TCU week illustrates Heitcamp’s unwavering support

Nov 19th, 2013 | By | Category: Online TC News, Tribal College News, Web Exclusive

TCU ALLY. Senator Heidi Heitkamp meets with North Dakota’s TCU presidents. From left, Russel Mason, James Davis, David Gipp, Senator Heitkamp, Cynthia Lindquist, and Laurel Vermillion.

Last week, U.S. Senators Heidi Heitcamp and John Hoeven of North Dakota introduced Senate Resolution 293, designating this week as National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week. The measure recognized that tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) play a vital role in the preservation of Native cultures and languages, and that they meet the educational needs of students from more than 250 federally recognized tribes. The resolution concludes that TCUs deserve national recognition and calls on the American people to join in observation of National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week “with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.”

While many celebrated the momentous occasion, the resolution underscored Senator Heitcamp’s unwavering support of TCUs. Although she assumed office just this past January, the junior senator has emerged as an important ally for TCUs. This past summer she introduced legislation to increase funds for construction at TCUs in North Dakota. The funding would help build new classrooms, offices, libraries, and other educational facilities which many institutions currently cannot afford. In introducing the bill, Heitcamp observed, “Right now, many of North Dakota’s tribal colleges have huge needs for new classrooms and libraries that would improve students’ education, but unfortunately many of the colleges don’t have the funding to make it happen. . . This amendment certainly isn’t a cure-all for tribal colleges, but it is a step in the right direction and I will continue to fight for it.”

And fight she has.  During her short time in office, Heitcamp has raised awareness of TCUs in Congress and has stressed their importance, especially in her home state. Indeed, in North Dakota alone, TCUs have contributed millions of dollars to the state’s economy. The North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges estimated that together Cankdeska Cikana Community College (Fort Totten, ND), Fort Berthold Community College (New Town, ND), Sitting Bull College (Fort Yates, ND), Turtle Mountain Community College (Belcourt, ND), and United Tribes Technical College (Bismarck, ND) have generated $182 million through expenditures and business activities.

As chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Jobs, Rural Economic Growth, and Energy Innovation, Heitcamp understands this important economic role that TCUs play. And as a member of the Committee on Indian Affairs, she also knows their great cultural significance. Given her position, combined with an ability to reach across party lines, Heitcamp is an indispensable ally for all TCUs.

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