Keeping a Positive Focus on Inevitable Change

Aug 11th, 2011 | By | Category: 23-1: Beyond Racism
By Rachael Marchbanks

As this issue lands in your mailbox, many of you will be gearing up for another busy school year after a summer of changes, many of which may affect education in Indian Country.

This summer, for instance, severe flooding in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota impacted tribal colleges such as Little Big Horn College and Cankdeska Cikana Community College. In the face of the devastation, we received encouraging reports of tribal and community members working together to fill sandbags and provide shelter, food, and clothing for displaced families. But cleanup efforts are still underway and some families are still without homes and basic necessities. To contribute, please visit the American Indian College Fund website at

And while the state of our nation’s economy remains in flux—at press time, Congress has yet to agree on the federal budget deficit limit—one thing remains certain. Beginning in 2011, U.S. Department of Education Pell Grants will no longer be available for summer terms. Although tribal college students can find additional financial resources through organizations such as the American Indian College Fund, the move to eliminate Pell Grants for summer semesters places an additional demand on an already limited pool of funding for students.

After 15 years of litigation, this June, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan granted the final approval on a $3.4 billion lawsuit (Cobell v. Salazar) over the federal mismanagement of Indian Trust assets. One provision of the Cobell settlement includes $60 million for scholarships for American Indians. Although it has yet to be decided who will administer the scholarships, the monies allocated for Indian education will no doubt provide additional opportunities for Native students to expand their educational horizons.

Indeed, the best place to look for positive change is within the large youth movement underway in Indian Country, led in part by Tribal College Journal’s designer Walt Pourier, executive director of the nonprofit Stronghold Society. With a mission to “inspire confidence, creativity, hope, and ambition” for youth of all races, in July the organization held the “ONE Gathering Skate for Life” skateboarding competition meant to promote health, inclusiveness, and to positively impact all youth. Pourier estimates that between 6,000 and 7,000 people attended this year’s event.

It’s hard to predict when the economy will improve or if a natural disaster will strike. But as friends like Pourier have shown us, keeping a positive focus on maintaining tribal land, cultures, and languages will help keep every other decision in perspective when faced with inevitable change.

Rachael Marchbanks
Publisher, Tribal College Journal

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