FORT YATES, N.D. – On the heels of President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address, Sitting Bull College students traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with federal legislators.
The winter trip with students is part of an annual effort to keep U.S. legislators informed about how tribal colleges are making a difference on and off the reservation.
On Feb 9 – 10, Sitting Bull College President Dr Laurel Vermillion and English instructor Carla Gerriets accompanied students, Brittney Halsey and Anthony Eagle Jr. to Capitol Hill, where they met with U.S. legislators to discuss their academic experiences and career goals.
Halsey, a sophomore at Sitting Bull College, is studying criminal justice.
“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime that some people never get a chance to do. It’s a privilege and honor to represent my college, especially since I’m the North Dakota representative for the Sitting Bull College Student Government.”
Halsey, 20, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Reservation and mother of one, now lives in Fort Yates while attending Sitting Bull College.
“My husband, Ian, is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Reservation and we met at a basketball game in Mandan, North Dakota,” Halsey said. “We’ve been married for three years now and he’s the reason I moved to the area and started taking classes at Sitting Bull College.”
She is committed to finishing her studies at Sitting Bull College and plans to transfer to a law school in the near future.
Eagle, also a sophomore at Sitting Bull College, is studying environmental science.
“I want to represent my college and discuss issues with our senators and other legislators. It’s amazing that I get to meet directly with senators and talk to them about what is important to me and the college.”
Eagle, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Reservation and life-long resident of Wakpala, S.D., is the South Dakota representative for the Sitting Bull College Student Government.
“I tried going to a big University in Seattle, Washington, but didn’t like it and I was uncomfortable there,” Eagle said. “With all the great science programs at Sitting Bull College, I hope to eventually pursue a degree in wildlife management or zoology and get a job that allows me to travel the world.”
While in D.C, students had several private meetings with prominent legislators, including Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., and Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, D-S.D.
This year’s annual gathering of tribal college students was hosted and coordinated by the Virginia based organization, American Indian Higher Education Consortium, with each tribal college sponsoring their own student delegation.