We were written up by the Sierra Club.
The Morris Industrial School for Indians closed in 1909, and the federal government transferred the lands and buildings to the state of Minnesota. In doing so, the federal government included a stipulation that the next educational institution built there would provide Native students free tuition.
The exact reason for the tuition waiver is lost to history, but Kevin Whalen, a Morris professor who specializes in Indigenous education, theorizes that it has its origins in treaty law. Many treaties between the US government and Native tribes contained provisions that the government would provide education in return for land. He said, too, that there were some who assumed the treaty waiver probably wouldn’t matter in the long run: Many in the US government at that time expected Native populations to disappear or die out.
When the US government transferred the lands to Minnesota, the University of Minnesota began operating an agricultural boarding school on the site. In 1960, the UMN Morris campus replaced the boarding school, and the tuition waiver requirement carried on.
Now, UMN Morris is a Native American–serving Nontribal Institution, a designation given to colleges that have more than 10 percent Native students. With the tuition waiver program still in place, nearly one-quarter of Morris students are Native American, far above the national average.
Since it’s the Sierra Club, they also play up our environmental focus.
To Olson-Loy, it is no surprise that so many alumni end up working in sustainability or serving tribal communities, or both. Native culture and environmentalism are “embedded” in everything that they do at the school.
“You get this stuff because you graduated from Morris,” Olson-Loy said. “It’s in the water here.”
If I were 18 again, I’d want to come here.