It's great to see regents for Haskell Indian Nations University rising to the aid of their school.
Members of the Haskell board of regents decided Friday to call a national summit of tribal leaders in May to discuss alternative funding sources for Indian colleges and universities.
Many state universities have seen their government funding dwindle in recent years, but the situation at Haskell, a federally funded school, has been particularly serious. After four years of flat funding, university officials were told last week they can expect a cut of about $600,000 in next year's budget. That would represent a reduction of about 6.5 percent in the school's $9.1 million budget.
And while many state universities and their supporters resent the fact that they must depend more and more on private funds to support their operations, the decline in government funding has a special significance for supporters of Haskell. The federal government is obligated through treaties to provide education to American Indian people and to support Haskell and other Indian colleges and universities across the country. Members of recognized American Indian tribes take special offense at the government's failure to meet that obligation.
But rather than simply stand by and watch Haskell decline, the board of regents is rising to the challenge and asking Indians across the country to do the same. "I think it's time for all tribes to pitch in and help out," said Regent Lana Redeye, a member of the Seneca Nation.
Because of income from gambling operations, many tribal groups now find themselves in the position to offer some financial assistance to Indian colleges. Tribal casinos are creating jobs for tribe members and improving the standard of living on reservations, but what could be more important to the future of American Indian people than the higher education opportunities available at schools like Haskell?
Indian colleges and universities not only help preserve Indian history and culture, they produce the next generation of leaders for tribes, governments, businesses and schools. That leadership is the key to a better future for the Indian people.
The federal government may owe American Indians better support for higher education, but it's great to see Haskell leaders taking increased responsibility for the future of the institution. An organized lobbying effort to preserve or increase federal funding for Haskell may be part of the overall approach, but asking tribes to invest some of their gaming proceeds in higher education also seems like a reasonable course.
Congratulations to the Haskell regents for taking a proactive approach to preserving and enriching the Haskell legacy.