WASHINGTON – The Department of Housing and Urban Development might seem like an unlikely partner for tribal colleges. But HUD does support student housing, college buildings and property acquisitions, as well as other economic development and culture issues; and it has recently awarded $5 million in grants to seven tribal colleges and universities.
The seven schools are:
• Tohono O’odham Community College, Sells, Ariz.: $750,000
• Bay Mills Community College, Brimley, Mich.: $504,800
• Salish Kootenai College, Pablo, Mont.: $750,000
• United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck, N.D.: $745,200
• Northwest Indian College, Bellingham, Wash.: $750,000
• College of Menominee Nation, Keshena, Wis.: $750,000
• Institute of American Arts, Santa Fe, N.M.: $750,000
HUD noted the importance of tribal colleges in remote areas, not just for education, but for counseling, health and employment services for local residents.
HUD’s Tribal Colleges and Universities Program money will be used in a variety of ways by the seven Native higher educational facilities, including the construction of a new bookstore, student housing and a new student center, and refurbishing a school cafeteria.
HUD runs a similar program for Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian colleges that it started in fiscal year 2000. In its most recent funding round, 2007, HUD made five grants totaling nearly $4 million to Ilisagvik College, Barrow, Alaska ($799,989); University of Alaska – Fairbanks, Bristol Bay Campus, Dillingham, Alaska ($799,500); University of Alaska – Fairbanks, Chukchi Campus, Fairbanks, Alaska ($799,955); Kapiolani Community College, Honolulu ($$799,922); and Leeward Community College, Pearl City, Hawaii ($581,325).
The 2008 TCUP awards represent a sizable increase over the 2007 amount. In 2007, HUD awarded $2.8 million to five tribal colleges, including the Institute of American Indian Arts, which received $600,000 last year in addition to this year’s grant.
The other four TCUP 2007 awardees were Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Fort Totten, N.D. ($599,309); Fort Berthold Community College, New Town, N.D. ($391,881); Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, N.D. ($600,000); and Oglala Lakota College, Kyle, S.D. ($600,000).
According to HUD, TCUP (part of HUD’s Office of University Partnerships program) can be used to build a new facility; renovate, equip or expand an existing or acquired facility; property acquisition; homeownership counseling; technical assistance for a microbusiness, crime, alcohol abuse or drug abuse prevention; health screening; youth development; tutoring or mentoring; child care programs; or cultural activities.
The Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian funds can be used for acquisition of real property, clearance and demolition, rehabilitation of residential structures, acquisition construction, rehab or installation of public facilities and improvements, direct homeownership assistance to low- and moderate-income people, special economic development activities, fair housing services, assistance to community-based development organizations, and public service activities.
Salish Kootenai College in Montana will use its grant on a new bookstore to replace “the oldest building on campus, a 42-year old dilapidated tin roof and siding structure.” It expects the new building will serve 7,000 people for the next 20 years.
The IAIA will use its grant “to equip the new Foundry and Sculpture Center and the new Media Arts Center,” both in its Science and Technology Complex, now being constructed in Santa Fe, N.M.
“With the addition of New Media and 3-D arts training facilities equipped with cutting-edge sculpture equipment, a state-of-the-art foundry facility, Digital Dome presentation technology, production studio and new computer laboratories, IAIA will be able to offer advanced, relevant and culturally appropriate professional training for Native American students who strive to expand their unique skill-base in the arts.”
Tohono O’odham Community College plans to apply its $750,000 to build four duplexes, “each of which will contain two units, for a total of seven one-bedroom apartment units and one multipurpose meeting room unit.” Units will be available for students, and also employees as necessary.
Northwest Indian College in Washington wants “to undertake two activities: construct a new Center for Student Success, and undertake renovations and maintenance of existing facilities.” This student center “is one of the key facilities required to become a fully functioning four-year, degree-granting institution.”
United Tribes Technical College intends to expand and renovate the cafeteria on its North Dakota campus. The school notes that its population has increased by 173 percent since 2002, causing overcrowding in the current cafeteria. The expansion will add 3,500 square feet and increase student capacity to 311 from 150.
A lack of money has also curtailed dam repair and other water-conserving projects that enabled grazing rotation and management plans to keep bison and cattle operations afloat, particularly because of a prolonged drought in the area and a decline in cattle prices, she said by telephone.
The cultural component is present for the CRST in a bison herd as well, located on a ranch purchased by the tribe and allowed to return to native prairie.
The restoration is on tribal trust land, which is being reacquired through a “long, slow process,” said Gregg Bourland, acting BIA superintendent at Eagle Butte and former CRST tribal chairman, although more than 50,000 acres were obtained during his chairmanship.
Restoring native grasslands can mean different things to different people. Put most simply, “native prairie” is land that has never been plowed, although it may have been overgrazed, said Kurt Forman, Partners for Fish and Wildlife coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To restore grasslands to land that has been cropped, either non-Native forage grasses can be planted or true prairie can be mimicked by sowing Native grasses.
“In most cases, tribes interested in true native prairie want grazing and wildlife from the same land,” he said. “To try to replicate what a 5,000-year-old prairie would look like would require dozens and dozens of different grasses and forbs” and years of interrelated development that could not be recreated, he said.
The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in central South Dakota has about 84,000 acres of native prairie, and “I think most of that will be left in grass,” said Alan Lien, BIA natural resource officer for Lower Brule. The tribe has a “very active program” to reacquire tribal lands and others outside the reservation boundary.
Some excess lands that were being farmed are being turned into native prairie through seeding with such native grasses as buffalo grass, wheatgrass, green needle, and big and little bluestem.
“The land was always grazed – by bison, antelope, deer, and elk” and the tribe now does rotational grazing and has grazing management plans, he said. “The more native grasses, the more native species” such as pheasants, songbirds, grouse and the recently introduced swift fox.
The prairie restoration programs are merely an indication of what seems to be a growing trend in Indian country. Plains states environmental restoration is only one point in an ecological network that stretches from the preservation of forestry in the north to the deserts of the Southwest and the wetlands and fisheries in Pacific coast areas.
At the College of Menominee Nation, Wisconsin, U.S. Forest Service liaison Mike Dockry noted that “tribes are really interested in using native plants in their restoration activities, whether prairie or forest lands.”
“The Menominee have been responsible for their forests for over 100 years – they’re working here not only for this tribe, but for others, too,” in reforestation programs, he said.
Prairie Restorations has worked on a number of tribal projects that include seeding about 200 acres of bison prairie with native plants for the Prairie Island Indian Community, restoring and managing a stream with spiritual significance for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and creating a rain garden at the newly renovated Black Bear Casino Resort near Duluth, Minn., for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.