State officials have authorized the first four-year college program at Haskell Indian Nations University.
On Wednesday, the Kansas State Board of Education voted 8-1 to grant provisional approval to a new teacher-education program at Haskell, founded by the federal government in 1884 to fulfill treaties that promised American Indians educations in exchange for their land.
It will be the first bachelor's degree program in the school's 111-year history.
"This is a significant milestone in our transition to become a four-year university, which will have national impact on education in general as native teachers leave this program," said Bob Martin, Haskell's president.
Board of education member Wanda Morrison of Hutchinson cast the one vote against approval, noting a number of shortcomings that an evaluation team said Haskell would need to correct, including minimal library facilities and a lack of instructional materials for student teachers. The program will be re-evaluated in a year.
"It just seemed to me that there were a lot of deficiencies," Morrison said. "I think because of the vote, they will be given a chance to correct those deficiencies, and I'm sure the program will be okay."
The state board's vote assured the continued evolution of a government school that once attempted to erase all memories of history, language and heritage from the American Indian students forced to attend it.
Over the years, the school's offerings advanced from elementary school programs to high school and vocational classes. Since 1970, Haskell has offered a variety of specialized two-year associate's degree programs.
The new teacher-education program is intended to train new American Indian teachers who will be mindful of the cultural and social needs of American Indian students.
School officials say the program will begin this fall with about five students.
Haskell offers a virtually free education, plus low-cost housing and meals, to enrolled members of federally recognized Indian tribes. The school has about 800 students.