In a story that is commonplace even today in Indian families, when Mikela Jones, Pomo of Little River Band, earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from California State University at Sacramento in 2004, he was the first man from his tribe to obtain a four-year college degree.
“It really sends us a message that there needs to be more tribal people getting their college education.” Jones was speaking at a fundraiser in downtown San Francisco on December 14. The reception was to support a shared vision: a tribal college in California that will train future Native leaders.
Since it began to take shape in 2009, the California Tribal College initiative has grown to include the backing of 25 of the 109 federally recognized California tribes, who hope to enroll their first students as early as fall 2012, with most classes starting in 2013.
The college doesn’t have a permanent home yet, and its permanent name is yet to be determined. But it does have momentum.
“We are looking at the Internet, and carrying on a virtual campus and getting things started right away,” said Marshall McKay, tribal chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.