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Tribe granted in-state tuition in Idaho

Jun 9, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Eastern Shoshone tribal members now have the option of paying a reduced rate.

Enrolled Eastern Shoshone tribal members interested in attending a public university or college in Idaho will soon have the option of paying in-state tuition across the border.

The decision came after the state's school board was approached and asked to reconsider its policy. Organizers said the tribe's original boundaries, before the Treaty of 1863, show that the Shoshone reservation spread out to parts of Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.

Now Idaho state law will allow the Treaty of 1863 -- a peace treaty between the U.S. government and the Eastern Shoshone tribe that divided parts of Idaho, Wyoming and Utah to the tribe -- to be the proof for receiving in-state tuition.

In the past, the issue has been discussed by other concerned individuals with former Idaho State University president Bud Davis, with no action taken.

Most recently, former Eastern Shoshone business council member Orville St. Clair and director of the Eastern Shoshone Education program Harmony Spoonhunter, joined powers to push for a change. They met with Johanna Jones and Laura Woodworth-Ney from Idaho State University and were encouraged to contact the Idaho State Legislature.

St. Clair and Spoonhunter are graduates from ISU and paid in-state tuition. The two said they were not sure why the reduced rate had disappeared.

Spoonhunter said when she was going to enroll, she was set to use Western Undergraduate Exchange non-resident tuition assistance, but instead, ISU staff told her she could enroll under resident status because she was an enrolled Shoshone. The WUE scholarship would have paid for half of her tuition, but enrolling as a resident would help her even more. Spoonhunter graduated in 2002.

Now that tuition will come at a cheaper price for Eastern Shoshone students, the tribe's education program sees it as an opportunity to extend the financial assistance they distribute directly to enrolled members.

"That's going to stretch our tribal dollars to scholarships if students choose to utilize either Idaho State, Boise State or the University of Idaho," St. Clair said.

"It's a big opportunity for our tribal members," Spoonhunter said.

If they qualify, Eastern Shoshone students can receive up to $7,500 from the tribe's education program and up to $5,000 per semester from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

A student enrolled as a full-time student at Idaho State under resident status would have to pay $3,035 per semester while a non-resident full time student would have to pay $8,935 per semester.

Five other tribes qualify for in-state tuition -- the Shoshone-Piaute, Shoshone-Bannock, Coeur d'Alene, the Kootenai and the Nez Perce.

With this step forward, St. Clair and Spoonhunter hope more students feel encouraged to attend a school in Idaho and pursue a gratifying career.

"The most important aspect of this is the sovereignty issue, where the State of Idaho has recognized that we were the original inhabitants of the land," St. Clair said.

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