Jodi Rave: Fort Lewis College in 'boarding school era'

"Sonya Abe, a Mandan-Hidatsa/Navajo, will graduate Saturday from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., a school ranked ninth nationally in awarding bachelor's degrees to Native students.

But despite that Native student camaraderie, the campus hasn't lived up to her expectations.

“It feels like the boarding school era,” she says. “They're not hearing us when we're talking to them. They don't want us to ask questions.”

Abe is part of a group of faculty, students and graduates who have been seeking answers about the campus climate from the president's office since last fall.

They want to know why the American Indian Studies program is shortchanged in course offerings and in the number of professors - at a campus where Native students make up 18 percent of the campus population.

Chris Jocks, one of two AIS professors, said a “public relations crisis” led to the program's creation in 2006, after a non-Native professor was found to have violated the privacy of Native students in an academic journal.

The program's Web site promises to pave a path for “understanding the cultural, social, political and economic aspirations and potential of indigenous people in the United States and the world.”

But the program remains “malnourished” in a college “atmosphere of entrenchment and silence,” Jocks said in a letter to the college president and the school's American Indian Studies Advisory Board."

Get the Story:
Jodi Rave: Fort Lewis campus loses ‘sacred trust' (The Missoulian 4/26)

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