Southern Oregon University and the Klamath Tribes agreed this week to formalize their joint commitment to educational opportunities and access for members of the Klamath and other Native American tribes, and to offer programs that enable all students to appreciate the cultural and economic contributions of Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes.
Leadership teams from SOU and the Klamath Tribes met virtually for a ceremonial signing of a memorandum of understanding that links the two entities, and recognizes their mutual educational interests. SOU President Linda Schott and Don Gentry, chair of the Klamath Tribal Council, thanked each other and members of their organizations for identifying overlapping interests and outlining responsibilities.
The memorandum recognizes that “both entities share a common purpose of helping people better themselves through education, research, economic development and other forms of personal growth, and work diligently to make their respective communities prosperous with multiple opportunities for their students and citizens.”
SOU agreed to match as many as five educational scholarships from the Klamath Tribes for its tribal members, each worth as much as $3,600 per academic year.
“This will help increase local student attendance at SOU and help prepare the future cadre of professional, career-focused individuals for the continued development of Klamath County, the Klamath Tribes and the local community,” the MOU said.
It calls upon both the university and the Klamath Tribes to work with Native American students to meet their academic, financial, cultural and personal needs, and lays out some specific measures to increase the representation of Indigenous cultures. For instance, SOU will continue to provide course content on the history and contributions of the Klamath Tribes, through the Native American Studies class, “The Nine Tribes of Oregon.” The Klamath Tribes will invite participants in the class to visit Chiloquin to engage with tribal leaders, program staff and experts in culture and language.
The university will also recruit more Klamath students to Konaway Nika Tillicum, its eight-day residential program held each summer for Native American youth. SOU will work with the Klamath Tribes to plan and carry out an annual Native American student recruitment day and will continue to support programs such as its Native American Student Union.
President Schott, who is retiring at the end of the year, told Gentry that she will send him a blanket to commemorate the memorandum of understanding. Gentry in turn said he will send gifts to Schott on behalf of the tribe.
Both pointed out that incoming SOU President Rick Bailey has a strong record of collaboration with Native American tribes in New Mexico, and is expected to continue to work for close relationships with Oregon’s tribes.