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Tribal Colleges from USA Today

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  • Popplestone, Ann
    Tribal colleges filling growing need PAWNEE, Okla. (AP) - With two small children to support, Cedric Sunray doesn t have much time to pursue a college degree.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 20, 2006
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      Tribal colleges filling growing need



      PAWNEE, Okla. (AP) - With two small children to support, Cedric Sunray
      doesn't have much time to pursue a college degree.

      But a desire to learn how to teach American Indian languages and
      determination to build a better life drove Sunray to be one of 90 people
      enrolled at Pawnee Nation College when it started classes last fall.

      "I wouldn't do it anywhere else," said Sunray, who speaks Cherokee,
      Choctaw and Pawnee. "Tribal colleges offer classes that are historically
      not offered anywhere and tribal colleges depend on workforce students."

      Tribal colleges - schools owned and run by Indian tribes that are often
      located on reservations - are growing, stemming in part from economic
      clout spurred in some cases by Indian gaming and a desire by tribes to
      validate their sovereign status.

      There were no tribal colleges in the U.S. before 1968, but today there
      are more than three dozen and one in Canada.

      "It's been a slow process, but we are happy to be where we are," said
      Gerald Gipp, executive director of the American Indian Higher Education
      Consortium. "We're going through a real learning process of operating
      our schools and reversing decades of neglect."

      Tribal colleges developed along with an increase in American Indians
      seeking higher education. American Indian enrollment in universities has
      more than doubled in the past 25 years, according to the National Center
      for Education Statistics. That included a 62% increase in enrollment at
      tribal colleges in the past decade, according to the higher education
      consortium.

      Todd Fuller, president of Pawnee Nation College, said those numbers
      should continue to grow. He said he expected enrollment at his college
      to increase at least 40% this fall.

      Tribal colleges may be the last chance to save some native languages,
      said Quinton Roman Nose, education director of the Cheyenne-Arapaho
      Tribes of Oklahoma. He is helping develop a tribal college on the campus
      of Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford.

      "Some tribes have their own syllabary. Others have languages that aren't
      written. This is a really complicated area to try and preserve and teach
      a language," Roman Nose said. "There's a great need and this is one way
      of meeting it."

      Course offerings reflect tribal goals. In Oklahoma, the College of the
      Muscogee (Creek) Nation offers Creek classes, while Wind River Tribal
      College in Wyoming teaches Arapaho.

      Nebraska Indian Community College offers an associate's degree in tribal
      business management. In South Dakota, Sinte Gleska University's Lakota
      Studies Department has been integrating Lakota values into academics
      since 1973, for example, adjusting class times to allow for tribal
      obligations.

      The institutions, however, sometimes face an uncertain future.
      Characterized by rural isolation, limited property tax bases, and
      neglect from state governments, growth of tribal colleges has been
      uneven. At least seven have failed in the past 25 years.

      But during that time, another 17 tribal colleges opened. They keep
      appearing because there is a need, said Roman Nose, whose
      great-grandfather, Henry, attended Carlisle Indian School in
      Pennsylvania.

      "Even our own tribal members ask 'Why do we need to do this?'" Roman
      Nose said. "We have needs that can't be met any other way."

      Sunray, who is learning how to teach languages to students in
      kindergarten through 12th grade and how to administer an accredited
      language program, said tribal colleges offer a unique challenge.

      "There are no excuses at a tribal college," Sunray said. "You can't look
      at a teacher and say he doesn't like me because of so-and-so."

      Instead of having a white instructor, students likely will have a tribal
      member as a teacher, he said. They're not there to get rich, but to make
      a difference, Sunray said.

      "They are going to make you work," he said.

      Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
      may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

      Posted 6/20/2006 11:20 AM ET





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