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Wi’áaşal (Great Oak) Future Leaders Scholarship Fund

for Most Enrolled California Tribal Members

Established in 2019, The Wi’áaşal (Great Oak) Future Leaders Scholarship Fund was born out of the longstanding traditions, values, and vision of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians – who have demonstrated their commitment to education and economic development, time and time again. Today, their impact is expanded through the Wi’áaşal (Great Oak) Future Leaders Scholarship, which provides greatly needed support to Native students across the state of California.

The Wi’áaşal (Great Oak) Future Leaders Scholarship Fund is open to most enrolled California tribal members.
Up to $20,000 is available each year to students seeking vocational, associates or bachelors degrees at any accredited, nonprofit college, university or vocational program.

Eligibility:

  • Enrolled in a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree program at an accredited, non-profit college or university
  • Full-time enrollment
  • Registered as an enrolled member of an eligible California tribe (listed below)

Eligible California Tribes:

  • Alturas Indian Rancheria
  • Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria
  • Big Lagoon Rancheria
  • Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley (previously listed as the Big Pine Band of Owens Valley Paiute
  • Shoshone Indians of the Big Pine Reservation)
  • Big Sandy Rancheria of Western Mono Indians of
  • California (previously listed as the Big Sandy Rancheria of
  • Mono Indians of California)
  • Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians of the Big Valley
  • Rancheria
  • Bishop Paiute Tribe (previously listed as the Paiute-
  • Shoshone Indians of the Bishop Community of the Bishop Colony)
  • Bridgeport Indian Colony (previously listed as the
  • Bridgeport Paiute Indian Colony of California)
  • Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians of California
  • Cahto Tribe of the Laytonville Rancheria
  • Cahuilla Band of Indians (previously listed as the Cahuilla
  • Band of Mission Indians of the Cahuilla Reservation)
  • California Valley Miwok Tribe
  • Cedarville Rancheria
  • Chemehuevi Indian Tribe of the Chemehuevi Reservation
  • Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria
  • Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians of California
  • Cloverdale Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California
  • Cold Springs Rancheria of Mono Indians of California
  • Colorado River Indian Tribes of the Colorado River Indian Reservation, Arizona and California
  • Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians of California
  • Elem Indian Colony of Pomo Indians of the Sulphur Bank Rancheria
  • Elk Valley Rancheria
  • Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California
  • Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians
  • Fort Bidwell Indian Community of the Fort Bidwell Reservation of California
  • Fort Independence Indian Community of Paiute Indians of the Fort Independence Reservation
  • Fort Mojave Indian Tribe of Arizona, California & Nevada
  • Greenville Rancheria (previously listed as the Greenville
  • Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California)
  • Grindstone Indian Rancheria of Wintun-Wailaki Indians of California
    Guidiville Rancheria of California
  • Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake
  • Hoopa Valley Tribe
  • Hopland Band of Pomo Indians (formerly Hopland Band of Pomo Indians of the Hopland Rancheria)
  • Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel (previously listed as the Santa Ysabel Band of Diegueno Mission Indians of the Santa Ysabel Reservation)
  • Inaja Band of Diegueno Mission Indians of the Inaja and Cosmit Reservation
  • Ione Band of Miwok Indians of California Karuk Tribe (previously listed as the Karuk Tribe of California)
  • Kashia Band of Pomo Indians of the Stewarts Point Rancheria
  • Kletsel Dehe Band of Wintun Indians (previously listed as the Cortina Indian Rancheria and the Cortina Indian Rancheria of Wintun Indians of California)
  • Koi Nation of Northern California (previously listed as the Lower Lake Rancheria)
  • La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians (previously listed as the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of theLa Jolla Reservation)
  • La Posta Band of Diegueno Mission Indians of the La Posta Indian Reservation
  • Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe (previously listed as the Paiute-Shoshone Indians of the Lone Pine Community of the Lone Pine Reservation)
  • Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians (previously listed as the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla & Cupeno Indians of the Los Coyotes Reservation)
  • Lytton Rancheria of California
  • Manchester Band of Pomo Indians of the Manchester Rancheria (previously listed as the Manchester Band of Pomo Indians of the Manchester-Point Arena Rancheria)
  • Manzanita Band of Diegueno Mission Indians of the Manzanita Reservation
  • Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria
  • Mesa Grande Band of Diegueno Mission Indians of the Mesa Grande Reservation
  • Northfork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California
  • Pinoleville Pomo Nation (previously listed as the Pinoleville Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California)
  • Pit River Tribe (includes XL Ranch, Big Bend, Likely, Lookout, Montgomery Creek and Roaring Creek Rancherias)
  • Potter Valley Tribe
  • Quartz Valley Indian Community of the Quartz Valley Reservation of California
  • Ramona Band of Cahuilla (previously listed as the Ramona Band or Village of Cahuilla Mission Indians of California)
  • Redwood Valley or Little River Band of Pomo Indians of the Redwood Valley Rancheria California (previously listed as the Redwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California)
  • Resighini Rancheria
  • Robinson Rancheria (previously listed as the Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, California and theRobinson Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California)
  • Round Valley Indian Tribes, Round Valley Reservation (previously listed as the Round Valley Indian Tribes of the Round Valley Reservation)
  • Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians (previously listed as the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians of the Santa Rosa Reservation)
  • Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians of California
  • Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California
  • Susanville Indian Rancheria
  • Tejon Indian Tribe
  • Timbisha Shoshone Tribe (previously listed as the Death Valley Timbi-sha Shoshone Tribe and the Death Valley Timbi-Sha Shoshone Band of California)
  • Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation (previously listed as the Smith River Rancheria)
  • Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians (previously listed as the Torres-Martinez Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians of California)
  • Utu Utu Gwaitu Paiute Tribe of the Benton Paiute Reservation
  • Washoe Tribe of Nevada & California (Carson Colony, Dresslerville Colony, Woodfords Community, Stewart Community, & Washoe Ranches)
  • Wilton Rancheria
  • Wiyot Tribe (previously listed as the Table Bluff Reservation—Wiyot Tribe)
  • Yurok Tribe of the Yurok Reservation

News & Events

Our Internal Library: The Importance of Sorting through our Experience

Danielle’s family – Brandon, Edwin, Danielle, and Nicole Carley.

Danielle’s family – Brandon, Edwin, Danielle, and Nicole Carley.

Danielle Carley, LCOOU, Associate Dean of Students

2023-2024 Indigenous Visionaries Fellow

Boozhoo, my name is Danielle Carley. I am a wife and mother of two, and soon to be grandmother to my first grandchild. I am a daughter, sister, auntie, cousin, and friend to many. I was born and raised on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation in a traditional household. I have five brothers and two sisters but was only raised with one brother. Our father raised us. I am from the New Post community, and I am Bear Clan. Professionally, I am the Associate Dean of Students and Work-Based Learning Program Director for the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University located in northern Wisconsin.

I love books. There is something so calm and orderly about reading a book. You can experience things in books that you may never experience in life. Books contain pages of wonder and anguish, much like the experiences of real life. In a way, each of our experiences are like books that contain all of the things we’ve seen, heard, touched, felt, or tasted. Some of our books are beautiful and some are devastating, and all hold lessons for us. We all have libraries within ourselves filled with all of our books of experiences. In my own life I’ve had many experiences that I’ve had to find a way to make sense of. This is likely true for everyone. We want to hold onto the good experiences and forget the bad experiences. Sometimes, we want to sweep the worst under the rug. I’ve tried myself, but that only resulted in tripping over past experiences under a lumpy rug. I realized that all our experiences, good and bad, serve a purpose. It is up to each of us to pick up each book and decide where it belongs within our library.

LCOOU Library with open books: sorting experiences.

Edward Smith and Danielle Carley, Danielle’s father (deceased).

One of my books details the story of how education changes lives. I am living proof of that. I always knew I would earn my bachelor’s degree, but I just didn’t know how long it would take or all the opportunities I would miss without it. I spent too much time waiting for the right time to seek my degree. It took a long time to understand that there will never be a “perfect” time, because life has a funny way of happening when you least expect it. I waited too long to get serious about my education and could not share my achievement with my father. My number one supporter and one of my biggest motivators. I encourage you to start organizing your internal library if you haven’t started already. It’s well worth the work that it takes to revisit those old experiences. Review that book, decide what it means to you, and decide where it belongs in your library.

LCOOU Library with open books: sorting experiences.

LCOOU Library with open books: sorting experiences.

Century of Citizenship

June 2, 2024 marks the 100th anniversary of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, which granted full citizenship to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Indigenous people have been key figures throughout the history of the United States from influencing the underpinning principles of American democracy to defending the nation through military service in every armed conflict. The long overdue granting of citizenship to the original inhabitants of this land was merely one more step on the road to equity for Native people. 

Yet members of federally recognized tribes would not be allowed to exercise their right as United States citizens to vote in all 50 states until 38 years after the Indian Citizenship Act passed. The Tribal College Movement took off shortly thereafter in the 1960s, serving as both a symbol of tribal sovereignty and means to ensure that Native students had access to the same educational opportunities as all other Americans. 

American Indian and Alaska Native communities have achieved a great deal in the past century. Here at the American Indian College Fund, we look forward to what successes the future will bring as we encourage Native students, scholars, and communities alike to use the tools of citizenship to make their voices heard and their peoples prosper. To that end, the College Fund has launched a campaign to encourage Native students to register to vote and help others in their communities cast their votes. The campaign, Make Native Voices Heard: Vote!, features a web site that details where and how to register to vote, create a voting plan, and share videos about why voting is important for students and Native communities. Check out the site at https://collegefund.org/vote/.

Don’t just take our word for it. Hear Dr. Twyla Baker, President of Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College, share her personal thoughts on why voting is important.  

Graduation: A Time to Celebrate Your Achievements and Culture

Congratulations! Whether you are a high school graduate or you have earned a college degree, graduation time is right here. Graduates are lining up on stages across the country to celebrate years of hard work and receive their diplomas and college degrees.

Many Native students choose to personalize their graduation regalia with Native cultural elements. Some replace the graduation tassel with a ceremonial eagle feather, which, in many Native American cultures, is a sign of high achievement. Others choose to add a Native cultural touch to their mortarboards by beading them or to wear sashes and neck cords from their tribes.

Unfortunately, sometimes restrictive dress codes or uninformed administrators have interfered with Native students’ celebration of their cultural heritage and achievements in a culturally appropriate way.

Graduates Summer eNewsletter Class of 2021

In 2019, the American Indian College Fund teamed with the Native American Rights Fund to gather content Native American students need to work with school administrations in advance of graduation to ensure they can celebrate their graduations in a traditional way. We have updated this blog for 2024 but many of the principles are still the same.

First, determine your school policy regarding Native American regalia at graduation. The sooner you communicate your plan with administrators to participate in your graduation ceremony in a cultural way, the fewer snags you will encounter along the way.

If your institution has a strict graduation dress code, explain the significance of wearing an eagle feather in a letter to the school board and administrative leadership at your school.

We created the following guide for formatting your letter:

1. Intro

Dear (Insert Name or Names of Recipients)

Many Native American cultures consider eagle feathers to be spiritually significant. They believe that as eagles soar in the sky, they have a special connection with the Creator. Their feathers represent honesty, truth, strength, courage, wisdom, power, and freedom. The federal government has long recognized the importance of eagle feathers for Native American religious and spiritual beliefs. In Native American communities, individuals are honored with the gift of an eagle feather to mark an important accomplishment such as a graduation.

As a member of the (insert your tribe’s name here) tribal nation, I am writing to notify you of my intent to exercise my federally protected religious right and cultural heritage in this way on graduation day.

2. Share the legal reasons that Native Americans are permitted to possess and wear eagle feathers (other groups are prohibited from doing so by federal law).

I am enclosing a flyer written in 2015 by the attorneys at the Native American Rights Fund, a national non-profit organization specializing in Indian Law and titled: Wearing Eagle Feathers at Graduation: A Guide for Schools. This guide explains the religious and ceremonial significance of wearing eagle feathers at events such as graduations, as well as how and why federal law recognizes the sacredness of eagle feathers to tribal nations and the right of tribal members to wear them.

I plan to participate in my cultural traditions while participating in your institution’s graduation ceremony, as provided for in federal laws including:

3.  If you attend high school, college, or university in California, Oklahoma, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, include the following in a new paragraph:

Our state also offers Native Americans protections under state law in addition to federal protections. I have included the name of the law and a link to it here: (Include the name and link to the law from the list below).

California law: Education Code § 35183.1 – Wearing of Traditional Tribal Regalia or Recognized Objects of Religious or Cultural Significance as an Adornment at School Graduation Ceremonies

Montana law: MCA § 2-1-315 – Tribal Regalia and Objects of Cultural Significance – Allowed at Public Events (2017)

North Dakota law: House Bill No. 1335 (2019) – Inclusion of traditional tribal regalia and objects of cultural significance, passed March 2019.

Oklahoma law: Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act (2000)

Attorney General Hunter letter about eagle feathers at graduation (October 23, 2018)

South Dakota law: SDCL § 13-1-66 – Wearing of Traditional Tribal Regalia or Objects of Cultural Significance at School Honoring or Graduation Ceremony to be Permitted

4. Thank the officials for their support.

Thank you for your support of my right to participate in my graduation in a culturally significant way, making this day one my family and I will never forget. Thank you also for your commitment to creating an equitable, diverse educational environment and experience for myself and other Native Americans.

5. Request a written confirmation of your ability to wear your requested regalia in writing in a new paragraph.

I respectfully request a written confirmation that I may wear the eagle feather at graduation in writing by xxx date (insert date you would like to hear from the officials) so that I may make the appropriate preparations to do so.

6. In the very last paragraph, welcome a conversation and thank the officials.

My parents and I welcome the opportunity to discuss this if you have questions, so this event is a smooth and joyful one for all. You can reach me at (provide contact information). Thank you in advance for your assistance and time.

Respectfully,

Your Name, Your Tribal Name

For detailed information, check out the Native American Rights Fund’s blog.  There you will find these links to pertinent federal and state laws as well as the downloadable copies of brochures you should provide to your school’s administration when you request to wear traditional regalia at graduation, and a brochure for you about wearing an eagle.

The brochures include:

Finally, congratulations on your upcoming graduation and this great achievement!