Only 17% of Native Americans are able to continue their education after high school.
Tribal colleges hope their efforts to help these students thrive will lead to improved outcomes. The approach is being highlighted in a Wisconsin school’s milestone. This fall, the College of Menominee Nation kicked off a yearlong celebration as it observes its 30th anniversary.
Christopher Caldwell, president of the school, said it is important to display how much of an asset the campus is to the community. He noted part of it plays out in welcoming Indigenous students who did not have a good experience in trying out a mainstream college or university.
“And so, they come back home,” Caldwell observed. “They might not have their degree, or they come back with debt.”
Caldwell pointed out schools like his work closely with students in those situations, and he hopes their welcoming environment rubs off on mainstream campuses. He added tribal colleges are also important because they can educate the community about a local tribe’s history. This year’s celebration coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Menominee Restoration Act of 1973.
The policy reversed an earlier decision by Congress to terminate Menominee’s status as a federally-recognized tribe. Caldwell argued it is an important story to keep telling.
“We really as an academic institution represent the intent of that act in all of the efforts of what our tribal nations look to do, which is to assert their sovereignty [and] their self-determination,” Caldwell emphasized.
He stressed they are working to revitalize traditional aspects of the Menominee language and culture, which coincides with similar efforts around the country to prevent Indigenous languages from going extinct as a number of tribes lose their elders.
Caldwell stated it is a key example of the role an institution like his can play, and something other colleges can learn from.
This story was written by Mike Moen, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.