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Increased support for Native American education
By U.S. Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman

23 November 2009

BISMARCK (UTN) - This yearís Interior Appropriations bill is good news for Native American higher education in North Dakota and throughout the nation. I believe it demonstrates a strong commitment of support from our president and Congress.

      Education is the greatest investment we can make in the future of our nationís tribes. As a member of the Senateís Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, I was proud to make sure that this yearís appropriations legislation included increased funding for tribal colleges.

Byron Dorgan

      In total, the bill includes $66.3 million for tribally-controlled community colleges around the country, which is $7 million more than last yearís level. In addition, it includes a provision proposed by the president that will advance $50 million to help provide tribal colleges with greater financial security to plan for the academic year.

United Tribes funding

      In North Dakota, the new legislation means many good things. It includes $4.4 million for continued and expanded operations at United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) in Bismarck. UTTC provides a great service, and I have worked to make sure its programs continue uninterrupted. In fact, the prior presidential administration tried to cut federal funding for UTTC seven years in a row. It would have shut the school down. That didnít make any sense to me, and I fought to make sure it didnít happen. Now, UTTC is both authorized and included in the presidentís budget and we can focus our efforts on strengthening and improving Indian education.

      An example of UTTCís success can be found in the motivating story of Mikelyn Teeman, a member of the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe in McDermitt, Nevada. Her life has been filled with many challenges, but that hasnít stopped her from recently taking advantage of education opportunities at the college. Mikelyn, 37, is a single mother who in 2005 moved to United Tribes with her children after losing her husband. She found a new path at the college by graduating this past May with training to be a medical office administrative assistant. She is now advancing that training by pursuing a bachelorís degree in business at UTTC. This education will give her a solid foundation on her path to success. Mikelynís work is an inspiring story of perseverance, and I believe she serves as a role model for her children and other Indian students.

Law enforcement training

      One problem that I have addressed in the Senate is the lack of law enforcement resources in Indian Country. When I meet tribal law enforcement officials, Iím always impressed by their dedication and professionalism, but they too often lack the resources necessary to do all they would like to do to keep their communities safe.

      The Interior Appropriations bill will help us address this problem by providing $250,000 to begin turning UTTC into a new regional law enforcement training center. There is currently only one law enforcement training center in the country, in New Mexico, far from tribal communities on the northern plains that badly need an injection of new recruits. This new center will go a long way toward combating crime and keeping families safe.

Further funding

      All four tribally-controlled colleges in North Dakota will receive a boost in federal support for their education programs: Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Fort Totten; Fort Berthold Community College, New Town; Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates; and Turtle Mountain Community College, Belcourt.

      We will also see funding to help continue successful programs through the University of North Dakota to recruit and train Native Americans for careers in medicine and psychology.

      These community colleges and university programs are critical in shaping the next generation of tribal leaders as they seek to bring economic development and prosperity to their communities.

      To me, this yearís Interior Appropriations bill represents a strong commitment to Native American higher education that will benefit students at tribal colleges in North Dakota and around the nation. Itís an investment that we can all be proud of.



Interior Appropriations Bill

United Tribes Technical College
$4.4 million: To continue its unique mission of educating Indian students representing tribes from across the country. Each year, more than 1,000 students attend UTTC for its 20 certificate and degree programs, including computer information technology, criminal justice, small business management and practical nursing.

Indian Police Academy Satellite Training Program at UTTC
$250,000: BIA funding to increase training and provide officers the opportunity to do their in-service training at areas that are closer to their duty stations. Dorgan is working to help make UTTC a regional law enforcement training center for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

UND Indians into Medicine program
$728,250: To continue INMED as it increases the number of American Indian health professionals. The program has graduated 176 medical doctors and 315 health and nursing professionals, a majority of whom serve American Indian patients and tribal communities. The program serves a five-state region: ND, SD, MT, NE, and WY.

UND Indians into Nursing Program
$350,000: To continue recruiting and training American Indian nursing students. The program has graduated 138 baccalaureate nurses and 29 advanced practice nurses, with the majority serving in American Indian communities. The IHS reports that more than 700 Registered Nurse positions remain unfilled nationwide.

UND Indians into Psychology Program

$246,000: To continue to recruit and graduate more American Indian students into clinical psychology.  There are fewer American Indian licensed psychologists (less than 200) than any other minority group.  The program has graduated 13 PhDs, of which six are currently working on North Dakota reservations.