Conference highlights tribal college successes
In her first college science class at a non-tribal school, Linda
Different Cloud-Jones got frustrated when she had to identify
fungal spores with a microscope, and the professor could not
explain why it was relevant.
“I knew that wasn’t the kind of research I wanted to spend my
life doing,” Different Cloud-Jones said. “I wanted to change the
world for my people.”
In contrast, Different Cloud-Jones spent her first science class
at Sitting Bull College, on the Standing Rock reservation,
learning about the healing properties of the Echinacea plant
and researching ways to harvest the plant sustainably and plant
Different Cloud-Jones now is a science and ethnobotany
instructor at Sitting Bull College. She has a master’s degree
in science education and is working on a doctorate in ecology
and environmental sciences from Montana State University. She
was one of four outstanding tribal college graduates chosen to
speak at this year's
American Indian Higher Education
conference in Rapid City.
The 31-year-old annual conference rotates between hosting
regions and comes to Rapid City every five years. Nine hundred
students and administrators registered for this year’s
conference, said Tom Shortbull, president of Oglala Lakota
College and one of the conference coordinators.
The graduate speakers were chosen from the host colleges:
Sisseton Wahpeton College, Sitting Bull College, Oglala Lakota
College and Sinte Gleska University.
33 fully-accredited tribal colleges
the U.S., and many offer the only higher education in the nation’s poorest
areas, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Oglala Lakota College, a tribal college based on the Pine Ridge
reservation with 11 campuses and 1,800 students, is the second
oldest and largest tribal college in the U.S., Shortbull said.
The college started in 1971, and only Dine College, a Navajo
school in Arizona, is older and larger, he said.
Oglala Lakota College has been accredited with the Higher
Learning Commission of the North Central Association of
Colleges and Schools since 1983, according to the Higher
Learning Commission. In the latest reported year, the school
awarded 80 associate degrees, 40 bachelor’s degrees, one
master’s degree and 27 certificates, according to the Higher
Tribal College Journal
is a quarterly publication of the American Indian
Higher Education Consortium.
The annual tribal college conference, which concludes this
evening, is a way for tribal college students to meet each
other and enjoy a spring break, Shortbull said. This year, he
invited graduates to address conference-goers to showcase some
tribal college success stories.
“We’re producing great products,” Shortbull said. “We do it
every year, and this is a great opportunity.”
Shortbull was president of Oglala Lakota College from 1975 to
1979 and has been back in that position since 1995. He said his
primary goal is to prepare graduates for jobs on the
reservation, and 86 percent of the Oglala Lakota grads do stick
around Pine Ridge and work.
Dani Daugherty, another speaker Monday morning, is one of the
tribal college graduates who moved off the reservation, though
she hasn’t gone far. She now lives in Aberdeen, where she works
for the Great Plains Regional Office of the Bureau of Indian
“When I read my resume, I always wonder, ‘Who is that person?’”
she said. “Honestly, you know, if you go back in my life about
25 years ago, you wouldn’t have imagined the person
saw having the credentials that I have today.”
It took Daugherty 17 years to graduate from Oglala Lakota
College after her first class. But now, after law school and a
term as the first Native American federal law clerk in South
Dakota, she is glad she did.
“Whether you’re a traditional student, a nontraditional student
-- whatever you are -- we’re all singly, together and in our
families making changes in Indian Country,” she said Monday to
a room full of hundreds of tribal college students and
administrators. “We’re on the path, and all the people in this
room are going to make so much change.”
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