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.