As the Senate prepared to vote on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, tribal college leaders and students addressed staffers of ranking members from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Tribal college presidents David Yarlott of Little Big Horn College, Robert Martin of IAIA, Justin Guillory of Northwest Indian College, Billie Jo Kipp of Blackfeet Community College, and Cynthia Lindquist of Cankdeska Cikana Community College presented AIHEC’s priorities and appropriations requests, calling for the federal government to exempt them from across the board cuts and to fund them at the authorized level.
Students also addressed the staffers, telling how tribal colleges have personally impacted them and their communities. Mary Baker, president of the the student senate at Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College, said she was there for single mothers and parents who are tribal college students. “It’s hard when you’re living day to day and you’re trying to provide for your kids,” she explained.
Despite all the uncertainty with the incoming administration, a senior policy analyst for Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota reassured the audience that there were opportunities ahead. He underscored President Trump’s support of infrastructure development and noted that tribal colleges could benefit from this. He implored tribal college leaders to have their “facts and figures” clearly stated so that when the opportunity arises they may benefit from opportunities for infrastructural development.
Following a group photo in front of the U.S. Capitol, tribal college delegations fanned out across the Hill to meet with their representatives and to make their case.