Sen. Heidi Heitkamp Tribal Colleges
U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp recognized the vital work of tribal colleges and universities nationwide by helping pass bipartisan legislation designating this week as National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week.

Video: Heitkamp Helps Dedicate the Week of February 8 to National Tribal Colleges

Office of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp recognized the vital work of tribal colleges and universities nationwide by helping pass bipartisan legislation designating this week as National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week.

Long an advocate for increased educational opportunities for Native students, Heitkamp worked across the aisle to dedicate the week of February 8, 2015 to honoring the important contributions of teachers, students and facilitators of higher education, and the unique opportunities they provide in some of the poorest and most isolated parts of the country. In North Dakota alone, thousands of students enroll each year in the state’s five tribal colleges: Turtle Mountain Community College, Fort Berthold Community College, United Tribes Technical College, Sitting Bull College and Cankdeska Cikana Community College. Across the country, tribal colleges and universities are operating on more than 75 campuses.

“All across America we have teachers helping students in some of the poorest, most remote corners of our nation. We have students who are committed to persevering, have been raised with the cultural strength of their tribe, and are determined to shine brighter to make this world a better place,” said Heitkamp. “In North Dakota, I’ve been awestruck by the commitment I’ve seen from our educators and staff at all five of our tribal colleges to engaging with our Native kids—to showing them that they can achieve higher and grow stronger both personally and professionally. That’s why I helped introduce bipartisan legislation to recognize their contribution to providing a more prosperous country—and it’s why I’ll keep fighting for more solutions to improve opportunities for our Native youth. Together, we can make sure that all of our students have the chance to thrive.”

“AIHEC and the tribal colleges wish to thank Senator Heitkamp and the other 16 Senators who joined her as cosponsors of the recently adopted resolution designating the week of February 8, 2015 as ‘National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week,’” wrote the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). “The nation’s TCUs, which are tribally or federally chartered, operate more than 75 campuses and sites in 16 states. Yet, they remain virtually unknown to mainstream America. We hope that the adoption of this resolution will broaden the recognition of the TCUs as accredited, public institutions of higher education that are planting resilient seeds of hope for the future; nurturing and sustaining Native languages, cultures, and traditions; and helping to build tribal economies, governments, and a strong Native workforce, all of which will benefit not just Indian Country, but the nation, as a whole.”

In 2013, Heitkamp worked with a bipartisan coalition of 17 Senators to designate the week of November 18 to recognizing the important work tribal colleges and universities do to improve education and career opportunities for Native Americans, and to raise awareness about the value of the institutions to the country as a whole. The resolution was unanimously approved by Senate.

Joining Heitkamp in recognizing the week of February 8, 2015 as National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week include a bipartisan group of 16 other Senators: Senator John Thune (R-SD), Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), Senator Al Franken (D-MN), Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator James Lankford (R-OK), Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM).

Heitkamp has long been committed to improving educational outcomes for Native children, and her first-ever bill in the Senate would create a Commission on Native Children to help address complex challenges faced by Native youth—including the lack of educational opportunities, high rates of poverty, staggering unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, crime, substance abuse, and dire economic opportunities—and making recommendations on how to make sure Native children get the protections, as well as economic and educational tools they need to thrive. Just two weeks after reintroducing her bill this Congress, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs unanimously approved it—the final step before reaching Senate floor for a vote.

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