SACRAMENTO, Calif. - For the first time this year, the Morongo tribe is
offering scholarship money to not only their own tribe, but to any Indian
student who is an enrolled member of a California tribe.
This year the tribe gave out $10,000 each to three recipients to attend
college totaling $30,000 in total scholarship money. The scholarships can
be renewed for a second year if the student shows exceptional performance.
In addition to having a high grade point average, the tribe also has some
unique qualifications for the Rodney T. Mathews scholarship money that
tries to guarantee the students stay active in their individual tribal
For example, students receiving the scholarship money are required to spend
at least 60 hours of volunteer time in either their own communities or at
some other American Indian agency. The students are also encouraged to go
back into their own communities to do some volunteer work once they have
earned their degree.
Students are expected to be enrolled full time in college or intend to do
so when they receive the scholarship money.
In order to be considered for the scholarship, students also need to get
two recommendations. The first one has to be a "cultural" recommendation,
meaning that they have to have a recommendation from a member of their
tribe or community. The second recommendation has to be academic and come
from one of their teachers or guidance counselors.
This year's scholarship recipients represent a wide range of tribes. Though
one of the students is from the nearby Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, the
other two come from Humboldt County tribes, along the cool forested north
coast about as far away as you can get in California from the stretch of
desert in Southern California where Morongo sits.
The three students also are not required to attend California schools. One
of the recipients, Hupa tribal member Ki-Shan D. Lara is attending the
University of Arizona. Another, Karan D. Kolb-Williamson of Rincon is
attending the University of Phoenix, a business school.
Ukiah High School senior and Yurok tribal member Ruby Tuttle, 17, is using
her scholarship money to attend Humboldt State University in the fall. She
plans to study molecular biology and hopes to one day attend medical
Tuttle said that she received the information about the scholarship in an
e-mail. She received the right recommendations to meet both the cultural
and academic criteria. She will volunteer this summer at United Indian
Health Services, also called the Potawot Health Village, a state-of-the-art
tribal medical facility that serves several Humboldt County tribes.
"I'm really glad that this scholarship was opened to all California tribes,
because education is important and expensive," Tuttle said.
The Morongo tribe has run one of the more successful gaming operations in
the state. Located on a major thoroughfare between Los Angeles and Palm
Springs, Calif. the tribe has taken seed money from their casino and
developed a string of businesses to serve motorists on well-traveled
Interstate 10. In addition the tribe has also opened a water bottling
Dr. Bill Cornelius, social services coordinator for the Morongo tribe said
that the tribe decided to award the scholarships once they discovered there
was a need to have such a scholarship. According to Cornelius, there was a
pressing need for educated American Indians to cope with the challenges of
21st century California Indian life.
"This is a good way to both give back to the community and to also develop
leadership skills among these students and give back to their own
communities," said Cornelius.
Though the scholarship is available to Morongo tribal members and their
"descendants," meaning people who are of mixed heritage and do not have
enough Morongo ancestry to qualify to be full tribal members, Cornelius
said the tribe wanted to also make sure that poorer, non-casino tribes were
also included in the process since many of those tribes lack scholarship
money for their own people.
Only one of the current scholarship recipients comes from a tribe, Rincon,
that has a casino. Yurok and Hupa do not.
Cornelius hopes that other tribes with large casinos will eventually also
either help sponsor the current scholarships or set up their own.
Though Morongo advertises this as a first in the nation type of
scholarship, it is not entirely accurate. It is true that this is the first
time that this has been done in California. However, at least in the past,
other tribes, such as the Quinault of Washington state have opened up
scholarships when they do not have a qualified tribal member to all other
tribes to attend Lewis and Clark University in Portland, Ore.