There’s a story in my husband’s family that somewhere way back in their family tree, there’s a Native American grandmother. Based on the area their family’s from I’d guess she was from the Seneca tribe.
I had a family member who was all, “Free college money for your kids?”
I wouldn’t pursue that. Here’s why.
College Funding for Native Students
There are several ways to get your education funded when you’re Native American. Most tribes offer scholarships, but you must be a member of their nation. This usually requires proving descent along with living on the reservation for a while. The Bureau of Indian Affairs offers grants and scholarships. Individual colleges also offer scholarships, and some states even require that colleges waive their student fees for Native American students.
If you were born in Canada and you’re at least 50% Native American/First Nation, you can go to US colleges and are eligible for the FAFSA as an eligible non-citizen, all without having to deal with INS.
In order to join the Seneca Nation, you have to prove your heritage, and have your line of descent be maternally unbroken. So your mother’s mother’s mother until you reached the original, Seneca matriarch would be the one to link you to the tribe. My kids are disqualified because it’s their father that’s (supposedly) descended from a (I’m assuming) Seneca great-great-times who knows how many-grandmother.
But, if I did the proper research, we could probably get away with ticking the “Native American” box on those college applications and seeing if the individual university offered our children any money.
But we won’t.
Because it is so wrong. Taking advantage and only saying you’re Native American for scholarship reasons crosses that ethical line. The reason those scholarships and grants exist is for the kids who are actually members of those nations. They grow up with so many obstacles that my children will never face. They grow up with a cultural identity that my children don’t. To apply for those financial opportunities would equate to robbery.
That doesn’t mean I won’t research and do some genealogy to figure out who this Native American woman was, if she indeed existed. I think all parts of my children’s heritage are important, whether it’s 1/2 or 1/64. Because all of those family members going back were people, and who is going to dig their stories out of obscurity if not their own family members?
But if there’s even a story to find, I’m not going to exploit it to lower my children’s college tuition bills.