The American Indian College Fund honored 34 American Indian tribal college students of the year, as well as Dr. Laurel Vermillion and John Gritts of the U.S. Department of Education, during a special banquet at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium’s spring student conference in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Vermillion, president of Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, North Dakota, and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, was named the 2017 American Indian College Fund Tribal College Honoree of the Year. This honor recognizes a distinguished individual who has made a positive and lasting impact on the tribal college movement. Dr. Vermillion was chosen for her leadership in expanding opportunities in workforce education, business, and environmental science through developing an exemplary relationship with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allowing Sitting Bull College to lead and collaborate with all educational entities on the reservation. In addition, she has been a strong supporter of Lakota language education within her community and throughout the Lakota Nation.
John Gritts, the management and program analyst for the federal student aid department in the U.S. Department of Education and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, was awarded the College Fund’s first Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his ongoing service in supporting and furthering the missions of tribal colleges and universities throughout his career. “When I learned about the award, I was totally shocked,” says Gritts. “When you work, doing your job, you are not looking for these things. When you learn about tribal colleges and universities, you can always be an advocate.”
In honor of their service, Vermillion and Gritts were each wrapped with a Pendleton blanket and presented with a $1,200 honorarium provided by the Adolph Coors Foundation. Gritts’ honorarium is being donated in memory of his son, Trevour Joe Gritts, to the Salish Kootenai College Foundation.
Besides honoring Vermillion and Gritts, the College Fund recognized two students from each tribal college, one as the college’s student of the year and the other as the Coca-Cola Scholarship recipient. Each received a monetary scholarship donated by the Coca-Cola Foundation and the Adolph Coors Foundation.