What Is a Tribal Scholarship

What is a Tribal Scholarship?

If you are among the 6.79 million Native Americans in the United States who are thinking about pursuing a college education? Then you may be interested in knowing what a tribal scholarship is.

Native Americans make up about 2.09% of the entire US population with tribal members enrolled in one of the 574 federally-recognized Native American tribes in the US. While the Native population is spread out all over the country you’ll find varying concentrations in certain locations.The highest population of US Native Americans is in Alaska, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Tribal citizens have a long history of both exclusion and assimilation with the US education system. But over time, that system has changed to try to accommodate Native Americans in the pursuit of higher education. There are a great number of Native American and Tribal Scholarships available for those with Tribal affiliation. Read on for more information about these kinds of scholarship opportunities.

Native American or Tribal Education in the US

There is a long history of financial strain and struggle in Native American tribal communities.  You’ll find its start when Europeans began arriving in North America in the late 1400s and early 1500s. Sadly, Native Americans were driven from the land they owned and were oppressed for the years following.

Fast forward to the mid 1800s, “Indian Boarding Schools” were established in many different places in the US. The purpose of these schools was to assimilate Native American students to European settler cultures. They were places of much abuse – physical, mental, and emotional – and in most cases,the treatment of the Native American children being inhumane.

In many ways, this set the stage for the attitude towards Tribal education. It would take years for stakeholders to pass meaningful laws to ensure the protection and autonomy of the tribes’ education.

Tribal Education Today

Native American students’ academic success still lags behind their white peers. According to an article published in 2020 by The Northwest Institute Policy for Research, 1 in 3 Native Americans are living in poverty. The article gives interesting insight into the reasons behind the enormous income inequality that Native Americans face in the US.

The article highlights huge problems with unemployment and the education system within this community. Not only that, unemployment seems to be a bigger problem than the lack of education. The fact is that having some type of degree increases one’s chances of gaining a well paying job. So it seems like the 2 biggest problems go hand in hand with a potential solution to both.

Because of this, it’s become even more important to inform and provide assistance to Native American youth looking to pursue higher education. For many of these youth, college is the way to a successful career and better life. One of the ways we can do this is by increasing the accessibility to college. This can be done by aiding them in the application process for Tribal scholarships. But this isn’t the only way to help with the cost of higher education. There are many forms of financial assistance to make college more accessible.

What is a Tribal Scholarship?

A Tribal scholarship is a scholarship that first and foremost is based on your background and ancestry. There are usually other qualifications, but the most important aspect is proving you come from Native American or Tribal ancestry.

Who is Eligible?

For Native American or Tribal Scholarships, the biggest aspect of your eligibility will be your background and connection to a Tribal community. If you come from a Native American or Tribal family you may be asked to prove this information. Some scholarships will ask for very specific information such as a blood quantum or tribal enrollment number. Others may not.

A blood quantum number reveals how much Native American or Tribal blood you have. In other words, how many generations of Native American you have in your family. Head to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for more information about blood quantum and how to get that process started.

The application process for a Tribal Scholarship

If you are at the beginning of your scholarship application journey, don’t feel overwhelmed. You may find it helpful to check out some of our most frequently asked questions in order to help navigate the Tribal scholarship application process. There are a great many Tribal scholarships available to students of Native American descent. Furthermore these scholarship opportunities can be both merit-based and/or needs-based.

An important part of how to qualify for Tribal scholarships is looking at the whole student.  Grade point average (GPA) is important, but seeing how a student contributes to, and is an active part of their community is also a big factor. Part of the reason this is important is because it helps increase community morale. Individuals who pursue these education opportunities and return help the next generation do the same, supporting the community as a whole. Some individuals also return as leaders to help their community grow into a better version of themselves with the education they gained. This is why community engagement is a big factor when looking at scholarship applicants.

Other important components in supporting students in their higher education experience are the student services and student organizations. Scholarship foundations will look for students that are an active part of their local and tribal communities. They do this in hopes they will use their education to provide support to others in similar situations.

What is a Tribal College/Tribal University?

In the United States, there are 35 different accredited Tribal Colleges and Universities. These are scattered throughout the US, however most are located in the midwest and northwest with a few concentrated in the southwest. Tribal Colleges can be a great choice for Native students as they are known for their remarkable programs, culturally-relevant curricula, and familial student care. Tribal colleges are known for allowing students to further their careers, attain an advanced degree and better support their communities.

The Cobell Scholarship Program can help you figure out the application process for Tribal scholarships

At The Cobell Scholarship Program, we pride ourselves in being able to help our students and scholars work through the sometimes difficult process in earning the opportunity that previous generations in their family may not have had. Contact us today for more information about how to qualify for Tribal scholarships!