One of the payoffs of gambling on the Gila River Indian Community is education paid for by the tribe.
For decades, most tribal members stayed on the reservation, living in family groups.
But new money, much of it generated from Indian gaming, has changed that.
About 20 percent of the 22,000 registered members of the Gila River tribes live off the reservation.
More than 400 are attending community colleges and universities, mostly in Arizona.
Their education is largely financed by the Gila River tribal government, with the tribe giving out scholarships to anyone seeking a college education.
The community has nearly $7 million set aside for college education of its members.
In 1997, the tribe had only $400,000 of tribal money set aside for education, according to tribal officials.
Although the tribe pays for their education, the transition from reservation to university is often a difficult one, said Eddie Brown, former assistant secretary of Indian Affairs for the U.S. Department of the Interior and now director of ASU’s American Indian Studies program.
Students often find themselves torn between their commitment to their families and the expectations they face at school, he said. In western cultures, “you have your parents’ support and everything is focused on you. But in Indian culture, you are still a part of a family. You are tied to that culture. If a ceremony takes several days, you are expected to be there. You just go,” Brown said.
Brown said he hopes the new American Indian Policy and Leadership Development Center at ASU will change that. The center this semester is consolidating services that had been spread across campus. Brown said the center, along with more American Indian advisers, will increase retention and make students more comfortable.
Information from: East Valley Tribune/Scottsdale Tribune, http://www.eastvalleytribune.com
– Associated Press
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