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Students arrested at California's only tribal college

DAVIS, Calif. - Eighteen people were arrested at California's only tribal college March 31 after refusing an order to vacate the campus. The standoff was the second in several months between D-Q University's board of trustees and students who are defying orders to go home until the college rectifies its problems.

The troubled college closed abruptly in January 2005 after its accreditation was revoked. At least one student, Chris Yazzie, 25, has remained living in the dorms and, with other students, has continued holding workshops and ceremonies on the 643-acre campus.

On March 30, he and other students received word that a locksmith hired by the board of trustees to replace the locks on campus would be arriving with Yolo County sheriff's deputies sent to evict the students. It was the second attempt by the board to evict students within the past few months.

Eighteen students and elders were arrested ''peacefully and calmly'' around 10 a.m. March 31, said Michele Wallace, a spokesman for the Yolo County Sheriff's Department. ''There was no physical resistance,'' she added. Those arrested were charged with trespassing, a misdemeanor, and all were released from the Yolo County Detention Facility that evening, Wallace said.

Sheriff's deputies were dispatched again to the campus that evening after reports that some people had returned, but when they arrived it appeared that ''no one was there,'' Wallace said.

Three of the people who were arrested had been in a previous standoff on campus Feb. 20. Yazzie, Manuel Santana and Daniel Cory were scheduled to appear in Yolo County Superior Court April 2 on charges of trespassing stemming from that incident.

In a statement, the Associated Student Body is accusing the board of trustees of failing to ''serve its purpose'' by attaining re-accreditation, holding classes on campus, hiring a new administration, and fundraising for the school. The student body, which is a registered nonprofit organization, is supporting the student resisters and is working to hire new board members. It asked for applications at its pow wow April 6.

Among those arrested March 31 was Yazzie, the unofficial caretaker of the campus, who has been living in a single dorm room since last December. He left his Navajo family at age 19 to attend D-Q University, formed in 1971 after young Natives occupied a parcel of land in Davis. The premise of the school was to unite Indians from both sides of the U.S./Mexico border, hence the name Deganawidah-Quetzalcoatl University.

But after years of mismanagement, the university finally lost its accreditation in 2005 from The Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and its BIA funding for reasons including a Native population that was below the 51 percent required. Half of the remainder was Latino, and some was white.

A new board was formed in the summer of 2005 and several former students were working to address many of the reasons the university lost its accreditation. Among the concerns outlined by WASC in its report was the school's lack of leadership. Students also accused the administration of embezzling financial aid funds. The administration denied the claims.

The school's seven-member board began inviting people last summer to submit applications to join the board. It needed nine more members, according to college bylaws, although it has never met that requirement. And although the school remained closed, Yazzie and a few other students continued to invite volunteer instructors to hold trade courses including agriculture, biodiesel and silkscreen printing. Educational programs are required to keep the school's federal trust land.

He and other former students have created MySpace pages about the college and were focusing their efforts on recruiting board members, meeting the requirements for accreditation and rebuilding community support. ''All that happened in the past caused a split between people. We didn't know who to trust and it caused fractions in the community,'' Yazzie said in an interview last fall. ''People are afraid to work with each other and we have to rebuild that relationship.''

The college was recently a scheduled stop on the route of the Longest Walk II, which departed from Alcatraz Island in February and will end in Washington, D.C.

Students are now asking supporters to contact California Attorney General Jerry Brown to help garner support for the resisting students and to contact the Yolo County Sheriff's Department and the Yolo County district attorney to demand they ''stop harassing the students'' and drop the trespassing charges.

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