(Chairman Terry Rambler delivered the following speech on August 7, 2017 at the grand opening ceremony for the San Carlos Apache College in downtown San Carlos, AZ, on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation.)

Let me share a quote with you.  “Tribes will continue to want to build tribal colleges for all the same reasons that colleges first developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They want to exercise their self-determination, provide job training and community development, and preserve and validate their cultural knowledge, language and world perspectives.”  That is a quote from a President of one of the first Tribal Colleges and it still rings true today.

When developing a tribal college, there are normally five steps we have to go through.  Let me share with you the process we went through.

But before I start, I want to say it starts with Leadership.  And it starts with our San Carlos Council, those that I am serving with today and those I served with when this whole process initially started.  The Council supported the vision and eventually the mission of creating our very own San Carlos Apache College.  So, today, I want to say again, thank you San Carlos Council.  Let’s give our Council a big hand for their leadership.

Now let me share with you the five steps all Tribes wishing to create a Tribal College normally go through:

Phase One – Initial Steps

We needed to know about the history and purpose of tribal colleges and we had to create an Advisory Board to help the Tribal Council with decision making.

The Tribally Controlled College or University Assistance Act of 1978 defines a tribal college as “… an institution of higher education which is formally controlled, or has been formally sanctioned, or chartered, by the governing body of an Indian tribe or tribes, except that no more than one such institution shall be recognized with respect to any such tribe…”  And that is what we are doing.

I want to thank the following Advisory Board members who helped in the initial process.  If you are here, please acknowledge yourselves.

  1. Gail Haozous, former Director of our Planning & Economic Development Department.
  2. Flora Talas, Director of our Education Department.
  3. Bernie Kniffin, Director of our People Helping People Department.
  4. Terry Ross, Director of our Social Services Department.
  5. Lee Randall, former Director of our Planning & Economic Development Department and now General Manager of our Apache Sky Casino.
  6. Francine Brown Spencer, former grant writer for our Planning & Economic Development Department.
  7. Alex Ritchie, our Attorney General.

Let’s give them a hand, they helped in starting this process.

Phase Two – Confirm our Decision to move Forward

We had to conduct a feasibility study to make sure that we could develop a Tribal College.  Our Planning and Economic Development Department took the lead and conducted a feasibility study on behalf of our Council and we determined that we could do it, so here we are today, at the doorsteps of starting our Apache College.

We had to determine the availability of resources.  Our Planning and Economic Development Department applied for a grant and we were successful in obtaining a five-year $1.5 million dollar grant from the Administration for Native Americans to help start our Apache College.  Without this grant, we could not have done it.

Phase Three – Establish the Tribal College

We then had to create our Apache College by creating the Articles of Corporation that will govern the College, create a Board of Regents to manage and operate the College, and create Bylaws by which the Board of Regents would govern themselves.  So, the Council appointed the following initial Board of Regents:

  1. Martha Interpreter-Baylish, who is the Chairwoman of the Board of Regents.
  2. Jonathan Clark, who is Vice Chairman of the Board of Regents.
  3. Martha Talkalai, Board member.
  4. Nolita Noline, Board member.
  5. Tolbert Massey, Board member.
  6. Beth Hinton, former Board member.
  7. Ina Perez, former Board member.

So, join me in thanking our Apache College Board of Regents who are going to help us make our vision real.

We had to assess relationships with local colleges and universities that could assist us.  We first reached out to Arizona State University for technical assistance.  We entered into an agreement with ASU and they have been a tremendous help in providing us technical assistance.  We could not have done it without them.  Please join me to say thank you to Jacob Moore and Maria Hesse of ASU.

We than reached out to our neighbor, Eastern Arizona College, for EAC to assist our Tribe with starting our Apache College.  But our discussions died down for several reasons.  After that, we reached out to our friends, the Tohono O’odham Nation.  The Tohono O’odham Nation’s Community College agreed to assist our Apache College by offering their accreditation to us.  We entered into an agreement with the Tohono O’odham Nation.  We could not have done it without the Tohono O’odham Community College.  Please join me in saying thank you to the Tohono O’odham Nation and its College.

Phase Four – Become Operational

We had to have a budget, otherwise we can’t do anything.  In addition to the College Grant we received, our Council recently allocated $2.5 million dollars to help our Apache College.  Please join me in thanking our Tribal Council for their wise investment.  We also applied for and received a $75,000 grant from our neighbors to the east of us, Freeport McMoRan Corporation.  Please join me in thanking Freeport McMoRan.  There is much more we need to do in this area.

We had to hire a President, faculty, and staff.  Please join me in welcoming our Apache College President, Dr. Martin Ahumada.  I tell you Board of Regents, you made a wise decision in hiring this guy.  And he has a great staff.

We had to develop an academic program.  I have seen our academic program and it has much promise.  To our parents out there, please encourage your high school students to take advantage of our College by taking Apache College classes in addition to their high school classes.  And to you parents, please go back to school at our Apache College.  And to our Elders and Veterans, please, this is an opportunity for you to further your education.  We believe in you.  It is never too late.

We had to secure locations and facilities.  The Tribal Council gave our old Tribal Administration Building to our Apache College.  The Tribal Council also gave this part of this historic building that is currently occupied by BIA to our Apache College.  Can you imagine that.  Our very own Apache College in the heart of downtown San Carlos, the capitol of our Tribe, in the great district of Seven Mile.  We are continuing to revitalize downtown San Carlos.  Someday soon, I can see our young Apache students walking the streets of downtown San Carlos.  We should be proud of ourselves today people.  As you will see, there is still much work to be done with our facilities.  Construction is still going on.

And, finally, Phase Five – Continued Growth

This, the Apache College, is the beginning of something great.  This is about our future.  This is about our children.  This is a way to say NO to alcohol and drugs by using our minds in a good way and not abusing it.  This is a way to regain respect amongst ourselves.  This is a way to become self-sufficient by preparing ourselves to one day have a job and taking care of our families.  This is a way to not lose our identity as Apaches.  We were made Apaches by our Creator God and we need to respect that.  We cannot afford to lose our Apache language.  This is a way to not lose our Apache language.

I have all the faith and trust in our Apache College Board of Regents, our President and his staff and faculty, that they will continue to do the good works and help ensure that we become an educated and learning community.

In closing, I want to thank our Creator God for bestowing his blessings upon us today, this historic day for the San Carlos Apaches.  God bless the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

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