Hundreds packed Haskell Indian Nations University's Coffin Complex Friday to send off this year's graduates.
Altogether 85 students graduated with bachelor degrees from Haskell this spring, and more than 100 graduated with associate degrees.
Along with the friends and families of graduates, Friday's commencement ceremony brought in dignitaries from all over the country, including the Comanche Nation Elders Council and the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation tribal council.
Charles Roessel, director of the federal Bureau of Indian Education, which manages Haskell, delivered the commencement address. Roessel, a member of the Navajo Nation, focused on what he called the "undefeated mind" of Haskell graduates.
"A quick view of the names of the graduates reminds me of the uniqueness of this school," he said. "You are evidence that Indians are not defeated."
Roessel pointed to stereotypes of American Indians as alcoholics, dropouts and overly dependent on federal subsidies. "If you listened to these naysayers, none of you would be here," he said.
Delivering Friday's farewell address to grads was new Haskell president Venida Chenault, who began in the position this spring. Chenault called Haskell "a place where we realize our potential."
More than anything else, Chenault said, "I hope Haskell has helped you to see the beauty of who we are as Indian people."
Tonya Azure, Haskell's Student of the Year, an annual honor that requires perfect grades and strong character, said she also faced Indian stereotypes growing up. "No one in our community expected us to amount to anything," she said.
Azure, who will graduate this year with a bachelor's in business administration, told her peers their degrees should be more "than a reward for your hard work" and instead an opportunity and an obligation.
"Do something amazing, something extraordinary with your life," she said.