In order to strengthen their development and to ensure that their students have options after completion of the tribal college studies, each tribal college in Montana has formed relationships with the institutions of the Montana State University system. As the tribal colleges gain accreditation, that connection is evolving from dependency to partnership.
Greater cooperation between North Dakota’s state universities and tribal colleges can increase the number of Indian students with four-year degrees. But a tight state budget and new admission requirements are getting in the way.
For tribal colleges, service to students must mean more than providing classrooms and Coke machines. In many reservation communities the path from school to college and beyond is often blocked by barriers rarely associated with “typical”
“I like working with college students,” says Lois Slater. “It hasn’t been that long since I was a poor college student. It seemed like I was always scared until I found someone who gave me good advice on financial aid or counseling or teachers.” The Salish Kootenai alumna is now the director of the Career Planning and Placement center.
Anna Jefferson enrolled at Northwest Indian College with an interest in computer programming, but will leave with a fascination for basketweaving. Still, Jefferson says, the most important lessons learned are more personal.
Falistus Yellowmule used to study chemistry next to a sludge pit at Little Big Horn College on the Crow Reservation in eastern Montana. She now studies genetics in a modern lab at Montana State University. Today she aspires to go to Harvard, become a doctor and return to help her community.