It was a historic day for a Muscogee tribe. On Saturday, the College of the Muscogee Nation held its first graduation. The News On 6's Jeffrey Smith reports the ceremony is an important milestone in cultural education.
The Muscogee Creek Nation says opening a tribal college two years ago was like opening a new door to its future. Because of the college's focus on Indian culture, many of today's graduates say they to want to pass on what they learned in the classroom to the next generation of Creeks.
Daniel Wind says Saturday has been a long time coming.
"I actually started trying to go back to school in '89 after I graduated from high school. It's taken me 20 years. And it wouldn't have been possible if the tribal college hadn't come into existence," said Wind.
He's talking about the College of the Muscogee Nation, which opened its doors two years ago.
Wind is one of about 20 students receiving degrees as part of the College's first graduation.
"It feels good to be part of something that's unique, never been done before and most important for me, as a member of the Muskogee Nation, something that will keep taking our tribe forward," said Wind.
"A lot of those students return to the tribe, because they want to go back and work for the tribe," said Angela Bunner who is an administrator.
Administrators say enrollment has grown every semester.
"Going from a charter class of nine students in the fall of 2006, those were our full-time students, to an enrollment of over 250 now," said Bunner.
Bunner says a tribal education is important.
"Nine of 10 will complete their course of study, and of those nine, 60% will go on to a four-year degree," said Bunner. "They're able to identity with the culture, with the faculty, with the staff."
"I grew up in Dallas. Not a lot of Creeks down in Dallas, Texas. But because I've taken language classes, courses on art history, on Oklahoma history, it's made me feel more important. These are things that I know I can pass on to my children, to my grandchildren," said Wind.
Wind says he plans on enrolling at OSU Tulsa in the fall and working towards his Bachelor's Degree.
The College of the Muscogee Nation is fully accredited because of a partnership with OSU.
Officials say that within four years, they plan on becoming independently accredited and they want to build a 15-acre campus.
Preliminary numbers for next year show that the number of graduates will increase again by 25%.