Thank you for your comment! It is exactly the tone that you describe that made me sit up and take notice--that paternalistic, individualistic, patriarchal tone. I'm so pleased that many people have engaged in this conversation on and off this page, the ICTMN Facebook page, and through dozens of emails I've received. I actually wrote this column right after I read Dr. Chavers' article, but the political conventions happened and it took awhile to get it posted. This is a VERY HOT topic among Native college students, who actually try to get these scholarships. They (and I) are upset. We're already disproportionately underrepresented as college students, college faculty, and college administrators. I agree with you that Dr. Chavers' article is both disturbing and detrimental to Native students, and that it discourages potential donors from giving to Indian scholarships. Do I think all things being equal any Native student could easily compete with any other student of any other race/ethnicity? Absolutely! But to position Native students as the problem without any context of the white privilege that is the very foundation of the United States and the university and scholarship systems is (almost) unforgivable! If he and others were to stop and think about where Indigenous people are in the sociohistorical scheme of things, they might understand that we're not slow or lazy--we're actually overachievers! The first tribal college was the Navajo (Dine) Community College in 1968. That means we're behind historically White Colleges by about 350 years. It also means that Indian Colleges are about 100 years behind Black colleges. Three historically Black universities were established before the Civil War - Cheyney University (1837), Lincoln University (1854), and Wilberforce University (1854). Yes, I am well aware that Dartmouth was established in 1789 to give "Christian" instruction to the young people in Indian tribes, but it quickly veered away from that mission. I would also argue that attending college to become missionaries is not the same as attaining a degree for teaching or to become a physician. With the reservation, removal, and relocation eras, colleges for Indians were quickly forgotten. Indeed, we first needed to 'civilized'! Yes, a few Native people here and there did go to college a long time ago, but there was no real effort in educating our people until the boarding schools. Boarding schools are a topic of their own, but suffice it to say, most of them were labor intensive (trade) schools that tracked Indian folk into manual labor or blue collar jobs. In the article, I put my own experience into this issue because I wanted to make it personal. I wanted people to see that I was terribly successful in the business world (even before I came back to college) and even someone like me finds it extremely difficult. I've received teaching and research fellowships from my department, of course. But the prestige of outside scholarships carries weight, and I'm really thin in that area. And to your point, I didn't have courses in trig in HS, but I did make an A- in calculus in graduate school. And I've made an A in every statistics class I took. In fact, much of my work is done with quantitative methods. A stupid standardized test cannot be the end-all, be-all of college admissions and scholarships. We already know that doesn't work! I agree with your assessment of Dr. Chavers' article. In closing, I'd like to use a metaphor. If I had a store that attracted only particular "types" of people to shop, I might wonder if my shop is unfriendly to other types of people. Is it easily accessible for those with disabilities? Do the people who work there make everyone feel welcome? Does everybody know where it's located? Or is it an invitation only environment--like the club scenes you see in the movies where only the "pretty people" get in?
Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 12:04