Long before the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria spotted the shores of North America, our continent was home to thriving communities devoted to peace and prosperity. When Columbus came ashore, however, he brought massive upheavals with him. The peaceful Native American societies were ravaged by disease, violence, and other maladies until they were contained to small areas within land that used to be theirs alone. Today, Native American reservations are considered sovereign property, nations independent from the United States, and the occupants strive to uphold the memory of their ancestors through continuation of their cultural traditions.
The United States has a long and sad history of mistreating Native Americans, and recently, efforts have been ramped up to right our past wrongs. It is widely acknowledged and accepted that Native American students who grow up on reservations do not benefit from the same advantages and privilege that others do, and steps have been made to rectify this when it comes time for these students to move on towards college. Through their higher education and with the continued support of their community, these students strive towards the future while retaining the important knowledge of their past.
Here are a few of the options Native American students have when looking at college scholarships:
American Indian Nurse Scholarship Awards
Native American roots in medicine and healing run long and deep. From the herbal remedies of the Iroquois tribes, produced by reducing different plants, to the handwritten diagnoses for maladies in the language of the Cherokee, Native American communities have had a profound impact on the field. Today, efforts to continue this tradition are evident in the American Indian Nurse Scholarship Awards, sponsored by the National Society of Colonial Dames in America (NSCDA), an organization which consists of the descendants of women who were residents of one of the thirteen colonies.
The scholarship began as a way to pay tribute to the many Native American residents who were peaceful with their colonist ancestors. Today, it is open to anyone who has at least 1/4 Native American ancestry that is enrolled in an accredited nursing school. The deadline for application is rolling, but the majority of applicants are accepted in June and December. The award’s winners receive $1,500 each semester, provided they remain in good academic standing.
Catching the Dream Program
According to various accounts, the people of the Chippewa nation, located in the Great Lakes region of North America, began making dreamcatchers many years ago in an attempt to ward off frightful spirits in nightmares. The stringed hoops are often hung over a bed and strung with beads or feathers, which the people believed pushed, then swept, the spirits away. Today, dreamcatchers are popular all over the country as a decoration or to soothe the nerves of youngsters. In a twist on the subject, the Catching the Dream Program uses the image of the dreamcatcher to represent a positive vision for the future in lieu of a nightmare.
The program makes it their mission to help provide Native American students with a quality education, regardless of their economic or social standing, to help make up for the concerning lack of Native American representation in several professional fields. The program’s website states that the high school dropout rate for Native American students is a shocking 50%, and only 17% of graduates go on to attend college. Through the program, they aim to provide additional incentive to Native American students and show them that there is hope for the future. Apparently, this strategy is effective, as well over 85% of CtD scholarship recipients have gone on to graduate from an institute of higher education.
Holland & Knight Young Native Writers Essay Contest
Deadline: April 15, 2017
Continuing the theme of hope for the future, the Young Native Writers Essay Contest, sponsored by Holland and Knight Law, asks applicants to consider their experiences as a Native American. The prompt for the essay, which varies a bit from year to year, generally focuses on the students’ past experiences and their hope for the future of their tribal communities.
Five awards are doled out every application cycle, with the essays due in the middle of every April. The top five students with their essays chosen receive an award of $2,500 to go towards their college tuition. Eventually, the contest hopes to drive these students to graduate college and eventually use their degrees to make a positive impact in their home communities.
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