Opinion: Tribal college changes lives in Alaska
"In keeping with the warm and beautiful weather we're having, I think today's column will be about something positive. So clearly it will have nothing to do with Alaska politics. Instead, we're going to take a look at some bright spots on the educational scene to counterbalance the fairly dismal reports we receive whenever some group comes up to grade our school systems.

School districts in the Bush are usually singled out for their high dropout rates on these report cards. So I'm here to raise a "huzzah" to an institution and a person who defied the odds and proved that with a little creativity, a lot of family and community support, and a determination second only to Lance Mackey's, you can achieve any educational goal you set for yourself.

The institution in question is a tiny community college in Barrow called Ilisagvik College. It's not only fully accredited as an independent educational institution but is also the only federally recognized tribal college in the state. Both achievements are outstanding if only for the amount of effort, time and determination that went into reaching those goals.

When the North Slope Borough was first formed in the early '70s, education was already a huge presence on the agenda of local people and politicians. The borough's first mayor, Eben Hopson Sr., was famously left on the beach by the BIA boat that came to Barrow once a year to pick up students and take them to the Lower 48 to continue their education. He was left because he was considered "uppity" for suggesting that Native people should not be used as free labor for the BIA and local churches. He had the audacity to suggest they should be compensated for their labor. Consequently, he was left to stand on that beach a very long time, unable to comprehend that the boat really wasn't coming back for him."

Get the Story:
Elise Patkotak: Little tribal college is huge in changing lives (The Anchorage Daily News 5/13)

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