Tuition waivers for Native Americans are a step in the right direction

In summary

Tuition waivers can never atone for harm done to Native Americans. Not everyone needs help, but most people historically oppressed by government politics and abuse do.

By David Hampton, Thousand Oaks

David Hampton is a Cherokee Nation citizen, dual-degree holder, and engineering lead for a major social influencer marketing platform.

Re “Native American tuition waiver policy is not the right way to atone for historical wrongs”; Commentary, Jun 29, 2022

Donald Craig Mitchell uses partial truths and misdirection in stating that Native Americans should not have tuition waivers. He deploys phrases that obscure the genocide committed against Native Americans in California. “Facinorous” is accurate, but I don’t think almost anyone knows it means “excruciatingly nasty”. Even my spell checker flags it as an unknown word.

But let’s dive into the atrocities: the bounties for Indian scalps, the eradication of the food supply, the mass extermination, the reduction of California’s native population from 150,000 to 16,000. facinorous” in reference to the genocide is veiled intellectualism. Over 15 million Native Americans were exterminated by settlers and the US government in their first 300 years on this continent. This makes them more than twice as deadly as Germany’s Nazis. And the US government has broken each of its 173 treaties with Native American tribes.

Mitchell is correct that tribes are political rather than racial entities. He is wrong to state that giving free tuition to Native Americans is only an indicator of race. Any cursory study of Cherokee history will show that many (if not most) Cherokee were “Caucasian” in appearance. Indeed, beginning in the late 1500s, the Cherokee had many intermarriages. But they were still discriminated against just because they were Cherokee.

As a Cherokee citizen, my family has a deep history. My great-great-grandfather drove a wagon down the Trail of Tears. Oklahomans stole their land during the allotment period. All my uncles fled Indian Territory just to survive. None went to college, nor did their children or their children’s children. This is what cultural genocide does: it destroys lives, hopes and opportunities.

My father, my brother and I are the only ones who came out of this disaster area and went to university. Are there any Native Americans who don’t need help? Sure. But do most people historically oppressed by politics and government abuse need it? Yes.

Native Americans are three times more likely to be killed by police than any other group. Native American women are more likely to be kidnapped and killed than any other group by a factor of 6 to 1. Native American children are more likely to be wrongfully forced into foster care by a factor of 4 to 1. Native Americans are half as likely to earn a college degree.

The University of California tuition waiver can never undo the damage done. It’s not supposed to. But it is a step in the right direction.

Nohemi M. Moore