By Katie Hogsett and Shih-Wei Chou
Fewer Native Americans are choosing the University of Missouri year after year. Either that, or they aren’t choosing to identify as Native American when asked for their ethnicity.
“As generations go on it probably becomes harder to trace your family tree in order to become registered and all that. Maybe multi-racial people are going in as white or black as opposed to being listed as Native Americans, that could skew the numbers a little bit,” a Native American and MU law student Justin Trueblood said.
In recent years, the enrollment of Native American students at the University of Missouri has decreased from 142 students in 2010 to 69 students in 2014. MU Religious Studies Professor and Native American researcher Dennis Kelley said there are multiple contributing factors as to why this number has dropped.
“Some of the things I noticed in the data for incoming students and also the data for high school students is that obviously American Indians fall way behind not only their white counterparts but other ethnic counterparts in terms of graduating high school to begin with,” said Kelley.
According to a report published by the Executive Office of the United States Government, the American Indian and Alaskan Native high school graduation rate is 67 percent, the lowest of any ethnic demographic group across all schools. The most recent Department of Education data indicates that the Bureau of Indian Education schools fare even worse, with a graduation rate of 53 percent, compared to a national average of 80 percent.
Another contributing factor according to Kelley is that, “American Indians score lower on college entrance exams and which tends to be the result of high school education and the quality of it. In especially reservation based communities their rural high schools are already economically strapped and there are no AP classes at all.”
Kelley said that many Native American students who do beat the odds run into a new set of problems when they arrive. Because there are currently no federally recognized tribes in Missouri, they often feel too far from home. He also said there has been initial conversation about recruiting more Native American students to create a community that will hopefully make native students feel closer to home.
According to Kelley there was more of a Native American cultural presence on campus because of the American Indian student organization when he was an adjunct professor 15 years ago. “There were a lot of people, and they were kind of stressed when I first came because they weren’t as active as they once were, but I thought they were incredibly active compared to other ones, they used to have a pow wow.”
Trueblood grew up in St. Louis and identifies himself as part of the Oglala Lakota Nation from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He is also part of the Native American Law School Association that aims to attract future Native American lawyers to educate them on legal issues in reservation communities.
“I suppose if Mizzou had organizations like that for the undergrads then maybe enrollment of Native Americans would go up,” Trueblood said.
Supervising producer is Kaileen Gaul. Stacey Woelfel is faculty editor.
----------Posted on May 1, 2015 by admin in Student Work