ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico – Newly named Native Forward Scholars Fund, previously known as the American Indian Graduate Center, was established in the late 1960s during the end of the boarding school era to assist Native Americans seeking higher education opportunities.
CEO Angelique Albert (Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes) says more applicants come to Oklahoma than other states.
Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland is also a notable alumnus of the foundation. She is working on her Road to Healing tour, with her first stop at Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, OK, on July 9.
“Our whole beginning and why we are is because of the boarding school era and the Self-Determination Era,” Albert said. “We were started in 1969 at the end of the (Boarding School) Era and the beginning of the Self-Determination Era with the purpose of educating native people at the highest level possible so that we could have native people educating native people.”
Native Forward looks to support Secretary Haaland’s journey and fight the weaponization tactics used by the federal governments against Native Americans’ education by continuing to fund upcoming generations for another half century and beyond.
“Just thinking of the work that Secretary Haaland is doing, talking about the Road to Healing, and hearing those stories is critically important to reconciliation,” Albert said. “Gathering those stories, that’s kind of the beginning point. For us, we need to have educated people to help with that next step.”
Albert said that Haaland is an amazing role model for students.
“We need more people like that,” Albert said. “We need educated Native People in powerful positions to be able to share our voices to create change.”
Reconciliation is essential for Albert and the organization. Its mission is to combat the governments’ attempted assimilation by continuing to fund native education.
“Our organization plays a critical role in that movement in making sure that we have educated Native people in places where their voices are heard.”
In the 53 years of its existence, the organization has funded over $350 million in scholarships to over 20,000 students across 500 tribes in all 50 states.
Last fiscal year alone, the Native Forward Scholars Fund awarded nearly $15 million in scholarships and academic support services to 1,340 Native scholars. These scholars represent 202 tribes from 49 states.
According to Albert, the organization has supported over 2,200 Ph.D.’s and 1,600 law degrees in hopes of educating enough Native Americans to fight for sovereignty justice.
There are scholarship opportunities for all degree programs at any college level, from community colleges with two-year programs to university-level doctorate degrees.
According to Albert, student advisors with Native Forward follow the students starting with the application process throughout their educational journey to help assist, guide, and support students in all ways.
The organization is always looking for new partnerships to create more funding. Even supporting millions in scholarships, those only fund about 18 percent, barely scratching the surface.
For more information about Native Forward and scholarship opportunities, visit www. https://www.nativeforward.org/