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Prior Lake, MN - Because the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is committed to helping retain and graduate American Indian students from higher educational institutions, the SMSC has made a donation of $25,000 to the University of Montana for a Native American Center to house the Native American Studies Department and other Native American student support programs.
The building will be a 19,900 square foot facility with classrooms, a computer lab, office space, and space for cultural activities. The Native American Center will serve the more than 2,500 students who take classes in the Native American Studies Department. Of that amount, about 2,000 are non-Native students.
"Native American students in Montana's reservation schools now perform at roughly half the level as non-Native American students. Needless to say, those who aspire to college by their junior year in high school number few. At the UM, we enroll about 525 Native American students each year, the largest Native American student population in the state and three and one-half percent of the University enrollment is 13,500. Each one is precious to us, because we know the obstacles they have overcome to get to the University, not only in regard to their educational preparation, but also in regard to their social and cultural backgrounds and financial needs," wrote Native American Studies Department Chair and Associate Professor Kathryn Shanley in the request letter.
"All in all, the project holds great promise for a measure of necessary healing and for blessing for the American Indian people of Montana, as they make higher education their own turf for producing tomorrow's leaders," she wrote.
In previous years the SMSC has helped fund similar projects at Bemidji State University in Minnesota and the University of North Dakota.