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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 6, 2004 - Issue 108


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Fort Lewis Crafts New Institute

by Mary Ann Lopez - Durango (CO) Herald Staff Writer
credits: graphic: Fort Lewis College logo

Fort Lewis College logoWith funding from the federal government, Fort Lewis College is creating a new institute that will offer courses for teachers on American Indian reservations and bring tribal scholars and elders together.

The college will receive $50,000 in federal funding, which Congress approved in the $328 billion fiscal 2004 omnibus-appropriations bill. President Bush is expected to sign the bill.

The money will go toward creating the institute, which is expected to expand over time as the college receives additional funds, Fort Lewis officials say.

The planned Southwest Studies Institute is an important development for the college and its Southwest Studies Department, said Richard Ellis, department chairman. The institute will develop and support academic activities in the department, he said.

The college already has the Center of Southwest Studies, which has a collection of artifacts and documents. The Southwest Studies Department is separate from the center.

College President Robert Dolphin Jr. said the institute will use the funds to draw scholars with an interest in the area's ethnic history. Tribal elders also will be brought together to talk about and document the history of tribal cultures in the region. Through the collaborations, materials and documents may be created that may be used in students' academic studies or for use in developing courses, like a course in law enforcement, Dolphin said.

"Initially, we want to work heavily with the Native American and the Hispano communities in the Southwest," Ellis said

Ellis said Fort Lewis hopes the program will draw the best tribal students to the college. Ellis said the college also will be able to offer some courses for reservation teachers. Establishing courses and deciding which teachers participate will take some time to plan, he said.

The school is also considering offering programs specifically geared toward the Southwest and American Indian history in the Southwest for any teachers seeking recertification, Ellis said.

The college had hoped for more money, but $50,000 is a good starting point for the institute, Dolphin said. "One looks at this kind of funding as seed money to begin a program," he said.

The college will continue to seek funding to expand the program, he said. Dolphin said he was pleased to have the support of Colorado's two U.S. senators, Wayne Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

"This funding is a down payment on the future of our state and our nation," Allard said in a news release.

The college wants to make sure the funding ties in with its missions of working with American Indian tribes and teaching American Indian students, said David Eppich, assistant to the Fort Lewis president. About 700 American Indian students representing about 100 tribes attend the college, about 17 percent of the student population. American Indians pay no tuition to attend the college.

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