No “Free” college money around here

Dear Editor,

Just read “Ricey Wild’s” October 5th column and feel the need to respond to some of her statement and in particular the one about “free” college (blood money).

I have been the Scholarship Director for the Fond du Lac Reservation for almost 14 years and prior to that served as the Director of Augsburg College’s American Indian Student Services Program for 19 years. My professional experience in the area of College Financial Aid and Tribal Scholarships obligates me to comment and clarify Ricey Wild’s unfortunate choice of words when describing the benefits our band members receive.

First, I can assure you that our “free” money is NOT FREE. All Fond du Lac band members must meet  specific eligibility criteria for scholarship assistance and our dollars are only SUPPLEMENTAL to all other Financial Aid resources. Our criteria states “one must be an enrolled member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa,” we do not have a specific blood degree requirement.” This means our program has the flexibility to assist some of those “hyper-pink ones to the very dark brown ones.” These are her words (not mine). I would never describe our people in that manner. It is disrespectful and many band members I talk to feel it is borderline racist and fuels the stereotype of “Indian getting a free ride.”

Secondly, I would like to offer my thoughts on the issue of “disenrollment” her at Fond du Lac. This is the result of an article in our tribal newspaper about a Fond du Lac band member adopting two non native children who, for whatever reason, ended up being enrolled. It is my understanding this issue will only effect that  particular family and the our RBC is not going on a witch hunt!

I have advocated for years that tribal nations need to look at providing tuition scholarships for first generation descendants and as far as I know only a couple of Reservations in Minnesota do so. At this point Fond du Lac has not approved any new eligibility criteria for scholarship assistance.

I hope this helps clarify the issue of “free” college (blood money).

Bonnie Wallace
Fond du Lac Reservation
Business Committee
Cloquet, Minnesota