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Education | Opinion
Letter: Indian tuition waiver not a treaty right


"The treaties used to legitimize Indian Tuition Waivers do not guarantee a right to free college tuition for tribe members. The Washington Treaty of 1836 provided that the federal government would pay the Ottawa and Chippewa tribes $5,000 per year for education for the next 20 years.

A 1934 agreement made by Governor William Comstock insured that Michigan would provide education to tribal members equal to that of other Michigan residents (not greater than).

Michigan didn't begin funding ITWs until 1976 when Representative Vaughn, recognizing that the courts were forming the opinion that there was no explicit right in the treaties for post-high school education, took up the cause. Vaughn saw an opportunity to exploit the unhappy history between Native Americans and white society to further his own affirmative action agenda.

The ITW program has doubled in the last two years and will cost Michigan taxpayers almost $9.1 million. The treaties being used to defend this program do not provide for this funding. The ITW program is not a result of treaties, but rather legislation introduced by a member of the state House in 1976. In my opinion, due to the passage of Proposal 2, the ITW program is blatantly against Michigan's constitution."

Get the Story:
Dave Agema: Indian waivers costly [second item] (The Grand Rapids Press 6/14)

Related Stories:
Michigan lawmaker seeks to end tribal tuition waiver (6/3)