A half century dedicated to education

Thomas Shortbull is on the show to talk about Oglala Lakota College's 50th anniversary, its past, and the future of Indigenous American colleges. Plus John Tahsuda III is talking policy and how it effects tribes and its citizens.
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Oglala Lakota College turns 50 this year! It’s based in Kyle, South Dakota and in 1971 the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council created the Lakota Higher Education Center. Joining us today is Thomas Shortbull, who is Oglala Lakota, he's been president since December 1994 and from 1975-79. From 1982 to 1986, he represented the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations in the South Dakota State Senate.

John Tahsuda III, who is Kiowa, is a regular contributor to Indian Country Today. In 2002 he worked as the staff director for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. He also is a former principal deputy assistant secretary for Indian Affairs and served in that position from 2017 to 2020. John is on the newscast to talk about policy and the impact on Indian Country.

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is taking down the nine, highly contested coronavirus checkpoints on its tribal lands in South Dakota.
  • The first known case of the UK variant of COVID-19 is found on tribal lands.
  • The Indian Health Service in Santa Fe, New Mexico announced Monday that it is shifting its vaccine distribution system.
  • Another tribal gathering is being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • For the first time in its history, the Bay Mills Indian Community is being led by an all female executive Council.  
  • The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota would like to change their oil tax sharing agreement with the state.
  • Internationally recognized stand-up comedian Dave Chappelle is heading to the Mashantucket Pequot owned Foxwoods resort and casino for a live show, COVID-19 protocols will be in place.

You'll find more details on these stories at the top of today's newscast

Some quotes from today's show.

Thomas Shortbull:

"Well, I think we have to go back to the founding of the college that took place in 1971. And we owe a lot of who we are today to Gerald One Feather, this was basically his idea. Diné College was created two years earlier, but the way we developed is unique among all of the tribal colleges, because our founders wanted to establish degrees so that our people on our reservation would get employment in the professional jobs that existed on the reservation."

"But we went one step further than most tribal colleges in that we require all of our students to take 15 hours in Lakota studies, language, culture, treaties, history. The people from SDSU had a meeting with our students. And so they asked the students, they said you know it's going to take you at least five to five and a half years versus four years for most students to get your bachelor's degree. And that's because you're taking these 15 hours in Lakota studies. Do you think that's worth it? And he said, absolutely it's worth it because we need to know who we are as Indian people."

"And that's 15 hours does give that to us. And so they think our students think that that's critically important to their development, that they know who they are as Indian people. It sure does and I think they appreciate it. My wife has a cousin who basically took some of our song and dance class, and today he's considered to be one of the spiritual leaders on the reservation. And so his singing for spiritual songs came probably from OLC. So the impact is just everywhere. And you turn around on the reservation. We in fact OLC has on our people on this resolution."

John Tahsuda III:

"Well, hopefully it would mean a shot in the arm for several parts of the infrastructure in Indian Country that have long been delayed or have not had a chance to be not even been rebuilt but built. And so that's roads and bridges. Two parts that are badly in need of upgrading expansion and for safety purposes in particular, the bridges and, and things not just bridges specifically, but culverts, those kinds of areas."

"We saw just a couple of years ago a horrific accident in South Dakota where a culvert had washed out. A good part of the blame for that can lay in not being able to maintain the infrastructure the way it needs to be. And for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and for the tribes, they get their funding for these projects through the Bureau of Indian Affairs it's really a matter of the budget for them. They just don't have the budget to cover all these. And so they're sticking band-aids on things that actually need significant repair."

"If it was all 2 trillion for Indian Country, we could probably probably knock out all of the infrastructure deficit, but we're not going to get all of that. So there's still going to be a lot to do even when this , even when this infrastructure projects these are done and the huge budget increase has done at this point, there were still be years of infrastructure development in Indian Country that's going to be needed."

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix. 

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider

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