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Native American graduates with SMSC scholarships celebrate

Graduation from University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota Native American students celebrate their graduation day.

University of Minnesota Native American students celebrate their graduation day.

MINNEAPOLIS –– The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) joined the University of Minnesota on April 30 to celebrate the graduation of this year’s Native American students who received scholarships from the SMSC. The 25 students make up the seventh graduating class to receive SMSC scholarships, representing 21 tribes from across the United States.

The scholarship program is part of the SMSC’s focus on bolstering other tribal nations and supporting talented Native American students with financial needs. By recruiting and retaining undergraduate and graduate students from Native communities, the SMSC hopes to prepare them to help advance Indian Country overall in the years ahead.

The students’ loved ones and representatives of the SMSC and the University of Minnesota gathered at University President Eric Kaler’s home to celebrate the graduates, who were honored with a star quilt from the SMSC, followed by a traditional honor song.

“With scholarships like the one from the SMSC, it is a huge relief to have some of the financial burden lifted,” said Vanessa Goodthunder, a scholarship recipient and member of the Lower Sioux Indian Community, who will earn her degree in American Indian studies (Dakota language track). “Having this scholarship all four years of my undergraduate life has not only helped me financially, but mentally throughout finals when I remember that there are people supporting me to succeed.”

This year’s graduates studied at the Twin Cities, Duluth, and Morris campuses, with majors ranging from tribal administration and governance to molecular biology. Specifically:

• 21 students are undergraduates

• 4 students are graduate students

• 12 attended the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus

• 7 attended the Morris campus

• 6 attended the Duluth campus

The graduates include:

• Chad Auginash, Red Lake Nation

• Hannah Brengman, Adopted Native American

• Veronica Briggs, White Earth Mississippi Band of Ojibwe

• Chilah Brown, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe

• Robert Budreau, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

• Hana Bushyhead, Eastern Band of Cherokee

• Travis Crego, St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin

• Rachel Forrest, Koasek Traditional Band of the Koas

• Vanessa Goodthunder, Lower Sioux Indian Community

• Phillip Gullikson, Three Affiliated Tribes (MHA Nation)

• Diana Hawkins, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate

• Chelsea Holmes, Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota)

• Alayna Johnson, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

• John Kelsey, Huron Band of the Potawatomi

• Olivia Mora, Manchester Band of Pomo Indians

• Brandon One Feather, Oglala Sioux Tribe

• Jasmine Paron, Red Lake Nation

• Cage Pierre, Avoyel- Taensa Tribe of Louisiana

• Jesslynn Poitra, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

• Kate Shelerud, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe

• Zachary Wilkie, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

• Jaimin Williams, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

• Tia Yazzie, Navajo Nation

• Darian Ziegler, Lower Brule Sioux

• Mathew Zumoff, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe

About 200 Native American students have received the SMSC Endowed Scholarship in the past eight years. The program was established in 2009 with a $2.5 million gift from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. The University of Minnesota matches the scholarship payouts from the endowment fund.

Native American students from any University of Minnesota campus are eligible for an SMSC scholarship. Recipients of the 2016-2017 SMSC Endowed Scholarship program will be announced this fall; the application deadline has passed.

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