LARAMIE, Wy. — Backed by three major donations, the Sky People Higher Education Scholarship at the University of Wyoming has crossed the $100,000 milestone. 

The scholarship, which is available to Northern Arapaho Tribe students attending UW, was created in 2019 by Sky People Higher Education, a Fort Washakie, Wy.-based group that works to encourage the tribe’s youth to pursue postsecondary education.

“Since its creation in April 1979, the Sky People Higher Education program’s priority is to provide our young people with opportunities they typically wouldn’t have or even have dreamed about,” Sky People Higher Education Executive Director Joseph Smith Jr. said in a statement. 

The organization gifted the original $25,000 to create the endowed scholarship, an amount matched by the Northern Arapaho Business Council. An anonymous donor also donated $50,000 for the fund. 

“As Chief Black Coal said, ‘Educating our children is their only chance for survival.’ His words remain true for our Arapaho children today,” Lee Spoonhunter, chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, said in a statement.  

Education remains the highest priority for the Northern Arapaho General Council “because we know this is what ensures our Arapaho people have the knowledge, job skills and cultural values they need to succeed and walk in both worlds as residents of Indian Country and American citizens,” Spoonhunter said. 

The new scholarship complements the university’s Northern Arapaho Endowment Fund, which offers roughly $90,000 in scholarship aid to mainly junior and senior year Northern Arapaho students. The Sky People Higher Education Scholarship will provide funding assistance to freshmen and sophomores, according to a statement. 

The Northern Arapaho Endowment Committee will select scholarship recipients, who must be attending UW and provide proof of tribal enrollment in the more than 9,800-member Northern Arapaho Tribe, which is based on the Wind River Indian Reservation along with the Eastern Shoshone Tribe. 

Additionally, the UW named Reinette Tendore, currently the director of the Native American Program, as the new program director of the university’s Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center (NAERCC). Tendore is an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe and a part of the Northern Ute and Pyramid Lake Paiute tribes. 

“I am excited to continue the work to assist our Native students in achieving their higher education goals and to be a resource not only for our Native communities, but also the University of Wyoming, the state and the regional area,” Tendore stated. 

The Center provides Native students with support, a place to study and a sense of community, according to a statement. NAERCC also includes UW’s Native American and Indigenous Studies Program, the High Plains American Indian Research Institute and Native American Summer Institute. 

As well, UW named Caskey Russel, an enrolled member of the Tlingit Tribe of Alaska, as the new director of the school’s Native American and Indigenous Studies Program and the associate director of the School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice. Russell previously directed the program from 2014 to 2017.

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Author: Native News Online Staff