|  2020 E-NEWSLETTER  |  VOLUME 20, ISSUE 4  |

Circle of Hope

 The Time Is Now

As I again find myself reflecting on the world around me – the things that are changing, the things that are not, the things that COULD change – I think every moment of every day about how all of this is impacting students and Native communities.

We are all back in school, and while the College Fund received the second highest number of scholarship applications in our history, I do not yet know if that trend is reflected in fall enrollment at the tribal colleges. I do know we were only able to fund about 17% of the applications we received, which could have prevented many students from starting or returning to school.

This concerns me, as COVID has pointedly and poignantly validated the deficits in so many areas in Native communities – including healthcare; access to life-saving and life-sustaining technology; food distribution systems; and the ability to document and preserve language and culture. And certainly our educational systems are struggling with the new reliance on technology to deliver quality education.

In a moment of complete honesty, I have to admit that I have had moments where I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the needs and the complexity of how to meet them. It feels particularly big to me, as I know the future of Native communities and students will be influenced by the decisions we make and the actions we take today.

Will we have adequate healthcare to weather the next pandemic? Will we have sufficient technology to support new educational methods and continue growing the number of people in our communities with a college degree? Will we be able to provide adequate food, housing, and supplies to Native communities to allow students to really focus on their studies without the stress and anxiety of hunger and homelessness?

I know the reason you support the College Fund is because you know all of these things and care about the answers to these questions as much as I do. And the really good news is that because media coverage of COVID speaks often and in detail about the challenges in Native communities, many more people are now aware and have joined us in supporting and caring for Native students and their communities.

Which means we are at a pivotal moment in our history – the opportunities are here today. People who have never before spoken of Native communities are now standing up and being accountable; there has been a surge in interest in land history, the digital divide, and educational systems impacting reservation communities. This is the time, my friends and relatives, to work as we’ve never worked before. To plan, to invest, to lift families and communities, and to support students as we never have before. It is also the time to push the limits in seeking and developing new relationships with potential allies to amplify the impact of our voices.

The decisions we make and the actions we take TODAY will shape the future of all Native communities. So yes, that feels big, but I am more than up for the challenge. I’ve waited for this moment most of my life, and it is finally here – the moment when my decisions and actions can and will forever positively change the lives of all Native peoples.

For those of you who are new to indigenous issues, JOIN ME! You have the unique opportunity to participate in this moment to forever change the lives of an entire population of people in a way that has never been done before. Your support of the College Fund in this moment will do so much more than give the gift of education. It will change the world as we know it.

For those of you who have been with us, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know you will be with me, and I feel your support and care every single day.

Pilamayayapi (thank you) for your support and friendship,


It’s Native American Heritage Month!

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November is Native American Heritage month, and normally we focus on celebrating our rich history, sharing many beautiful and interesting things about our culture, languages, and art forms. In response to the extensive media coverage of all things Native over the past several months, we have been asked many questions about modern-day Native peoples and communities.

The answers to the many questions include a combination of some pretty serious obstacles and some very hard truths, but also achievements, progress, hope, potential, and promise. But they are truths that need to be shared, considered, and responded to. This November, let’s start the tough conversations that will pave the way for Native peoples to continue to build strong, healthy, safe, thriving communities.

Did You Know?

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, here are some facts about Natives and Native communities: 

81% of Native college students are either food insecure, housing insecure – or both.

Poverty and unemployment rates in Native communities are double that of the general population.

26% of Native college students have inadequate technology and/or technological infrastructure, limiting their ability to participate in distance learning and online classes.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of Native students who are likely to drop out of college has doubled, rising from 10% to 20%.

More than half of all Native college students are the primary source of income and support for their families and rely solely on their school and scholarships for both food and housing for themselves AND their families.

14.5% of American Indians have a college degree, less than half the national average.

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There is a reason we believe Education Is the Answer – attending and completing college addresses every single obstacle and gets to the root of poverty, economic development, natural resource protection and management, food independence, adequate healthcare systems, and even short-term financial support of students and their families. 

Since the onset of COVID alone, and with your support, we have been able to provide:

More than $6.5 million to address hunger, technology needs, tuition, living expenses, and incentives to keep students in school through graduation.

Individual mentoring and coaching to scholarship recipients to encourage, support, and assist students so they stay in school. 

More than $5 million in scholarships, to provide much needed resources for students to support themselves and their families, again making it possible for more students to stay in school. 

As a result, our scholars, 44% of whom are pursuing degrees in healthcare, education, and STEM, will stay in school and complete their degrees. 

This Native American Heritage Month, we celebrate those who have completed their degrees and are dedicating their lives to moving their communities and people into a safe, healthy, strong future. And we celebrate those who are right behind them, relentlessly pursuing the education they need to become the next generation of leaders.

Thanks to your unwavering support, these Native scholars past and present are pursuing their dreams. We are proud to feature them, just as you should be proud of what your gifts have been able to do.

Outstanding Alumni

NAHM Newsletter Levi

Tribe: Navajo
College: Lake Superior State University
Major: Nursing
Career: Registered Nurse

NAHM Newsletter Katie

Tribe: Cherokee Nation
College: Yale University
Major: Juris Doctor
Career: Attorney

NAHM Newsletter Len

Tribe: Navajo
College: Carnegie Mellon University
Major: Engineering and Public Policy
Career: Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies

NAHM Newsletter Natasha

Tribe: Chippewa-Cree
College: University of Montana
Major: Cultural Heritage (Anthropology Degree)
Career: American Indian Education Specialist

Up & Coming Graduates

NAHM Newsletter Nylana

Tribe: Navajo
College: Navajo Technical University
Major: Computer Information Technology (BAS)

NAHM Newsletter Jennah

Tribe: Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin
College: University of Oregon
Major: Master of Education

NAHM Newsletter Jason

Tribe: Lummi Tribe of the Lummi Reservation
College: Northwest Indian College
Major: Bachelor of Arts – Business Management

NAHM Newsletter Celina

Tribe: Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana
College: University of Montana-Missoula
Major: Environmental Science, M.S.

NAHM Newsletter Jasmine

Tribe: Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin
College: College of Menominee Nation
Major: Natural Resources (AAS)

Rising Stars

Tribe: Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes
College: Ilisagvik College
Major: AA, Business Administration

Tribe: Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation
College: Sitting Bull College
Major: Master of Science, Environmental Science

Tribe: Navajo Nation
College: Dine College
Major: AAS, Agroecology/Environmental Science

Tribe: Pit River Tribe (includes XL Ranch, Big Bend, Likely, Lookout, Montgomery Creek, and Roaring Creek Rancherias)
College: Northwest Indian College
Major: BA, Native Studies Leadership

Tribe: Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (Six component reservations: Bois Forte Band (Nett Lake); Fond du Lac Band; Grand Portage Band; Leech Lake Band; Mille Lacs Band; White Earth Band)
College: Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College
Major: A.S. Environmental Science

Tribe: Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (Six component reservations: Bois Forte Band (Nett Lake); Fond du Lac Band; Grand Portage Band; Leech Lake Band; Mille Lacs Band; White Earth Band)
College: WETCC/Bemidji State University
Major: B.A. Business Administration

Tribe: Yurok Tribe of the Yurok Reservation
College: UC Davis
Major: B.S. Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior

Tribe: Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (Six component reservations: Bois Forte Band (Nett Lake); Fond du Lac Band; Grand Portage Band; Leech Lake Band; Mille Lacs Band; White Earth Band)
College: WETCC/Bemidji State University
Major: B.S. Pre-Medicine

Tribe: Hoopa Valley Tribe
College: Northwest Indian College
Major: Bachelor of Arts in Community Advocates and Responsive Education in Human Services

Tribe: Rosebud Sioux Tribe of the Rosebud Indian Reservation
College: Oglala Lakota College, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
Major: B.S. Natural Science, Pre-Engineering

Tribe: Pit River Tribe (includes XL Ranch, Big Bend, Likely, Lookout, Montgomery Creek, and Roaring Creek Rancherias)
College: Humboldt State University
Major: B.S. Forestry Hydrology

Tribe: Crow Creek Sioux Tribe of the Crow Creek
College: Oglala Lakota College
Major: MA of Arts, Lakota Leadership and Management/ED Admin. Emphasis

Tribe: Navajo Nation
College: Montana State University
Major: B.S., Food and Nutrition – Dietetics

Help a Student – Start a Fundraiser!

Celebrate and Show Your Support

To celebrate Native American Heritage Month, donors can start their own fundraiser and help raise money for Native students.

By starting a fundraiser, you are joining thousands of people who believe education is the answer. We know education lifts people and elevates their voices; education gives courage and visibility and provides the hope for a brighter future. Our students and graduates – including lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, healthcare professionals, engineers, and scientists – need and want to be heard and seen. Visit GoFundMe or Facebook to get started. Please contact Kim at kwilliams@collegefund.org if you have any questions or need any support.

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