“I thought the visit was an overall success. The students had a chance to see firsthand, the way our government works. Their role was critical, in that politicians often are handed the numbers on a sheet of paper all the time, but they need to be reminded that those numbers represent living, breathing people trying to make a way for themselves.
Our congressional delegation needs to hear from us loud and often. Short of having a Native elected official, no one can represent our needs to our elected officials better than we can. I do think this visit shed light on the equality. This is where the numbers come in. The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), who organized these visits, represents tribal colleges and universities collectively.
AIHEC’s role is one of advocacy, but also one of responsibility and accountability. Through our collective voice, we are making sure tribal people’s higher education needs are met in a fair, sustained fashion. We still have some work to do, but I feel that our voice is growing. I feel that our students represented us in a very stellar fashion!
I am deeply proud of our young people, the way they carried themselves, the way they spoke, and their interactions with their congressional representatives. I was very happy to see the welcome we received from Senators Hoeven and Heitkamp; I received word back from Senator Hoeven’s office that they were highly impressed with our students, and were honored by our visit.
Sen. Heitkamp’s staff was incredibly accommodating, and as she’s a personal friend, I knew her visit was going to be a fun one! I was thankful for her arranging for our delegation to visit the Capitol and sit in on the proceedings in the House of Representatives. I hope for a better visit with Congressman Cramer’s office next time we are in town; I was rather disappointed that he did not meet the students in person, and that the meeting with his representative was so short. I can tell my own story here.
I an alumna of our own tribal college, Fort Berthold Community College. I got my feet under me here. I established myself, attained several goals, and then launched myself into the world. None of that could have happened without the care, opportunities, and mentorship I received as a student here.
At tribal colleges, culture is key. It isn’t one course you’re going to take as a requirement, it is woven into every class. We serve critical needs in our community as well in terms of research and scholarship; we provide the people we serve with opportunities for growth, advancement, and fellowship too, with our community based programs.
FBCC is imbued with an overall sense of pride which I pick up on more and more; the understanding that we are tied to something much greater than ourselves. We are quite literally crafting our future inside these doors, and I can think of few responsibilities greater than that.
I just want to give my students a shout-out, and I hope they know how proud of them I am! On top of the Capitol Hill visits, we were able to arrange visits with MHA members who live and work in D.C.
We met with Sedelta Oosahwee, Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education, and also with Cesar Alvarez, Leadership Fellow with the National Congress on American Indians. I wanted them to see our own people who do work, every single day for our people.
I especially wanted them to see what is possible, if you just put in the effort. I love it when I see Native people achieving and excelling, but it brings it all home when it’s one of our own. I’m terribly proud of my tribal relatives doing work for their own, wherever they may be, and I enjoy celebrating that!”