March 23, 2010
Carrie Billy President and CEO American Indian Higher Education Consortium 121 Oronoco Street Alexandria, VA 22314
Dear President Billy:
The National Haskell Indian Nations University Board of Regents comprised of 15 American Indian and Alaska Native delegates selected by tribal governments and organizations representing each geographic region of the United States is offended at the lack of democratic process and due diligence of inquiry embodied in the United Tribes Technical College Resolution No. 10-03-01 of March 12, 2010 and the subsequent identical resolution passed at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium Board meeting on March 20, 2010. As a duly recognized body representing American Indian Nations and Alaska Native corporations and villages we find it shameful that such a discussion and action was undertaken without notification to Haskell Indian Nations University INTERIM administration and Regents or inclusion on the meeting agenda. The manner in which this was addressed with passage of the resolutions is similar to the old Indian Agent tactic of “divide and conquer” among our people.
Given our centuries long struggle to speak for ourselves, we are very disturbed by the actions taken by United Tribes and AIHEC on intertribal control of Haskell and SIPI, without notification, consultation or input from the respective Board of Regents or administrations.
The resolutions undermine the very principles and practices they alleged to endorse. They were not listed on committee or Board of Director’s agenda for this meeting. During the meeting, it was mentioned that a resolution had been passed by United Tribes supporting tribal control of Haskell and SIPI, however there were no motions made by the committee for submission to the full board. In fact, the first time our ACTING HASKELL INDIAN NATIONS UNIVERSITY President saw the resolution was after the meeting when you provided her a copy. Furthermore, we maintain a dangerous precedent is set when unknown agendas from distant tribal colleges become the basis for making governance decisions about other tribal colleges; as well as practices that fail to engage in notification or consultation with affected tribal colleges. We challenge the failure to abide by established protocol historically used by the AIHEC Board of Director, including the failure to include these matters on the agenda, the failure to provide proper notification to the college of the actions being proposed and to ensure input from the college or its Board of Regents before voting on the matter before the Board.
The matter of tribal control and Haskell and SIPI as construed by United Tribes does not appear on any committee agenda meetings for the spring AIHEC Board of Director’s Agenda, nor was it included on the agenda for the full board meeting on March 20, 2010. If the intention of AIHEC was to vote on the resolution, this information should have been made public prior to the meeting to ensure representatives of our Board of Regents could have attended the meeting as is typically done when actions are taken against AIHEC institutions. Historically, motions debated and discussed in committee are voted on and then forwarded as a Review of Motions item for a vote by the full board. There were no motions made from the Membership and Accreditation Committee regarding the United Tribes resolution, yet the discussion was forwarded for a vote by the full Board of Director’s. While the resolution cited the leadership problems that have occured at Haskell in the past year, the action taken by parties without full knowledge of these events, serve only to further undermine the work currently underway at Haskell to address governance and accreditation issues, as well as the institutional reputation of the University. In essence, this action reflects response to misformation and half truths that have no merit.
Haskell Indian Nations University has a long history of change and growth. Its transition from a boarding school intent on socio-cultural assimilation to an institution preparing college graduates to advance sovereignty and self determination for our tribal nations speak for itself. Haskell has been providing education to American Indian and Alaska Native communities for 125 years in partial fulfillment of treaty and trust obligations.
Today, we have thousands of successful alumni across the United States and a long history as a unique postsecondary institution committed to high quality and culturally relevant education for tribal people. Haskell has a long history of change and growth, including transitioning from a boarding school intent on assimilation; to one which prepares college graduates to advance sovereignty and self determination for our tribes. The National Board of Haskell Regents ensures the programs, policies and operations of Haskell are responsive to the needs of tribes and students and fulfill our accreditation requirements. The Board regularly convenes on the Haskell campus in Fall and Spring semesters of each year, and for retreats or special meetings as needed. The Board assumes responsibilities in strategic planning, the review and approval of policy; addressing student and staff concerns, making recommendations on budgets, priorities and fees; as well as representing the University and advocating on behalf of Haskell during events such as the AIHEC Winter Meeting.
In 1984, former President Gerald Gipp proposed similar legislation to place Haskell Indian Junior College under the auspices of the State of Kansas. This legislation was amended to open Haskell to serve as a community college for non-Indian students from the surrounding community of Lawrence but was vigorously opposed and defeated by the National Haskell Board of Regents and alumni at that time. The current call by United Tribes Technical College to determine the future of Haskell demonstrates little regard for representatives selected by tribes to protect and advance throughout its history and my unwittingly place Haskell in a similar situation.
We recognize there are those within the tribal college movement that believe a disparity in funding for Haskell and SIPI and that this resolution will end this disparity, we respectfully disagree. We do not believe the responsibility for trust education has ended or that tuition should be charged for those who seek trust education at Haskell. As such, we operate entirely on federal appropriations and do not receive revenue from tuition, nor do we receive state aid or tribal government revenue to support our institution. Although we face many constraints and challenges in carrying out this responsibility, we are fully committed to the increasing numbers of American Indian and Alaska Native students who seek education at Haskell and use our funding to fulfill this obligation on behalf of the Bureau of Indian Education.
Although our locations, missions and governance may differ from our peers in the tribal college movement, we have continually supported increased funding for tribal colleges and universities and voted in favor of resolutions to increase funding for our relatives in tribal colleges and universities and we continue to do so. Tribal Colleges, SIPI and Haskell compliment one another in providing education to Indian communities. Rather than pulling each other down and disenfranchising our students, faculty and institution with these actions, let’s focus on working diligently to raise the funding level for all tribal colleges as none of our institutions receives full funding based on our respective formulas and Indian Student Counts.
Let’s seek and work to move into a future in which oppressive practices that perpetrate division, mistrust, conflict, and destruction; whether among our relatives in the tribal colleges, Haskell or SIPI, no longer exist. We continually work to collaborate with our colleagues in the tribal college movement in order to to bundle our strength and power for the well being of our students. We request inclusive versus exclusive philosophies to guide the future of AIHEC that seek to include our voices rather than to exclude our institutions.
We seek your support as we move toward a proposal to expand our authority as the National Haskell Board of Regents and actions that will ensure equity in our ability to govern our institution and request respect for our governance as we have respected and honored your governance. We also thank the members of AIHEC for their recognition and support of the need to strengthen the authority of the Haskell national Board of Regents.
Sincerely, George Tiger National Haskell Board of Regents