CollegeBound Journey Insights

Finding Scholarships for Native Americans

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Native American Status Overview

When researching Native American scholarships, four primary categories of eligibility arise.  These categories include:

  • Enrolled Member/Tribal Citizen
  • Direct Descendant of an Enrolled Member
  • Lineal Descendant
  • Self-Identified

In order to support Native American students to discover scholarship matches, a strong understanding in the previously mentioned categories is strongly recommended.  The categories are defined below to support in navigating this journey.

  • Enrolled member is a person who is vetted by a specific Tribe or Nation to be a member, or citizen.  Criteria for membership differs from Tribe to Tribe.  For example, many Ojibwe Tribes require documentation of 1/4 blood quantum. This means that enrolled members are verified to be at least 25% Ojibwe from one specific Ojibwe Tribe.  Documentation usually involves the submission of a birth certificate and the Tribe’s application for enrollment.  Each Tribe or Nation determines eligibility for enrollment, and vetting can take anywhere from one week to years.
  • Direct descendant refers to a person who may not meet the qualifications for a Tribe or Nation’s enrollment requirements, usually based on blood quantum, however, they have either a biological parent or grandparent who is/was an enrolled member. 
  • Lineal descendant refers to someone who is able to document lineage to an enrolled member, past or present.  The connection to an enrolled member can be a to a parent, grandparent, great grandparent and beyond.  Documentation of lineage if verified by requesting a Certificate of Degree of Indian or Alaska Native Blood (CDIB); however, some Tribes or Nations may provide a letter of descendancy upon request.
  • Self Identified is a status that an individual determines.  Family stories may indicate a connection to a Tribe or Nation, however, no official documentation is available.  This situation can be due to numerous situations, including adoptions, record keeping errors, and lost records.
Native American Students in need of finding scholarships

Scholarships Based on Tribally Enrolled Status

Scholarships for Native Americans who are enrolled members require official documentation.  Students who want to be considered for these types of awards will usually need to produce a Tribal identification card/number or certified letter from the Tribe or Nation stating the enrollment status.  Additionally, many Tribes or Nations, through their Higher Education programs, will have full or partial scholarships available for their own enrolled Tribal members.

The following Native American scholarships/awards are examples available to enrolled Tribal members:

Scholarships for Native Americans Based on Direct or Lineal Descendancy Status

Scholarships for Native Americans who are considered direct or lineal descendants usually need to provide official documentation to receive the award.  Verification is typically forwarded from the Tribe or Nation’s enrollment office; however, a formal request needs to be submitted.  Moreover, a student can obtain a CDIB as previously mentioned.

The following scholarships/awards are examples of Native American scholarships available to students identifying as a direct or lineal descendant:

Scholarships Based on Self Identified Status

Scholarships for students who self identify as Native American are not as common; however, they are still available.  The awards usually do not require official documentation of Native American status.

The following scholarships/awards are examples of Native American scholarships available to students identifying as a self identifying:

Other Sources of Native American Scholarships

Native American scholarships can be found in multiple places.  First, students can contact the Tribe or Nation of enrollment or descendancy.  The Bureau of Indian Education’s (BIE) Higher Education Grant Program partners with many Tribes and Nations to provide supplemental financial support.  Additionally, some Tribes also have private scholarships funded by Tribal enterprises.

Secondly, scholarships can be found through Native American specific organizations.  The following are a few of the more popular Native American scholarship providers:

Finally, many states are beginning to offer tuition waiver programs, in-state tuition programs, and special funding for Native Americans to attend college. These opportunities vary from state to state; therefore, contacting the state’s Office of Higher Education or Department of Education may lead to additional funding sources for Native American students.
Overall, finding college funding opportunities that specifically support Native American students can be a difficult journey.  Navigating the complexities may seem daunting, yet in the end the journey can be rewarding with full tuition scholarship opportunities, partial scholarships, and full tuition waivers.
Would you like more support to find scholarships for Native American students? The CollegeBound Journey’s Scholarship Search contains a filter to search for Native American scholarships based on enrollment status, descendancy status, or self identified status.  Our one-of-a-kind database was created specifically to support Native American students to find their unique scholarship matches and now contains over 650 Native-specific scholarships.  Click here to see how it works.

As an experienced, Licensed School Counselor and Educational Consultant, Kerrie has a passion for creating programming and resources for Native youth success.  She is especially interested in developing and sharing resources that support Native American students towards college matriculation.

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