Cobell Scholarships in the Works

iStockInterior transferred $5M to the Scholarship Fund for American Indian/Alaska Native students authorized by the Cobell settlement. So where are they?
Interior transferred $5M to the Scholarship Fund for American Indian/Alaska Native students authorized by the Cobell settlement. So where are they?



The U.S. Interior Department has transferred $5 million to the Scholarship Fund for American Indian/Alaska Native students authorized by the Cobell settlement.

So where are all the scholarships?

Turk Cobell and Alex Pearl, members of the Board of Trustees for the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund, spoke with ICTMN about the status of the scholarship program recently.

Some of the $5 million will go directly to scholarships and some will be held back, Pearl said. “This is meant to be a perpetual fund so that Indian students can be going to college and receiving Cobell Scholarship Funds well after we’re long gone. It operates like any other Scholarship Funds where you restrict a portion of it so that the fund can continue for years and years and years.”

RELATED: Interior Ends Year with Total Transfer of $5M to Cobell Scholarship Fund

How much money will be available immediately for scholarships is something the American Indian Graduate Center and the trustees are still talking about, Pearl said.

The AIGC and the trustees are also working on the eligibility criteria for the scholarships. “Since we’re just sort of getting the wheels going on working with the American Indian Graduate Center [eligibility criteria are] something that we’re working with them on, just trying to figure out what makes sense, what’s feasible, what we need to do,” Pearl said.

One thing is certain: the scholarships will go only to AI/AN students. Pearl said, “That is set by statute; the settlement requires that the scholarship funds be used for American Indian/Alaska Native students.”

The American Indian Graduate Center is the “recipient organization” for the Scholarship Fund. Its duties include establishing the eligibility criteria for the scholarships as well as managing and administering the fund. A few months ago, the American Indian College Fund was selected to be the recipient organization, with the AIGC getting 20 percent of the funds to support graduate students, but that arrangement has been changed. Now the AIGC will administer the funds for both undergraduate and graduate students. Scholarships will also be available for certificate programs and vocational training.

A five-member Board of Trustees will oversee the fund and report on the AIGC’s work. Two of the board’s members were selected by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and two by the lead plaintiffs in the Cobellsuit.

Jewell appointed Jean O’Brien, Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Mississippi Band of the White Earth Ojibwa, of the University of Minnesota, a professor of history and chair of the University of Minnesota Department of American Indian Studies. Jewell’s other appointee is Pamela Agoyo, Kewa, Cochiti and Ohkay Owingeh Pueblos, director of American Indian Student Services and special assistant to the president for American Indian Affairs at the University of New Mexico.

The plaintiffs selected Turk Cobell, Blackfeet, Elouise Cobell’s son and founder and president of Native Hospitality Advisors, and Alex Pearl, Chickasaw, an assistant professor of law and associate director of the Center for Water Law and Policy at Texas Tech University School of Law. The AIGC will select the fifth member of the board.
The $3.4-billion Cobellsettlement, signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, ended the 16-year lawsuit brought by Elouise Cobell, Blackfeet, against the U.S. government for mismanaging trust funds for AI/AN landowners.

As part of the settlement, copy.9 billion was set aside for the Lands Buy-Back Program for Indian Nations. Under the program, the federal government is buying back fractionated land interests from individual owners and putting them in the hands of tribal governments.

RELATED: Two Tribal Nations Sign Land Buy-Back Agreements

Contributions to the Scholarship Fund, which is intended to be an incentive for landowners to sell, are based on the payments made for fractionated land interests, according to a formula specified in the Cobellsettlement. If the amount of the land purchase is less than $200, copy0 will be paid to the holding fund; if it is between $200 and $500, the payment is $25, and if it is more than $500, five percent of the purchase price goes to the fund.

How much money will eventually end up in the scholarship fund is not yet known. “It depends on the type of sales that occur through the Land Buy-Back program and we won’t know how much that’s going to be until 10 years have passed since the settlement agreement,” Pearl said. The maximum amount that could go into the fund from the program is $60 million.

RELATED: ICTMN Exclusive: Interior’s Mike Connor Discusses Tribal Land Buy-Back Program

In addition, “the principal amount of any class member funds in an Individual Indian Money (IIM) account for which the whereabouts are unknown and left unclaimed for five years,” and “any leftover funds from the administration of the Settlement (after all payments under the Settlement are made)” could boost the fund later, according to the Department of Interior.

The AIGC and the board of trustees are focused on getting scholarships into the hands of students as quickly as possible. P. “Sam” Deloria, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, is director of the AIGC. He said in an email: “At the moment, it is safe to say that we expect to be funding Cobell Scholarships for this fall.”

Pearl said: “We are really excited to start distributing some funds as quickly as is feasible and we’re excited about the potential for Native students to succeed in undergraduate and graduate programs.”



Polar bear pulled Arctic Bay man from tent, says MLA

Quttiktuq MLA Isaac Shooyook spoke in the Nunavut legislative assembly Friday about a polar bear attack on his grandson this week. (Courtesy Isaac Shooyook)
Quttiktuq MLA Isaac Shooyook spoke in the Nunavut legislative assembly Friday about a polar bear attack on his grandson this week. (Courtesy Isaac Shooyook)

CBC News May 23, 2014

The victims of a polar bear attack near Arctic Bay, Nunavut, are still receiving medical treatment.

Isaac Shooyook, MLA for Quttiktuq, spoke about the attack in the Nunavut legislature Friday morning.

Two people were attacked during a hunting trip nearly 100 kilometres outside of Arctic Bay.

Shooyook says the bear pulled his grandson out of a tent by the head in the middle of the night.

“When he started screaming, the bear turned to the other man,” he said in Inuktitut. “My grandson then grabbed the gun and the bear threw the other man.”

Another group of hunters drove the two men back to the community. Shooyook says neither of the victims have broken bones, but they were scratched and bitten.

The two were flown to Iqaluit for treatment Thursday night.

44th Native Youth Olympics


Georgette Morgan gets ready to compete in the kneel jump. Nearly 500 student athletes from across Alaska are in Anchorage this week to compete in the 44th annual Native Youth Olympics. Apr 24, 2014Loren Holmes photo
Georgette Morgan gets ready to compete in the kneel jump. Nearly 500 student athletes from across Alaska are in Anchorage this week to compete in the 44th annual Native Youth Olympics. Apr 24, 2014
Loren Holmes photo


500 Alaska students test strength, skill in 2014 Native Youth Olympics

Megan Edge,Loren Holmes

April 24, 2014 Alaska

The entryway of the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center was packed Thursday afternoon. More than 500 student athletes from across Alaska had gathered, some dressed in matching T-shirts and colorful kuspuks, to represent their heritage, communities, regions and schools at the Native Youth Olympics.

Magdaline Kapatak stood in the middle of a group of her classmates from Koliganek School in Dillingham, awaiting their turn to strut their stuff in front of peers, parents and an audience of supporters.

Kapatak has been going to Anchorage to compete in the annual spring games since the eighth grade. This year, she is competing in multiple events, including the kneel jump, Alaska high kick, seal hop and two-foot high kick.

“I would have to say my favorite is the Alaska high kick,” said Kapatak, smiling. “There is just something about it, and it’s a family thing. A lot of my family competed in it, like my brother and my sister. They came here often and placed.”

She said the trick to success is inner and mental strength, along with a lot of hard work. “For students competing for the first time, there isn’t pressure yet to win or place, just have fun.”

Before long, the line full of students was moving. The audience cheered as they were introduced. Some smiled, others blushed and a couple of them raised their hands above their heads and hollered.

Hundreds of students from seventh to 12th grade sat on the floor and waited for the long list of speeches to begin. Elders, Native corporation leaders and sponsors worked to inspire and encourage the young athletes by preaching a set of key core values: self-respect, respect towards others, healthy choices and honoring traditions.

A complete 2014 NYO schedule is available online.

The lawless ‘end of the land’


Click image to view video
Click image to view video

By John D. Sutter, CNN

February 4, 2014

Editor’s note: John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion and head of CNN’s Change the List project. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. E-mail him at

Nunam Iqua, Alaska (CNN) — Over the course of several years, Beth’s boyfriend shattered her elbow, shot at her, threatened to kill her, lit a pile of clothes on fire in her living room, and, she told me, beat her face into a swollen, purple pulp.

These are horrifying yet common occurrences here in the 200-person village of Nunam Iqua, Alaska, which means “End of the Land” in the Yupik Eskimo language.

Yet the violence is allowed to continue in part because Nunam Iqua is one of “at least 75 communities” in the state that has no local law enforcement presence, according to a 2013 report from the Indian Law and Order Commission.

“There would be someone to call for help” if there were police, said Beth, a 32-year-old who asked that I not use her real name because her abuser is still free. “Someone who could actually do something — right there, as soon as they get the call.”

Seems reasonable, huh?

Not in rural Alaska.

Here, state troopers often take hours or days to respond, usually by plane.

The flight takes 45 minutes, at minimum.

Alaska State Troopers will tell you they’re doing the best they can to police a state that’s four times the size of California and has very few roads.

The challenges are daunting, to be sure, and I don’t blame the hard-working law-enforcement officers. But the logistics can’t be an excuse for impunity.

Alaska is failing people who need help most.

The rapist next door

High rates of violence

I traveled out here to the village at the edge of land — the kind of place where a Bond villain would hide out, or where WikiLeaks would stash a computer server — in December because the state has the nation’s highest rate of reported rape, according to FBI crime estimates. You voted for me to cover this topic as part of CNN’s Change the List project, which focuses on social justice in bottom-of-the-list places.

There are many reasons Alaska’s rates of violence against women are thought to be so high — from the long, dark winters to the culture of silence and the history of colonization. But the most tangible reason is this: Much of Alaska is basically lawless.

The scope of the tragedy in Nunam Iqua, a Yupik Eskimo village, is unthinkable: Nearly every woman has been a victim of domestic or gender-based violence, rape or other sex crimes, according to women I met in town; a corrections officer in Bethel, Alaska, the regional hub; the director of the women’s shelter in Emmonak, Alaska; and Nunam Iqua Mayor Edward Adams Sr., whose wife was slashed across the face by a family member, he said — and who has a bullet lodged behind his right ear.

“I don’t hear anymore” out of that ear, he said.


 Click here to read rest of story.



HUD Grants $563M To Support Affordable Housing in Native Communities

Indian Country Today Media Network

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today awarded $563 million to 353 American Indian and Alaskan Native entities that represent 539 tribes across the U.S.  The funds, made available through HUD’s Indian Housing Block Grant  Program, are distributed annually to eligible Indian tribes or their tribally designated housing entities for a broad range of affordable housing activities.

“Hardworking American families in tribal communities should be able to live in communities where they have a fair shot to reach their potential,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a press release. “The resources provided today will give these tribal communities the tools to maintain quality housing, prevent overcrowding, improve public safety and provide other basic building blocks of security and success.”

Indian Housing Block Grant funds primarily benefit hardworking families living on reservations or in other Native American communities, who don’t have the financial resources to maintain good homes, schools, or other key contributors to economic security. The amount of each grant is based on a formula that considers local needs and housing units under management by the tribe or designated entity.

Indian communities can use the funding for a variety of housing activities, including building affordable housing; providing assistance to existing housing that was developed under the Indian Housing Program authorized by the U.S. Housing Act of 1937; or other activities that create new approaches to provide more affordable housing for Native Americans. The funding is also used to offer housing services to eligible families and individuals; and establish crime prevention and safety measures. The block grant approach to housing was established by the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act of 1996.