much of its 120-year history, Haskell Indian Nations University
has been one of only a handful of schools that gave Native American
students a shot at higher education.
Not anymore. Today, more than 30 tribes have tribal colleges in
not peaked yet," said Gerald Gipp, executive director at the American
Indian Higher Education Consortium in Alexandria, Va.
dozens of tribal colleges "include Haskell and Red Crow Community
College in Alberta, Canada," said Gipp, who was president of Haskell
in the 1980s. "That number could be 40 in the next few years. I
wouldn't be surprised."
but four of the colleges are on reservations. Most offer two-year
associate degrees, but eight have four-year, baccalaureate degree
has four four-year degree programs: business, environmental science,
elementary education and American Indian studies.
have more. Oglala Lakota College in Kyle, S.D., offers 11 four-year
degrees as well as master's degrees in tribal management and school
enrollment is at an all-time high right now; we have 1,500 students,"
said Billi Hornbeck, registrar at Oglala Lakota College, which is
spread across almost a dozen sites on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Lakota College is one of the nation's largest tribal colleges.
growing. We're very aggressive," said Kim Winkelman, the college's
vice president of instruction and academic affairs. "We'll be at
2,000 before too long."
enrollment isn't growing. The university's $9 million budget --
all of it from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs -- limits it to
about 1,000 students.
at 1,001 right now," Haskell registrar Manny King said last week.
"This is where we're comfortable, at around a thousand. If we take
many more than that, we get short on textbooks and we run out of
dorm space ... things like that."
the tribal colleges' growth isn't expected to mean fewer students
for Haskell, said Lori Tapahonso, spokeswoman for the Haskell president's
semester we have a waiting list of some 400 students who couldn't
get in," Tapahonso said. "What this means, I think, is that all
across Indian Country, people are recognizing the value and the
need for higher education."
of Haskell's niche in the education marketplace is defined by its
being one of only two American Indian colleges -- the other being
Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, N.M. --
that does not charge tuition.
long as you are a member of a federally recognized tribe, Haskell
is tuition-free," Tapahonso said. "But the other side of that is
that we don't get any money from the tribes. We are funded by the
BIA, which limits us."
American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Gipp said most tribal
colleges' beginnings were rooted in leaders' frustrations over seeing
their young people fail in off-reservation schools.
students were getting lost and failing miserably in mainstream schools,"
Gipp said. "That is an historical fact."
and others argue that much of that failure is rooted in core values
and curricula that denigrated Indians and their cultures.
in about the fourth grade, if you're Indian, you have to choose
between being Indian and being a student," said Marjane Ambler,
editor of Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education.
to be a student in a non-Indian setting means assimilation," she
said. "Your education will be presented in a way that discounts,
marginalizes and undervalues who you are; you'll be told your ancestors
were barriers to civilization and that they have no intellectual
history. You are insignificant."
colleges reverse that trend.
first thing you're going to learn is that you, in fact, have a very
rich intellectual history," Ambler said.
added, "If you go back and look at the histories of all (the) tribal
colleges, you'll see that just about every one of them was started
by local people who could not stand to keep watching their students
come back as failures -- students they knew weren't lacking in intelligence."
some students, the greatest strength of tribal colleges -- proximity
to home, family and culture -- can be a drawback.
you go to a tribal college, a lot of times you're still on the rez;
your mom still cooks for you, your dad looks out for you, you've
got your car and your TV," said Reida Whiteshield, a Haskell senior.
is right there for you," she said. "And that's good, but it makes
it harder to stick it out, to make it. It's too easy to say, I'm
not going to school today, I'm going to stay home today and watch
29, earned a two-year degree in medical record keeping at Salish
Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont., before enrolling in Haskell's
American Indian studies program.
really liked it there (Salish Kootenai College)," Whiteshield said.
"But almost everybody there was local. Haskell has a lot more diversity."
Saldivar, 23, spent two semesters at Little Big Horn College in
Crow Agency, Mont., before coming to Haskell.
don't have anything bad to say about tribal colleges. They have
a lot to offer," Saldivar said. "But for me, I went for a year and
I was still at home. I hadn't gone anywhere; I was still on the
been to boarding school for high school, so I was ready to be away
from home," she said. "I wanted to be more independent, so I came
Indian Higher Education Consortium