HB 4544, which currently has 95 co-sponsors. 289 co-sponsors are needed, and many Congressional representatives need to hear from their constituents before they will agree to sign on.

The Navajos' service was recognized with medals in 2000. However, members of other Native American tribes also used their languages as unbreakable top-secret codes in WWI and WWII. Choctaws were the first to use their Native language as "code" to transmit messages on the field.

All of the Choctaw Code Talkers are now deceased. Only a few of their children remain. Recognition of these men is needed now. HB 4544 and S 2681 would allow a gold medal to be presented to each tribe, with a silver duplicate medal presented to individual Code Talkers or their families. Bronze medals will be sold by the United States Mint, and all costs will come from the revolving fund for such activities of the Treasury, with no appropriations necessary.

Please contact your representatives and ask them to support these bills as a co-sponsor.

For help with maps on who your Congressman or Senator is, go to http://nationalatlas.gov

Contact your Congressman with direct e-mail, phone numbers or addresses, which are
available at www.house.gov

Contact your state's Senators with direct e-mail, phone numbers or addresses, which are available at www.senate.gov

It is recommended that e-mail or phone calls be the contact method.

Monday, April 14, 2008

We Are the Number One Indian Education Charity in American

Last week we spent close to three days in brainstorming sessions with a direct mail team to strategize for new direct mail concepts to educate the public about our organization, our mission, and our students. As part of that session, we had the opportunity to hear the results of an extensive phone survey that we commissioned on behalf of the Fund to learn more about our constituents' perceptions of us.

We learned that in your eyes, and those of our other supporters, we are the number one Indian education charity in America. And for that, we thank you. It is because of your support and your commitment in our endeavors that we are there. You believe in the opportunity for Indian people to better their lives through education.

You believe in the transformative power of education to lift people out of poverty.

And you believe in how education has a ricochet effect, impacting others in a student's family, community, reservation, and state.

Graduation is just around the corner, and a new group of students will be leaving college to begin new careers, or to move forward professionally in their current ones. Thanks to your beliefs in the power of a tribal college education, this new group of graduates will be embracing a promising future.

Thank you for your past, present, and future support, and thank you for making us the number one Indian education charity in America today. We are humbled by your trust, and our commitment is stronger than ever to continue our mission and calling--in a good way.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Education Renews

I just returned from the AIHEC student conference in Bismarck, North Dakota, where I had the opportunity to meet with many of our students from all across Indian country. It is a busy, noisy, and fun time, as old friends meet again, new friendships are formed, and students compete in one-act play competitions, Knowledge Bowl, and traditional hand games. Students also display their scientific research, and compete in an art competition.

It is always a wonderful experience to meet with students and learn about their lives, their challenges, and their determination to improve their lives and communities through education. At the conference students continually approach the Fund staff and tell us, "I wouldn't be here without your support." I am humbled by this as I am reminded that we are doing sacred work.

It is my wish that every student in Indian country who wants an education can have this opportunity. There is nothing like seeing the excitement in a mother's face as she told us she has completed her associate's degree and has earned a 4.0, and has inspired her young adult daughter to pursue and education as well. The desire for an education in Indian country is becoming contagious--in a good way! As families see what is possible with an education, they are catching the excitement and pursuing their educations as well. And there is nothing like witnessing the glow of someone who has realized their own potential.

At the AIHEC student conference, I was reminded that like spring, education renews the spirit, and enables the passage to the full growth of human potential.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

AIHEC Founder Visits Fund

Today at the Fund we had a real treat. John Emhoolah Jr. (Kiowa), one of the founding members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), paid a visit to the Fund to discuss the roots of the tribal college movement.

In addition to the wonderful stories Mr. Emhoolah shared, it was humbling to be in his presence and hear of the passion he still carries for our students, for Indian self-determination, and for the continuation of American Indian culture. Emhoolah was instrumental in the passage of the Tribally Controlled Community College Assistance Act of 1978, signed by President Jimmy Carter. This legislation provides funding for AIHEC tribal colleges.

In the great spirit of the warrior, Mr. Emhoolah is both a role model to us here at the Fund, and embodies our values. We have big shoes to fill!

Monday, March 3, 2008

In Memoriam

To honor the father of Rick Williams

Joel Calvin Williams, Jr.
Born: December 30, 1930
Died: February 26, 2008

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leaping Forward

February 29 is leap year. I'd like to recognize the signifiant leaps forward that the Indian community has made on its behalf in the past 40 years upon the founding of the first tribal college, which for the first time put American Indians in charge of their own education.

Indian people now see the value of a higher education thanks to education reforms that value their unique heritage; provide Indian role models; and offer a place near home to acquire professional skills. Tribal college enrollment figures speak for themselves: enrollment at tribal colleges grew by 32% from 1997-2002, compared to 16% enrollment growth in higher education overall, according to AIHEC. Over the past 25 years, the number of associate’s to master’s degrees conferred to Native students doubled.

There is still a lot of work to be done. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2000 11% of American Indian/Alaska Natives received a bachelor’s degree versus 31% for the total U.S. population. But in the past 20 years, the number of American Indian tenth graders who expect to complete a college degree has more than doubled to 76 percent.

This year, on leap year, I urge all American Indians to commit to making another leap forward for progress. My personal goal is for all American Indians who want an education and a better future to commit to achieving that goal; and for the American Indian College Fund and other organizations to see to it that everyone who wants an education can attain it. As more people pursue, and get, an education, we will see Indian country transformed, in leaps and bounds.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Need for a U.S. Apology

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered a public apology to the Aboriginal people of that nation last week. He told the Parliament there, “The Parliament is today here assembled to deal with this unfinished business of the nation, to remove a great stain from the nation’s soul, and in a true spirit of reconciliation to open a new chapter in the history of this great land, Australia.”

It is time that America apologizes to its treatment of American Indians as well.

What would come of this? Reconciliation and healing.

Bill Bradley, the former U.S. senator from New Jersey, summed it up as follows, in his memoir Time Present, Time Past. "I know that an American living now is not responsible for wrongs committed more than one hundred years ago, but the nation itself is responsible. When governments commit crimes, they must make amends to those who are the victims of crimes. If they fail to do so, they live with guilt. Confronting the dark pages of our history is essential to getting beyond them. Americans cannot naively espouse ideals that our own historic actions refute. Failure to come to terms with having broken treaties and destroyed hundreds of thousands of people undermines our moral authority. How liberating it would be to escape the hypocrisy and become a society that lives by its professed ideals! Making amends does not ensure future adherence to ideals or remove the knowledge of past wrongs--America will always live with that knowledge--but it would allow America to have a fresh start."

Germany's apology for crimes committed against the Jews allowed the country to move beyond the sins of its past to forge a new future. Turkey's refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide has left it mired in controversy, unable to more forward without significant obstacles into full acceptance into the EU, whether or not it earns official recognition. The ghosts of our pasts will continue to haunt us, like Turkey, if we do not put them to rest. In religion, to be reborn, one has to ask for forgiveness. In our human relationships as in our spiritual relations, there can be no resolution, no reconciliation, without apology. That is why I stand behind the United States' need to offer an official apology for its policies of the past that, like Australia's treatment of aboriginal people, in the words of Prime Minister Rudd, are "a great stain on the nation's soul."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Follow Your Heart

It may seem like the tried and true thing to write about as we approach Valentine's Day, but the advice is as true today as it is any other time of the year: when it comes to the future, we must follow our hearts.

Many American Indian students' hearts are at home, where their families are, where their history is, and where they envision their future. Often in my travels on behalf of the American Indian College Fund, non-Natives ask me why our people want to stay on the rez. They believe "assimilating" is the most productive way to be part of society.

But the reality is that Indian country is home for many of our students. It is difficult to leave home, and indeed, not just financially. Our connection to the past is at home, and our connection to our people, and our connection to our future.

The beauty of attending a tribal college is that students don't have to leave their culture or their homes to get a first-rate education. They can attend a tribal college on or near the reservation, while attending to the needs of their families, and remaining home. And best of all, tribal college graduates can remain home putting their education to use, and making a difference in the future of their families, their communities, and their people. Without educated future leaders, staying home on the rez will be difficult. Thanks to the education that a tribal college education can provide us in Indian country, our homes are our futures.

Tribal colleges are proving that not only home, but our future, is where the heart is.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Perseverance

The New York Giants' win in Sunday's Super Bowl was a lesson to people in any vocation of what it means to persevere.

Obstacles may seen insurmountable to us as we journey through our day-to-day lives. And for some of our students who face issues every day, these obstacles may seem bigger than those that non-American Indians face.

For example, some of our students are forced to hitch-hike to class because they cannot afford to repair a car. Or a single mother is faced with choosing to pay for formula for her child or a semester's tuition. Elderly parents may need help buying maintenance medications. And so on.

But like the New York Giants, if we deal with our obstacles one at a time, with the support of a strong team, we will persevere.

Our students are like the Giants' receivers, and the obstacles in their lives are equivalent to those of the defense of the Patriots. Every member of the team assisting those students: from the professors, counselors, financial aid advisers, and others at the tribal colleges, along with donors and the American Indian College Fund, comprise a team that our students can rely upon.

Like a football team, we all succeed when our students win, overcoming the obstacles on the field. It takes every single team maker to mold a champion, but we know all along the truth: our students were champions before they stepped onto the field. It is their perseverance that makes them champions. And we are proud of each and every one of you.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Welcome Ilisagvik College!

It was 27 below zero degrees Fahrenheit in Barrow, Alaska, and there were five hours of sun yesterday. But don't let the winter weather fool you into thinking that nothing much is going on in Barrow! Ilisagvik College is the newest tribal college in the consortium. Ilisagvik College has been around for quite some time, but only recently joined AIHEC. They will receive scholarships in the fall and are eligible for Lilly funds and Mellon opportunities. Welcome to our Alaskan Native friends!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Celebrating Our Diverse Heritage

Today marks the national observation of Martin Luther King Day. The American Indian College Fund is closed to observe the life of this great leader, but I wanted to write to commemorate not just the life of King, but the life of all great leaders, including our American Indian leaders, who have worked hard to ensure that all Americans have the right to share in the American dream.

The Civil Rights movement gave rise to a new generation of people believing that they had the right to achieve their dreams, and that they could. Those beliefs gave way to reality. Our tribal college movement was born in that time, in 1968, at Dine College in Tsaile, Arizona.

King was tireless in his work to propel his people forward, and to propel all people of color forward. I honor him today, as well as those others that were not so well-known, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes on behalf of their people to create a better future for them through better education, better health care, and better opportunities for civic engagement.

Thank you, Dr. King, and thank you, all of you leaders, past and present, who continue in the spirit of our great leaders and Dr. King.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Reflections on Change

In today's world an education is necessary more than ever. The economy is global, competition for jobs comes from outside our country's borders, and nothing is certain. The same is true in Indian country.

For our people to survive and flourish, we need to educate our next generation of leaders. Our people need to be educated not just in traditional subjects, but also Indian leadership, Indian traditions, our languages, and more.

But an education is not enough. Indian people know that we also need a good heart, dedication to making decisions that are the right ones for our people, and the support and encouragement of those people to lead the way.

Tribal colleges are the proving grounds of both an education and training and education in the Indian way. Students can test themselves academically, socially, and spiritually at a tribal college.

The American Indian College Fund has researched the financial needs of our students and has determined that there is $50 million in unmet need at our tribal colleges. To ensure that our people have the skills and education they need to meet the changes of the future, we have committed to raising more funding to be able to double the amount of scholarships that we award to our students.

The Fund is committed to facilitating education for our people in these changing times.

I encourage anyone thinking of an education to pursue that goal. Our leaders knew the importance of education and training, and although the forum is different today, tribal colleges are the institutions that enable students to get a first-rate education, the Indian way.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Resolving to Make A Difference

If you resolved to make a difference in the world around you, to help others to achieve their education goals and succeed, then the American Indian College Fund is an organization suited to your giving style.

The American Indian College Fund is the oldest nonprofit in the country dedicated to providing scholarship assistance to American Indian students and assisting the country's more than 30 tribal colleges.

And if you are an American Indian thinking of entering college this year, and would like to continue your education this year, then I urge you to apply for a scholarship with the American Indian College Fund.

Whether you are a donor or a student, your dedication to education--either your education or someone else's--is making a difference in Indian country.
 
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