WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp led a bipartisan group of 22 Senators in recognizing the week of February 11, 2018, as National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week to celebrate the unique and critically important role these institutions of higher education play in supporting students from Indian Country. The resolution passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate.
North Dakota is home to thousands of students who enroll each year in one of the state’s five tribal colleges: Turtle Mountain Community College, Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College (formerly Fort Berthold Community College), United Tribes Technical College, Sitting Bull College, and Cankdeska Cikana Community College.
“Tribal colleges and universities are part of the critical make-up of the communities they serve,” said Heitkamp. “Often these schools serve students who come from economically depressed areas. By helping provide opportunities through career and technical education, certificate programs, as well as degree programs, tribal colleges and universities give students a chance to live up to their full potential. Not only do these schools help provide economic opportunity, but they educate the next generations on the cultural and lingual heritage of our great Native American tribes. And that's why I again wanted to shine a light on and honor the teachers, faculty, and students with National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week.”
“This resolution recognizes the vital role of tribal colleges in Native American communities across the country,” said Senator John Hoeven, Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. “These institutions not only help tribal members further their education and careers, they provide important services to the surrounding regions, helping grow the local economy and improving the quality of life. We thank our tribal college leaders, faculty, and staff for their good work, and we continue our efforts to support them in their mission.”
"Tribal colleges and universities are helping thousands of Native students in New Mexico and across the country access a high-quality education that will help them gain the skills they need to succeed after graduation while embracing their Native language and culture," said Senator Tom Udall, Vice Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "These schools provide students with strong opportunities to continue contributing to their Tribal communities. I was proud to sign the resolution designating this week as National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week to ensure we recognize the important work that Tribal colleges, universities, and teachers do for our Native students."
To commemorate 2017’s National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week, Heitkamp led a bipartisan group of 17 senators to dedicate the week of February 7, 2016, to recognize the unique contributions of tribal colleges and universities. She also worked to dedicate a week of recognition in 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.
Joining Heitkamp in recognizing the week of February 11, 2018 as National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week include a bipartisan group of 22 senators: Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Steve Daines (R-MT), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mike Rounds (R-SD), James Lankford (R-OK), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Thune (R-SD), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Gary Peters (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Amy Klobochar (D-MN), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Tina Smith (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Jon Tester (D-MT).
Heitkamp has been a longtime advocate for improving lives in Indian country, especially for Native American children. The first bill that Heitkamp introduced was signed into law in October 2016 to create a Commission on Native Children that would work to address the complex challenges faced by Native youth. A key aspect of the Commission would be to increase educational opportunities to provide children a way out of poverty and develop the skills and knowledge needed to be leaders in their communities. Since the bill was signed into law, Heitkamp has fought to get the Commission funded, and pushed for the prompt appointment of Commission members – including a recently appointed member announced by President Trump in January. Heitkamp is now urging the Speaker of the House to appoint three members to fill the remaining positions.