For Native Americans higher ed support still falls short

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Native American tribes, students, and faculty are pushing colleges and universities to do more for their Indigenous students. Many higher education institutions are built on land that was unjustly taken from Native American tribes, a study last year shows.
When Samantha Maltais steps onto Harvard's campus this fall, she'll become the first member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe to attend its prestigious law school. It's a "full-circle moment" for the university and the Martha's Vineyard tribe, she says.

More than 350 years ago, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, an Aquinnah Wampanoag man, became the first Native American to graduate from the Cambridge, Massachusetts, university – the product of its 1650 charter calling for the education of "English and Indian youth of this country."

"Coming from a tribal community in its backyard, I'm hyper aware of Harvard's impact," said Ms. Maltais, the daughter of her tribe's chairwoman. "It's a symbol of New England's colonial past, this tool of assimilation that pushed Native Americans into the background in their own homelands."

Ms. Maltais will arrive on campus as a law school student at a time when Native American tribes, students, and faculty are pushing the Ivy League institution and other colleges to do more for Indigenous communities to atone for past wrongs, much in the way states, municipalities, and universities are weighing and, in some cases, already providing reparations for slavery and discrimination against Black people.

In Minnesota, 11 tribes have called on the state university system to return some of the lands taken from tribes, provide tuition waivers to Native American students, and increase the number of Native American faculty, among other demands.

Tadd Johnson, the University of Minnesota's director of tribal relations and a Chippewa tribe member, said the university will establish a "truth and reconciliation" process to document the historical wrongs and determine ways to make amends.

"We're listening," he said. "We're acting on virtually everything that has been thrown at us."

Meanwhile, in Colorado, state lawmakers are weighing legislation to grant in-state tuition to students from certain federally recognized tribes.

And in California, Native American…
Philip Marcelo
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