Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

As we head into 2010, we at the American Indian College Fund would like to thank you for your support over the past 12 months and your commitment to creating new beginnings for American Indian in the new year ahead.

Make an impact in 2009 and close your year with a tax-deductible gift of education.

Donations you make to the American Indian College Fund are tax-deductible for this year through midnight Dec. 31st.

Your commitment to end poverty through education is even more important in tough economic times. Through the American Indian College Fund, you are creating hope for American Indian people for a better life for individuals, families, and entire communities.

As Dominic Clichee (Navajo), a sophomore business administration and finance major and honor student at Haskell Indian Nations University, has said, “Without scholarships, there was no way I could afford to go to college... I have taken the lessons learned from the obstacles and applied them to life. Hard work has helped get me to where I am at, and hard work is going to help me in the future…I want to give back to the community where I grew up… With the hard work learned from my past and the assistance from this scholarship, I will be able to accomplish all my educational and career goals. Then maybe one day, I’ll be sponsoring a scholarship through your program.”

Let’s ring in 2010 by closing out 2009 with a rallying show of support and commitment to American Indian students to end poverty through education.

Ocankuye Wasté Yelo (In a good way),

Richard B. Williams

Monday, December 21, 2009

Donate by 12/31/09 for Your Tax Deduction!

It's not too late! You can still make a tax-deductible gift to the American Indian College Fund by 12/31/09. The Fund is helping change lives, one person at a time, in Indian Country by helping students achieve a college education.

Help people like Dominic Clichee (Navajo), a star basketball player and straight A student, stay in school and earn a degree so that he can return to his community and work as a hospital administrator.

Thank you for your continued support of American Indian students!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cobell Settlement A Dream Come True

The U.S. government has settled a long-running lawsuit over royalties owed to American Indians. The Interior Department will distribute $1.4 billion to more than 300,000 tribe members to compensate them for historical accounting claims, and to resolve future claims. The department also will spend $2 billion to buy back and consolidate tribal land lost by previous generations. The program will allow individual tribe members to obtain cash payments for divided land interests and free up the land for the benefit of tribal communities.

Finally, the department will set aside $60 million in a Fund for American Indians wishing to pursue post-secondary vocational education or a higher education.

At the Fund, we could not be more thrilled. This means a chance for many more American Indian people to earn a higher education and brings hope for them for a better future.

To read details of the settlement visit Cobell v. Salazar.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Need a Holiday Gift Idea?

It's always hard to find the perfect gift for someone who has everything.

One donor shared that instead of purchasing another gift for her mother, a retired registered nurse, who claimed she didn't need any more "stuff," she decided to donate money for a nursing scholarship to the American Indian College Fund in her mother's name.

She recounts that at first her mother protested when she was handed a package to open, stressing that she had asked for no gifts. But when she opened the box to find a certificate announcing the gift in her name, she was speechless and tears welled up in her eyes.

This holiday season, consider a gift that gives twice-give to the American Indian College Fund! For details, contact us at 800-776-3863.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Native Heritage Month

November is Native Heritage Month. Thanksgiving is often referred to as a time when Indian people came together with the Pilgrims, however, it was commonplace among Indian nations and communities before the Pilgrims arrived. It is possible that the Pilgrims’ celebration coincided with an Indian second harvest known as “Indian Summer,” which usually occurs during a period of warmth after a frost. A thanksgiving ceremony usually followed.

The first Thanksgiving was a difficult time for Indian communities. Many nations were grappling with the devastation caused by diseases such as smallpox, and many were already extinct.

The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving celebration is a part of everyday lore in America. Schoolchildren learn the story of Squanto, a Patuxet brave who helped the sick and starving Pilgrims survive their first harsh New England winter. But few Americans know the details of Squanto’s sad life.

In 1605, a young Patuxet boy named Tisquantum, later known as Squanto, was hunting when he spotted an English merchant ship anchored off of the coast of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Squanto’s life would be changed forever.

Captain George Weymouth invited Squanto and four other tribesmen aboard. The boys were chained and taken to England to allow Weymouth’s financial backers to meet some Indians. Squanto was forced to live with Sir Ferdinand Gorges, owner of the Plymouth Company. Gorges taught Squanto to speak English to communicate and negotiate trade deals for the English.

In 1614 Squanto returned to America to assist in mapping the New England coast, but in a twist of fate, Squanto was kidnapped again, along with 27 others. They were taken to Spain and sold as slaves. Local priests freed the young Indians and baptized them. Squanto found his way back to England and bargained for his passage home, where he returned in 1618.

At home, Squanto was recognized by one of Gorges’ captains, captured a third time and sent back to England. Gorges promised Squanto his freedom in exchange for returning to New England to finish mapping the coast. In 1619 Squanto returned to his village found it deserted. His entire tribe had been wiped out by disease two years earlier.

After gaining his freedom, Squanto moved in with the nearby Wampanoag tribe, ruled by Chief Massasoit. While there, the Pilgrims made their voyage to the coast of Plymouth in November of 1620, and founded a new settlement. Squanto, against the wishes of local tribes, befriended the Pilgrims.

On March 22, 1621, Chief Massasoit sent Squanto to the Pilgrims’ settlement to negotiate a peace treaty between the Wampanoag Confederation of tribes and the Pilgrims. A year and a half later, Squanto succumbed to smallpox during a trading expedition.

Indians didn’t just change history with Squanto’s generosity. Indians have also given through their contributions in horticulture, medicine, and science. It is easy to forget about the gifts the Indians made in the earliest years of our country. There was conflict, but there were also relationships that helped lay our country’s foundations.

My people, the Lakota, believe that we are all related. I hope we remember that all of our fates are intertwined. That is the legacy of the Indian people–one that we can all enjoy. I hope this month you will take time to reflect upon some of the contributions that American Indians have made to this great country.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Thank You for Making Our 2009 Flame of Hope Gala A Success!

You proved neither, rain, nor sleet nor 18 inches of snow could stop you from turning out to celebrate the American Indian College Fund’s 20 years of dedication to American Indian education. Our supporters, students, and tribal college officials turned out to show their commitment to the miracles that tribal colleges are producing all across Indian country. The 20th Anniversary Flame of Hope Gala was a success despite the snowstorm that raged across Colorado October 28.

Thank you for showing your outstanding commitment to ensure the success of American Indians nationwide, the success of tribal colleges, and helping to change lives.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Gearing up to Celebrate 20 Years of Our Mission

This Wednesday marks our 20th anniversary Flame of Hope Gala. We are thrilled to be celebrating our 20 years in a beautiful venue with top-notch entertainment, our supporters, our tribal college leaders, and our students, and hope that our readers will be joining us at the Seward Ballroom of the Colorado Center for the Performing Arts at 6 p.m. on October 28.

But more importantly, I am excited to be marking 20 years of success and educating American Indian students, helping them to achieve their dreams. Thanks to your support, you have made more than 70,000 scholarships possible!

As we celebrate Wednesday night, it isn't about the food, the music, and how long the organization has been around. We are celebrating each and every student's success who has earned a scholarship and worked towards a better future for themselves, their family, and their community, while overcoming huge obstacles.

The American Indian College Fund and those who share its commitment to its mission salute each and every one of our current students and graduates.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Countdown to Our 20th Anniversary Celebration!

It's less than a week away, and we hope to see you there. The Empress of Soul, Ms. Gladys Knight, will be performing, and we will be joined by people from across the nation that support American Indian education.

We hope you will join us to celebrate how far we have come--the American Indian College Fund has provided more than 70,000 scholarships! But we also hope you will join us because we still have a lot to do--more than 25% of American Indians live below the national poverty line, and an education is the proven way to lift entire communities out of poverty.

As we embark on our next 20 years of educating the mind and spirit, we hope you will join us. For ticket and event information, visit our web site.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

20th anniversary Flame of Hope Gala

It's not too late! Tickets are still available for the Fund's 20th anniversary Flame of Hope gala!

It promises to be a special evening with a performance by Gladys Knight, inspirational messages from our tribal college students and presidents, and more!

To get your tickets now, visit

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Guest Blogger: Thinking Indian

My name is Jennifer DeVerney and I work at Herzing University as an Intern and Employer Outreach Specialist with the Career Services Department. I am a proud member of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians located from Manistee, Michigan.

I have worked really hard to get to where I am today, and have been blessed to hold a career in education where I help change people’s lives on a daily basis regardless of their race. To “Think Indian” means so much more than just casinos, feathers, reservations, or pow wows. What “Think Indian” means to me is to know your culture, live it, take part in it, and be grateful and proud of your ancestry. In addition it means to be respectful, friendly, and courteous to your fellow man or woman.

Every day I strive to be the best example I can be to my children, co-workers, friends, family, and to our next generation. Being Native American allows me to hold my head up high and be proud of the many accomplishments of our people as well as my own. It is my identity, who I am, and no one can take that away from me.

Jennifer DeVerney
Internship & Employer Outreach Specialist, Herzing University

Thursday, September 24, 2009

College Fund on the airwaves

American Indian College Fund President and CEO Richard B. Williams and Casey Lozar, Director of Corporate and Tribal Relations, will appear on Colorado and Company on Channel 9, KUSA-TV in Denver on Thursday, September 24, from 10-11 a.m.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

American Indians Are Still Here-Guest Blog

We will be running a series of guest blogs about what it means to “Think Indian” in today’s world. This week we will run the first of our guest blogs. “Thinking Indian” is not just a slogan or idea put out by the American Indian College Fund. “Thinking Indian” is how people in the Native community live their lives and strike the balance between their lives as Indian people and mainstream society in college, in family life, and in the workplace. We welcome your stories and look forward to hearing from you! Please send your submissions, 200 words or less, to

I embrace this opportunity to write about my challenges in mainstream academic institutions. Recently I was walking down the hall in a building on campus when I noticed a big sign over a bulletin board displaying in large letters the word “Diversity.” I stopped for a look.

Upon examination of the board I noticed the board contained a world map, greetings in many languages, and student organizations which represented all but one race. The missing race was American Indians. It made me think for a minute or two about whether or not the termination and assimilation policies of the U.S. federal government had been successful in convincing non-Natives that American Indians are gone. But more likely, it is the case my current academic institution is unaware of American Indians because the state has no federally recognized Indian tribes.

Nevertheless, there are both graduate and undergraduate American Indian student organizations on campus, and the absence of American Indians on this department’s bulletin board is merely a naive mistake; although, often the pedagogy and heuristics of history, government, and politics treat American Indians the same as the aforementioned department bulletin board. I believe it is important as a student to connect with the local Indian community in order to gain the balance necessary for success in big mainstream academic institutions. It has been important to me.

Jason Oberle
2010 Masters in Public Affairs candidate
Read Jason's American Indian Policy Blog

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

20 Years of Support--Thank You!

On Sunday, we were thrilled to meet LA Lakers coach Phil Jackson and support a charity near and dear to his heart. Jackson has been a long-time supporter of the American Indian College Fund, and will be one of our celebrity co-chairs for the Fund's 20th Anniversary Flame of Hope Gala in Denver, Colorado on Wednesday, October 28.

We are thrilled and honored to have the support of people like Phil Jackson and yourself. As you have walked the road with us to support American Indian education, it is the students who benefit from your dedication. Since 1989, we have raised funds for more than 70,000 scholarships for American Indian students. Thank you to all of you for your support!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

20th Anniversary Flame of Hope Gala Oct. 28

Irene Bedard, Benjamin Bratt and L.A. Lakers coach Phil Jackson, celebrity co-chairs of the American Indian College Fund’s 20th anniversary Flame of Hope Gala, would like to invite you to join us for an evening of fun and celebration in Denver, Colorado.

You will be treated to a headlining performance by “The Empress of Soul,” Ms. Gladys Knight, along with Native drum groups and a fine arts auction.
Hattie Kauffman of The Early Show, CBS, will serve as Mistress of Ceremonies. Other program highlights from the evening will include stories of hope and courage from our tribal college students and a first look at the THINK INDIAN television campaign. All proceeds from the evening will provide scholarships to American Indian students and help support the 33 tribal colleges in the United States.

Attire is black-tie or Native dress.

For more information and to buy tickets, go to

Monday, August 10, 2009

Calling All Bloggers!

We are looking for tribal college students, faculty, and staff who want to share their stories about what it means to Think Indian—as commentary posts, guest bloggers.

If you are a student or tribal college faculty or staff member interested in sharing what it means to you to Think Indian, please contact Dina Horwedel at the American Indian College Fund’s public education department at or 303-430-5350.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Native American Journalism Association Celebrates 25 Years

Fund staffers Dina Horwedel and Jonas Greene had the opportunity to present information to the Native American Journalists Association about the Think Indian campaign and how an advertisement can tell a story. As part of the program, they discussed how using social media such as Twitter, blogs, and Facebook can move a story forward.

Journalists are not the only storytellers in Indian Country, however. Indian people have been storytellers since the beginning of time. Telling stories has been the way our people have perpetuated its sacred religions, languages, and histories.

Today we have many new media available to tell our stories. Although the old ways-sitting around a fire and telling a story-are often the most pleasurable, we can use technology to spread our stories to our people, who are scattered around the country, and to non-Natives, to share our stories with those who may not know about our understand the hardships we have endured, and the strength it took to do so.

As we continue our Think Indian campaign at the American Indian College Fund, I would like to invite you to share your stories of Thinking Indian and your personal stories with us. Join us at American Indian College Fund groups, pages, and causes on Facebook. Check out our channel on Youtube and our blog on myspace. You can also follow us on Twitter at collegefund or start a dialogue by posting your comments to this blog.

This is just the beginning. We will also be launching a new blog soon, featuring guest speakers--hopefully you! We want to hear YOUR story, whether you are a donor, a tribal college student, a hopeful student, retired teacher, board member, corporate partner, or tribal college president. After all, it is all of our stories that tell what it means to be part of the tribal college movement, helping American Indian people complete a college education.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Challenges of First-Generation American Indian Students

According to the Pell Institute, only 11% of first-generation students earn a degree within six years. There are many reasons for this. First-generation students are less prepared than their counterparts, they did not get help choosing a college that is a good fit for them, their families often discourage them from getting a higher education, and being unfamiliar with college culture, rather than immersing themselves in it, they withdraw.

For American Indian college students, many of whom are first-generation students, this problem is compounded when they attend college off the reservation or outside of their culture. Not only are they unfamiliar with the academic demands of college, but they are also unfamiliar with their culture. This is why so many American Indian students drop out of mainstream colleges if they have not been prepared to succeed at a tribal college.

The 33 tribal colleges and universities across the country are uniquely positioned to help American Indian students succeed academically. They provide small classroom environments, ensuring students get the attention and counseling they need. Students are schooled in their culture and are given the confidence and study and learning skills to accompany that confidence to enable them to finish their education, whether at a tribal college or mainstream institution. While mainstream institutions are developing student housing for first-generation students and other programs to enable them to succeed, tribal colleges have been providing the support and special coursework for at-risk students ahead of the curve.

By supporting tribal colleges, you help ensure that first-generation American Indian students are part of the 11% that graduates, and helping to improve those statistics.

Monday, July 20, 2009


This week the team at the American Indian College Fund embarks on a one-day retreat to recharge and regenerate, learning about leadership principles and applying them in our mission to provide scholarships and access to higher education for all of our students. We will be out of the office all day Wednesday.

As we set out to learn more about how to lead in the arena of fundraising to serve our communities, I would like to invite you to share some of your tried and true tested leadership principles that you employ in your studies, your careers, and your personal lives. These can be Indian leadership principles, mainstream ideas, or even those you have innovated yourself.

I look forward to hearing your ideas on leadership!

In a good way,

Monday, July 6, 2009

Education is independence

After Independence Day, one thing strikes me: if American Indians are ever going to be free of poverty and being treated as second-class citizens, education is vital.

Education does not just mean the basics: the math, the science, the language and reading skills: education also means being educated in the Indian way. Learning our native languages. Learning our traditions and ways as Indian people, and preserving them.

Why is this important to our independence? Because we were then, as we are now, strong and independent people. And to appreciate that strength and independence, we need to continue to cultivate our strengths as Indian people, preserving our languages and teaching them and our ways to our children, rather than subverting them to a dominant culture. Just as other groups celebrate their heritage while achieving great things as the part of this great democracy, so should we as American Indians. Education is the key to that freedom: freedom from poverty, and the freedom to define who we are as a people.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Politics of Ignorance

Check out my article on the political motives behing ignorance about Native Peoples at Indian Country Today.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Have You Helped A Student Today?

The New York Times ran a story Sunday about an organization that matches alumni and cash-strapped students at Harvard University. The alumni provide loans for students to be able to take tests, finish a semester, and buy books.

For American Indian students attending tribal colleges, however, wealthy alumni are few and far between. Our alumni DO go on to get meaningful jobs in their communities, helping others as teachers, health care providers, and in tribal government. But American Indian students start out poor, and have few people they can rely upon to help them through college. When they graduate, they are in th trenches, helping their communities--but do not have millions of dollars of disposable income to assist others.

That is why the American Indian College Fund provides scholarship money to American Indian students, who are often the poorest in the nation. Scholarship monies enable students to focus on their studies without the worries of having to pay back loans after they graduate. And it helps them get a leg up to get an education so that they can make a future for themselves.

Have you helped an American Indian student today? Even the smallest amount helps our students. Please donate at

Monday, June 8, 2009

American Indian College Fund Meets Colorado Community

The American Indian College Fund welcomed more than 200 business people and community members to the Colorado History Museum Thursday, June 4 to learn more about American Indian college students' needs and the tribal college movement. They saw Native dances, heard Native musicians perform, and enjoyed crafts, a silent auction, and refreshments.

A special thank you to everyone who attended. We look forward to seeing you at our 20th anniversary gala in Denver at the Seawell Ballroom of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts October 28! To reserve your space call Lucia Novara at 303-426-8900.

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Think Indian Television Spot Released

To continue the theme of our Think Indian public service print media announcements, our pro bono advertising partner, Wieden+Kennedy, has graciously donated its time and creative genius to create an animated television spot. The spot celebrates American Indian ways of thinking and how tribal colleges preserve both that and Native cultures.

View it at

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dan Wieden, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Wieden+Kennedy, Presented with CLIO Lifetime Achievement Award

The CLIO Awards are one of the world’s most recognized international advertising and design competitions honoring creative excellence and innovation in the industry. As the president and CEO of the Fund, I was proud to watch as Dan Wieden, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Wieden+Kennedy (W+K), the American Indian College Fund's pro bono ad agency, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award on May 13 during the 50th Anniversary CLIO Awards in Las Vegas.

The CLIO Lifetime Achievement Award is one of the highest, most prestigious honors in the advertising industry and recognizes the outstanding and ongoing contribution of an individual who leads the industry forward.

We at the Fund are delighted that the industry has recognized Dan Wieden’s achievement. We have been honored and humbled to work with him over the years to further the cause of American Indian education. The Fund is one of Wieden+Kennedy’s pro bono clients, and Dan personally works on the campaigns, including the new Think Indian campaign, alongside co-founding partner David Kennedy. Their dedication and vision have led to national recognition of the Fund’s mission to provide college scholarships for American Indian students.

Dan has won several honors, including: Inc. magazine’s “America’s 25 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs”; Time magazine’s “World’s 50 Cyber Elite”; and Advertising Age’s “100 Ad People of the 20th Century.” He is also the founder of Caldera, a nonprofit arts education organization and camp for at-risk youth located in Sisters, Oregon. Dan embodies the American Indian values of creativity, imagination, and giving back to the community. Congratulations, Dan!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why I Work at the American Indian College Fund

Non-Native American Indian College Fund staffer Dina Horwedel, Public Education Director, shares why she is passionate about the Fund's mission.

In Italy there is saying, la dolce vita, which means “the sweet life.” For Italians this means food, friendship, laughter, and love. But in 1900, my Italian great-grandfather, who was 19 years old, stepped on board the Stella Bruz and headed for America in search of the sweet life that had eluded him in Calabria, Italy, which had been his home for his 19 years.

Growing up in poverty, my great-grandfather had never attended school, never learned to read or write in his own language, and labored as a “dirt farmer” in the parched soil of southern Italy. With no future in sight, he set out for America for a better life for himself and his family.
My grandfather migrated west to Ohio after passing through Ellis Island, and settled in Ohio, where he met another Italian, married, and raised a family through the Great Depression.

Although he had a job working as a laborer on the railroad, things were tight with seven children.
Although he never learned to read or write, my grandfather was wise. He used to tell me as a little girl, “Go to school, don’t be a dumba-bell like me!” And so, I did. While in school I learned that I loved telling stories, just like my great-grandpa, but with the gift of an education, I could write those stories down on paper. From an early age I started writing stories, newspaper articles, and books. When I was in third grade a teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I responded, “an author.”

I graduated from high school and became the first person in my family to earn a college degree, and then first person to go on and graduate from law school. To this day I earn my living through my writing. My husband, in a nod to my ancestry and my passion for storytelling, gave me a handcrafted pen from Florence, called La Dolce Vita. Because of my grandfather’s sacrifice in coming to America, I am able to have the sweet life. I often joke that I am “living la dolce vita in the land of Velveeta.”

To my great-grandfather, America was a land of promise and opportunity. He passed on six months shy of 100 years old in 1987. I think my grandfather would have been surprised if not shocked to learn that for the original Americans, America was not a place of opportunity.

Many American Indians live in poverty. According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, nearly 26% percent of all American Indians and Alaska Natives live below the poverty line, contrasted with a national poverty rate of 12.4%. The gap is even larger for people living on reservations with limited economic opportunities, with 51% of the population living below the poverty line. And even though the nation’s poverty rate dropped from 11.8% in 1999 to 11.3 % in 2000 (the lowest in 21 years), American Indian’s and Alaska Native’s poverty rate did not drop.

In addition, the educational opportunities my great-grandfather my great-grandfather urged me to take advantage of are scarce amongst American Indian populations. In 2000, the proportion of people aged 25 and over who had completed high school or more education comprised 11 percent of the American Indian and Alaska Native population.

It isn’t just my great-grandfather that would have been shocked: it wasn’t until law school, when I was studying Indian law, when I learned about the political, social, health, economic, and educational inequities that American Indians have endured for centuries. I think about how lucky I am to have had a wise great-grandfather that wanted a better life for me, and I know the grandmothers and grandfathers of American Indians want and wanted the same, but the circumstances were much different.

That is why I am proud to work for the American Indian College Fund. I am not American Indian, although I am native in that I was born in this country because of my great-grandfather. My personal mission is to have my work help American Indians get a piece of la dolce vita—the sweet life—that education brings and that every person deserves, so that they, too can share and preserve their stories.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Congratulations to 2009 Graduates

A heartfelt congratulations to all of our TCU graduates from all of us at the American Indian College Fund. You have worked hard for this day, and you and your families have reason to be proud. But your journey is just beginning. As you travel your life's path, we wish you happiness, good fortune, and the ability to remember to be true to yourself, your Indian values, and your life's calling.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Portrait of a Desert Tribal College

This past weekend the board of directors of the American Indian College Fund had the opportunity to travel to Sells, Arizona, where we met with students and teachers at Tohono O'oodham Community College (TOCC). We toured the eastern campus and heard presentations by several students, including TOCC's student of the year, Theresa Vavages, also gave a presentation about the challenges she faced as she made the transition from her traditional life in the desert to life as a tribal college student. Raised by a single mother who passed on her love of words and books, Theresa is now getting ready to graduate and go on to the next phase of her life: working for the college.

It is stories like these that remind me of the important work we do at the American Indian College Fund. The Tohono O'odham nation is the second largest in the United States, and includes rugged terrain straddling the U.S.-Mexico border. Without the tribal college's two campuses, students like Theresa might not have the opportunity to attend college. Many students in the Tohono O'odham nation already travel huge distances, many as far as 60 miles one way, to get an education at the tribal college. When so many students do not have the money for a car or gasoline in a place where there is no public trqansportation, committed teachers pick their students up en route to class, and many others car pool--or walk.

Thanks to the American Indian College Fund's scholarships and the college's new distance learning program, many more students like Theresa will be able to achieve their dream of a college education.

Monday, April 6, 2009

How Do You "Think Indian"?

I received a letter over the weekend asking me how "To think Indian is to cure diabetes with sacred food and hoops." The writer said surely "Indian thinking" doesn't believe that Type I Diabetes, where the person has no or little insulin, can be cured with sacred foods and hoops!

Exercise and a good diet are part of every doctor’s recommendation for controlling diabetes. Many people do not know that research is being conducted at Oglala Lakota College on a native medicinal plant that mimics insulin in the body when it is ingested by rats, putting the disease into complete remission. American Indian researchers are using their natural Indian intellect and age-old wisdom to offer solutions to today’s problems.

I would like to take this opportunity for our tribal college communities and students to share ways that they “think Indian” in the classroom, laboratory, and everyday life as we continue to celebrate our native way of thinking. Please feel free to comment on this blog or send us an e-mail at

Monday, March 30, 2009

American Indian Higher Education Consortium Meeting

As always, it is invigorating attending the American Indian Higher Education Consortium meeting. The tribal college presidents, professors, staff members, and students come together from across the country, reaffirming their commitment to American Indian education, tradition, culture, and beliefs, while ensuring that entire communities move forward through higher education.

Students like Stephen Yellowhawk, a Coca Cola schoar and elementary education major, reinforce the reason I love my job so much. Stephen has a family, and is committed to earning his degree so that he can not only offer a better future for his children, but also for his community. It is the hard work and selflessness of people like Stephen that give me great hope for the enduring strength and the possibility the American Indians an achieve their dreams despite the hardships we have faced as a people. I draw strength from the hard work and success of all of you in Indian Country.

Thank you!

Rick Williams

Monday, March 23, 2009

Thank You Denver for Your Turn-Out at the Denver March Powwow

The American Indian College Fund participated at the Denver March Powwow with an information booth and also hosted a pre-Denver march Powwow program for several of its esteemed Denver-area supporters. Guests at the program were treated to a presentation by the American Indian College Fund. My son, a tribal college graduate who is nearing completion of his master's degree from a mainstream institution, also talked about the importance of a higher education for Indian people. Our staff members who compete in the powwow in various dances demonstrated different dance styles and their significance in American Indian culture. Participants also learned about the cultural and sacred significance of the powwow before being escorted to the event by College Fund representatives.

Many students and potential students turned out at the booth to learn more about scholarships. We are thrilled and gratified that so many people in our community are excited about pursuing a higher education. You are the future of Native America!

Monday, March 16, 2009

See You at the Denver March Powwow

For those of our supporters in Colorado and ur friends coming in from across Indian Country, we are looking forward to seeing you at the Denver March Powwow this week at the Denver Coliseum. We will have a booth at the event, where we will be providing information about scholarships, our new Think Indian campaign, and will be selling our products benefiting American Indian education.

See you there March 20-22!

Monday, March 9, 2009

New York Times columnist is "Thinking Indian"

In the Sunday edition of The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman shows how he is "thinking Indian." He postulates that the economic crisis of 2008 may represent something more fundamental than a recession, and perhaps it was the Earth and the market's way of telling our world that we cannot continue with the cycle of consumption that was not sustainable.

Our tribal colleges and universities teach sustainability in everything they do, proving American Indians have long been ahead of the curve. This is what we call "Thinking Indian." As our nation grapples with its problems, American Indians are uniquely situated to lead with finding solutions.

To see Friedman's excellent article, go to

Monday, March 2, 2009

Want to help a child in Indian Country? Educate his parents.

By helping American Indians go to college, the American Indian College Fund (the Fund) not only helps older American Indians, but it is also helping American Indian children.

Consider the facts: the average tribal college student is a 27-year-old single mother of three, and is often the first in her family to attend college. By ensuring that these young mothers attend college, they are assured of greater earning potential, helping them to better support their children and to give them better lives.

Traditionally American Indian people were suspicious of education, and with good reason. U.S. government policy beginning in the early 1900s and continuing on until the middle of the century focused on assimilation. As part of that policy, young children were removed from their families and forced to abandon their languages, religious practices, and culture. Children were often beaten for speaking their Native languages, and many suffered physical and sexual abuse. The education curriculum itself was designed to prepare Indian people for lives as domestic and farm help, and to separate them from their traditions.

Today things have changed, thanks to the establishment of the first-ever tribal college and university in 1968 by the Navajo nation. The Navajo people wanted to establish a college by and for the Navajo people that would educate their people in new technology and other important subjects, while preserving the Navajo language and culture. Today there are 32 accredited tribal colleges and universities across the country serving the more than 200 federally recognized American Indian tribes. As a result of the tribal college movement, American Indians have embraced education, and over the past 25 years the number of associate’s, bachelors, and masters degrees conferred to Native students has doubled. The numbers in recent years continues to grow. Enrollment of American Indian students at tribal colleges grew by 32% between 1997-2002, compared to 16% enrollment growth in higher education overall, according to the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

The American Indian College Fund is proud to be part of the tribal college movement. The Fund was established 20 years ago to provide Native students, still the poorest in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with scholarships. Today still 95% percent of tribal college students demonstrate financial need. Yet as the number of educated Native peoples increases, more people find jobs and hope for a better future.

The Fund helps provide its students with a better future—and is changing the face of Indian Country for generations to come. Educated American Indians serve as role models in their communities for the next generation, helping youth to steer clear of drugs, alcohol, and gangs, and to dream of a better and more productive future for themselves. Research shows that 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%.

The Fund provides a means for Native people to rebuild their communities. Despite up to 85% unemployment rates on reservations where tribal colleges are located, one year after graduating, 82% of tribal college students are working or pursuing a higher degree, 64% of tribal college students continue their education, and more than 50% pursue a higher degree. Sixty four percent of our scholarship recipients are planning to use their education to help their people.

In these economic times, when there is talk of rebuilding the nation, we cannot give up on our efforts to rebuild Indian Country--and build a prosperous future for American Indian children for generations to come.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Help Tribal Colleges Get Federal Appropriations

In August 2008 former President George W. Bush signed Congress the Higher Education Reauthorization and College Opportunity Act of 2008 into law. The reauthorization will help more students attend tribal colleges across the country and will include funding for tribal colleges across the United States. It also authorizes an annual increase from $6,000 to $8,000 for each student attending a tribal college. However, each year Congress must make appropriations to fund these worthwhile programs.

As you know, most tribal colleges are located on reservations, where they serve nearly 28,000 Native students in geographically isolated communities. On reservations, unemployment rates are high and average family incomes are 27 percent below the federal poverty level. Federal funding is necessary to keep our tribal colleges operational, providing much-needed educational opportunities to Native communities.

Help tribal colleges get the funding they need by contacting your senator to urge them to make appropriations for tribal colleges under the Higher Education Reauthorization and College Opportunity Act of 2008. To contact your senator, go to to find the address and phone number of your elected official.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Moving Forward In a Bleak Economy

Despite the bleak economic indicators, including a high jobs loss report at the end of January, there is reason to be optimistic about American Indian education and the Fund.

Our supporters are some of the most loyal and devoted people in the country. Even when times are tough, they give something. Our students and the Fund are blessed to be able to count on our corporate, foundation, and individual supporters.

Another reason to be optimistic? The amazing projects and results that tribal colleges are producing. Whether it be diabetes research, gathering data about global warming and its effects on local flora and fauna, or building business incubators on some of the most rural and remote areas of the country to spur economic development, tribal colleges, their teachers, and students are producing results that are nothing short of miracles. And the American Indian College Fund continues to support tribal colleges and their students in these endeavors and more.

Be on the lookout in March for stories about these successes in our upcoming newsletters.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

When Old Friends Go On...

I was personally saddened when my friend and former tribal college resident and veteran of the tribal college movement, Sky Houser, passed on on January 29, 2009. Sky died at a hospice facility near his sister’s home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma at age 65. At the time of his death, he was the special projects officer for the Scott Bordeaux Leadership Institute at Sinte Gleska University.

Known as “Sky,” Houser first became acquainted with the Indian community in the mid 1970s when he was a professor at the University of Nebraska, where I first met him, and took his students to a pow wow.

In 1975, he left the University of Nebraska to help help the Santee establish a satellite campus, Northeast Nebraska Indian Satellite Community College, which later became Nebraska Indian Community College.

Sky served as chief executive officer of four tribal colleges (Nebraska Indian Community College, Sisseton Wahpeton Community College, Institute of American Indian Arts, and Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College) and worked at three others (Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, Salish Kootenai College’s Spokane branch campus, and Sinte Gleska University).

Sky left a long legacy as a writer of articles and books about American Indian education and tribal issues, in addition to medieval history. He will be deeply missed by all of us in the tribal college movement.

I am deeply touched that Sky's commitment to educated and concern for American Indian students extended beyond his death. Sky's family specified that gifts in his memory could be given to the American Indian College Fund.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Think Indian public service advertisement campaign launches

The Fund is rolling out a new public service announcement campaign titled THINK INDIAN. The campaign tells the story of how America’s 32 accredited tribal colleges and American Indian students are combining traditional Native solutions with modern knowledge to solve contemporary problems.

Tribal colleges and universities preserve the uniquely American Indian way of thinking while celebrating Indian cultures and embracing the latest research and technology. These institutions have become cultural oases where old wisdom and new ideas are fused. Many Native students encounter both their native language and the Internet for the first time at college.

To create the campaign, the Fund and our Portland, Oregon-based advertising partner, Wieden+Kennedy, voted Adweek’s 2008 Global Agency of the Year and known for its signature work for Nike, Target, and Coca-Cola, traveled to Indian Country where we documented the stories of American Indian students studying at tribal colleges.

This body of work not only reflects how American Indian cultural knowledge is being preserved by tribal colleges and used to solve modern-day problems for all people, but it also depicts the depth, beauty, and tenacity inherent in the American Indian students and community that we serve.

The ads have already been run by our supporting partner publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Harper's, and O.

Wieden+Kennedy has created the Fund’s advertising for the past 18 years on a pro bono basis. We are deeply grateful for their longstanding commitment to American Indian education and the Fund and the invaluable contributions they make with helping us to reach our donors through these compelling and moving ads.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gracism or Post-Racial Society?

On the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration, many people across the land are openly excited.

Others may be openly antagonistic.

And still others may exhibit what I call gracism.

Over the years, it has become less politically correct for people to be openly racist (although American Indians still suffer from open racism.) As a result, racism has gone underground—and people are graceful and pleasant to one’s face, while continuing to hold onto their racist attitudes and behaviors behind one’s back. Hence, I coined the term gracist.

As we head to an era in which the country claims it is ready to embrace its plurality and diversity, I hope that we will see not only the end of racism, but also the end of gracism. This means allowing people to follow their own roads, acknowledging that there are many cultures and many ways of knowing, and that those ways are not less important than the dominant culture. This means fully embracing inclusivity while allowing people to pursue their separateness, and for Indian people, this means allowing people to continue pursuing their Indian culture and identity.

One way that Indian people have been pursuing their culture and identity is through the tribal college movement. Yet tribal colleges are the most underfunded education institutions in the country. Despite federal funding appropriations plans, tribal colleges are still 30% underfunded by Congress, showing there is not a commitment to Indian education in our society.

The American Indian College Fund’s mission is to support both the tribal colleges and provide American Indian students with scholarships. But the need is great in Indian Country, and many institutions and students still struggle.

On the eve of Obama’s inauguration, I hope that as America tries to move forward to a post-racial society, that gracism disappears, and Americans of all backgrounds support every American’s right to pursue an education—and that our legislators and the taxpayers support all kinds of education, including tribal colleges and the students they serve.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Wondering How to Apply for College Scholarships?

Debra Reed of the American Indian College Fund will be discussing how to prepare for scholarships on Native America Calling Friday, January 16, from 11a.m.-noon MST. Go to to listen online or see a list of stations carrying the program in your area.

You can also call in with questions for Debra.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Fund Marks its 20th Anniversary

Here at the Fund we are celebrating 20 years as the nation's premiere scholarship organization for American Indian students.

The Fund was created in 1989 by the tribal colleges and universities and private partners to raise scholarship funds and funding for America’s tribal colleges. The first tribal college was Diné College, founded as Navajo Community College, in 1968. Today there are 32 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which serve college students and provide much-needed services to American Indian communities.

The Fund has raised millions of dollars for scholarships and capital funding for campus infrastructure in its mission, and last year awarded nearly 4,000 scholarships to American Indian students to encourage students to remain in college, complete a college degree and build a better future for themselves, their families, and their communities.

We hope you will join us this year in celebrating our achievements over the past 20 years, while continuing to help us grow to meet the demands of our community so that they may realize their dreams of earning a college education and helping to effect change in Indian country and our nation.