Tribes form task force to create American Indian University

Thursday, October 16th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKMULGEE, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma tribal leaders will look into establishing the state's first tribally controlled college.

Leaders of the Five Civilized Tribes have agreed to endorse the development of a small, two-year college for Oklahoma's America Indian population, said Creek Nation Chief Perry Beaver.

A task force of tribal leaders, led by the Creek Nation, is working toward creating the college that could be called the ``American Indian University.''

The proposed American Indian University has the endorsement of OSU President David Schmidly, who said the joint venture between OSU and the Five Civilized Tribes looks to be a good fit.

If established, the American Indian college would be overseen by the Creek Nation Board of Regents, which also would have to be established.

The Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee and Seminole tribe are supporting the establishment of the American Indian University.

Preliminary plans would have the school located at the OSU-Okmulgee campus if federal funding is secured, said Bob Klabenes, president of OSU-Technical Branch in Okmulgee.

If funding is obtained, the tribal college would share OSU-Okmulgee facilities without disrupting OSU's technical educational programs, Klabenes said.

Indian leaders believe that families from Oklahoma's 39 federally recognized Indian tribes would support the new college. Enrollment options for non-Indian students have not been decided.

``One-fourth of Oklahoma's population is Indian, and many other states have these colleges, so why not Oklahoma?'' Beaver asked.

Beaver said the proposed American Indian University in Okmulgee could offer degree programs specific to Indian nation operations, such as Indian gaming management, hazardous waste management, transportation management, law enforcement and fire safety.

The task force hopes to have a proposal submitted for federal funding within six months.

The federal funds would be used to hire faculty members and create academic programs for the American Indian University.

There are about 40 tribally controlled colleges that use federal funding through the American Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities Assistance Act. Some of the tribal colleges have as few as 150 students enrolled.