Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ft. Lewis Tuition Waiver

We have been receiving calls and questions about the Ft. Lewis College (located in Durango, Colorado) tuition waiver and its history in the wake of a proposed bill that would strip $1.8 million from Fort Lewis College's budget. House Bill 10-1067, sponsored by Karen Middleton, D-Aurora, would reduce the per-student amount the state reimburses the school for out-of-state Indian students. Middleton said the bill’s passage would have no impact on the promise to educate American Indians free of charge.

The Ft. Lewis tuition waiver is not a result of a treaty, as many have quoted, but rather is the result of the following unique history.

In 1910 the U.S. government deeded to the state of Colorado the property then known as the “Fort Lewis School” with the stipulation as condition of the grant that Indian students would be admitted free of charge and on equity with white students. The educational opportunities for Indian students have been maintained by the college and the state of Colorado since then based on federal and state agreements and court decisions.

In 1971 the Colorado General Assembly sought to restrict granting of free tuition at Ft. Lewis College to American Indians who were otherwise unable to pay. The U.S. government filed an action in U.S. District Court on behalf of Indian students at Ft. Lewis, and the court struck down the legislation, stating it was a breach of the state’s original contractual obligation to American Indians created by the Act of 1910, and that under the contract the state had undertaken the obligation to admit ALL Indian students tuition-free to Ft. Lewis who were otherwise qualified to attend. The U.S. Court of Appeals (10th Circuit) affirmed the District Court’s decision in 1972 that there is a contractual obligation between Indian pupils and Colorado.

In 2008 one in five students was American Indian at Ft. Lewis College.

The Michigan legislature has enacted legislation that provides free tuition for American Indian students who are residents of Michigan to selected higher education institutions. Please see the Michigan Inter-Tribal Council site for more details.

Finally, two Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools, the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, a two-year school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas also offer American Indian students free tuition, although students do pay fees.

Proof of tribal enrollment is required for these programs.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Intellectual Capital in Indian Country

This past week we spent two days hearing about the projects that the tribal colleges have been implementing over the past year for the Woksape Oyate Wisdom of the People project.

Programs have been designed for growing their own college faculty and staff; preserving and teaching tribal languages and culture not just amongst the tribal members, but serving as a resource for state curriculum; learning centers that teach not just study skills but leadership and management; and public administration degrees that meet the needs of both the tribal communities and surrounding state and counties.

The project is in its first year of implementation after a year of planning, but already the results have been remarkable. Tribal colleges are building stronger institutions, stronger and more confident students, and are serving their communities in ways that they never have before--all the while building their expertise and standing not just in the Native community, but in their counties, regions, states, and academia.

Read more about the tribal colleges' Woksape Oyate projects or share your ideas for Thinking Indian and preserving intellectual capital by posting a comment here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year from the American Indian College Fund

As 2010 begins, we at the Fund wish all good things and every success for our supporters and our students.

Without our supporters, our students could not go on to achieve the astounding successes that they have over the past 20 years. And our students are our future in Indian Country--without them we would not be able to continue our lifeways, our culture.

We are thrilled to be part of the journey of both of our supporters and our students. Godspeed for a wonderful new year!