Native American and Tribal Grants
Qualify and Receive Funds for College
Native Americans, and Native Alaskans, have a long history of being under-represented in traditional American colleges and universities. Over the years, a large number of financial aid programs have been put into place to help redress this imbalance. These programs are supported by both the private and public sectors, and offer much needed assistance to Native American students who are struggling to pay for college.
Documenting Your Ancestry
Before you apply for any grant program dedicated to Native American students, you must first be able to prove, with accepted documentation, that you are at least ¼ American Indian. This will take some time, but it is vital to securing any financial aid specifically designed to benefit Native Americans and Native Alaskans.
You will need to research your ancestry using birth certificates, family records, and tribal history. You will also want to consult the Dawes Rolls , which are census documents prepared between 1898 and 1914 when American Indians were being relocated to government reservations. These documents contain a listing of the people accepted by the Dawes Commission as members of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes.
The following resources will prove invaluable as you trace your American Indian ancestry:
- Family and tribal records
- The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs
- Tahtonka, a Federally prepared listing of the 562 recognized Tribal Nations
- The Dawes Indian Census Rolls
Once you have gathered the necessary documentation, and can present a complete genealogy proving a direct line of Native American descent, you will need to apply to the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs for a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood. The CDIB is a requirement for all financial aid programs dedicated to Native Americans, and will serve as proof of your American Indian Heritage.
Once you have received your Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood, you can begin your search for grants, scholarships and other financial aid programs dedicated to Native American students.
Native American Education Grants from the Federal Government
The first stop along the path to any college funding is the Federal government. While past relations between the Tribal Nations and the Federal government have certainly been strained, recent attempts to redress a history of persecution have led to a number financial aid programs designed to help Native Americans improve their educational opportunities.
The White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities provides information on the 33 fully accredited Tribal run colleges and universities in the United States. Through the WHITCU students can find information on tribal run colleges and universities that offer support and encouragement to Native American students pursuing their higher education goals. The WHITCU works with their companion agency, the Bureau of Indian Education to administer a number of grants and scholarships designed to benefit college-bound Native Americans. These include the Bureau of Indian Education Higher Education Grant and the Indian Health Service Scholarship. The BIE also provides information on regional scholarships, loan resources, and tuition waivers for Native American students.
In addition to Federal programs specifically dedicated solely to Native Americans, students should consider applying for the more common government financial aid programs, including:
- The Federal Pell Grant
- The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
- The Academic Competitiveness and National SMART Grants
These programs are open to all applicants, regardless of race or ethnic heritage.
The American Indian College Fund
The American Indian College Fund is a prime source of financial aid for Native American students looking to fund their college education. While the AICF doesn’t specifically offer grants, they do support three integral scholarship programs that deserve mention.
- The Undergraduate Tribal University Scholarship – designed for students attending one of the 33 accredited Tribal Universities.
- The Undergraduate Non-Tribal University Scholarship – available to Native American students attending an accredited non-tribal college or university.
- The AICF Full Circle Scholarship – for Native American graduate level students pursuing their degrees at either a Tribal, or non-Tribal, college or university.
The American Indian College Fund is also a prime source of information on developing programs that benefit the Native American community, and students are encouraged to remain in contact with the organization to keep up to date on relevant news and events.
Financial Aid from Your Tribe
College-bound Native Americans can often find financial aid through their own tribe. Individual tribal nations routinely offer grants, scholarships and loans to students who are struggling to find the necessary resources to go to college. Once you have determined your tribal ancestry, contact your tribal elders to learn about any programs that may be available. The University of Oklahoma provides an exhaustive listing of recognized American Indian Tribal Nations, along with links to their dedicated websites.
Other Sources of College Grants for Native American Students
Financial aid for college-bound Native American students can be found from a variety of sources. In addition to the Federal government, many state governments support grants and scholarships for their Native American residents. These programs are predominately found in states that have a large American Indian population. Students are encouraged to contact their state’s Department of Higher Education to learn about any financial aid programs that are dedicated to Native American residents.
Beyond any government sources, many professional associations and philanthropic organizations sponsor grants and scholarships for Native American, Native Alaskan, students. In many cases these programs will target students who are members of specific tribes, or who are pursuing specific professional degrees. Native American students will find grants and scholarships at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Some examples of the variety of grants available will give Native American students an idea of what may be available to them.
- The American Indian Graduate Center is a philanthropic organization dedicated to helping Native American achieve their educational goals. 1500 grants and scholarships are awarded annually to qualifying Native American and Native Alaskan students.
- The Indian Health Service provides education loans, scholarships and grants to Native American students pursuing a career in healthcare. Special attention is given to those applicants who intend to practice medicine within their native community.
- The Gates Millennium Scholars Program offers full tuition grants and scholarships to deserving minority students. 1000 awards are given annually, with special attention being given to Native American and Native Alaskan applicants
- The National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship provides research grants to graduate level students pursuing their degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Students must be enrolled at an accredited college or university, and special focus is given to minority students including Native Americans.
- The Tyonek Native Corporation provides grants and scholarships for Native Americans. General scholarships are available to students enrolled in a 2 year or 4 year college or university. Vocational grants are offered to students who are enrolled in an accredited technical or vocational school.
- The Association on American Indian Affairs administers the Adolph Van Pelt Special Fund for Indians. This fund provides scholarships and grants to Native Americans who can demonstrate the requisite level of financial need. Awards range from $500 to $1500 per semester.
This is just a small selection of the available grant programs dedicated to helping Native American students realize their dream of a college education. Many more programs are available to college-bound Native Americans and Native Alaskans. The secret to finding these lucrative financial aid programs is research and diligence. Begin your search for financial aid for college early, to allow plenty of time to research, and to apply for, all grants and scholarships for which you may be eligible.
For further information on financial aid programs dedicated to Native American students please refer to our section on Scholarships for Native Americans.