Sep 6, 2016 - The University of Minnesota Duluth Proposes Cuts to Tribal Master’s Program

Press Release** Contact: Tadd Johnson (218) 726-7332

There is a petition on the The University of Minnesota Duluth Tribal Master’s Program [MTAG] Facebook page, started by an MTAG alum. The petition asks UMD to restore cuts to the MTAG program that would eliminate one of our Tenure Track teaching positions. I want to explain what this means for you as students. First, MTAG is not going anywhere, so please do not worry about that. Second, if we lose the Tenure Track position, we will still go on with Adjunct Professors or other solutions.

The reason this issue is important is because UMD made a commitment to Indian tribes and people to increase the number of Native American instructors, and cutting this position is breaking that commitment. Recently, the professor who held that tenure track position left to work for a tribe, and the position he held was apparently easy prey for administrators seeking to make budget cuts. Tenure track professors are more expensive, because they are full-time positions and only the most highly credentialed people are hired for those positions. After 5 or 6 years of proving themselves, a tenure track professor can apply for tenure, and a committee votes on whether they receive it or not. If they do, it is additional job security. But when faced with budget cuts, the trend in higher education is to rely more upon adjunct instructors, which are part-time jobs in which instructors are paid by-the-class. This is far from ideal for our MTAG program.

After 30 years as a tribal attorney – I learned that if I patiently wait for a government or an institution to make a decision that impacts tribes and simply hope and trust that they will do the right thing in favor or tribes or Indian people – that won’t happen. In fact, that has never happened in the history of federal-tribal relations, which you’ll learn about in my class if you haven’t already. You will also learn how to advocate proactively for your tribe, your community and your rights as Native people. That is why some of our graduates, current students and I are being proactive.

My mentors were people like Sam DeLoria and Frank Ducheneaux, who came of age during the Civil Rights movement, along with incredible tribal leaders like Art Gahbow, Stan Crooks, Roger Jourdain, Marge Anderson and Joe DelaCruz. They were the generation that learned the system and the rules, memorized the playbook, and turned the tables on the government when they began flexing their muscles as sovereign, self-governing Indian Nations. They taught me not to ever sit back and hope for the best. They taught me not to take it.

One thing I hope you learn in this program, for Indian people, we no longer sit back and take it. We have to get up and fight every single day. We are not standing still – we are constantly advancing. In that light, I believe this is a teachable moment. We cannot teach you leadership and advocacy if we just accept what is handed to us. That is not how Indian tribes have made so much progress over the past 50 years. This effort is making some folks in the University uncomfortable and even angry, because we are fighting back against those who see our program as an easy thing to cut. Let the word go forth that it is not! When we first started this program 7 years ago, we made a commitment to build something that would endure in order to educate and train the future leaders of Indian country. We finally have a small piece of graduate-level higher education that was actually designed by tribal leaders for Indian people; and we won’t let it go! As it turns out, we have the support of the Minnesota tribes and over (so far) over 250 people who signed a petition – and even if we lose this line momentarily, as Art Gahbow once said about the Mille Lacs Band lands, “We will take it back!” Miigwech ! Tadd

Please sign and share petition:

Last Real Indians