Chinook citizens get free tuition at Clatsop Community College

Until now, free college tuition programs have not been offered to tribes like the Chinook Indian Nation that do not have federal recognition.

Several states offer free college tuition for Indigenous students from federally recognized Native nations. For nations like the Chinook Indian Nation who have been fighting for federal recognition for the past 20 years, these higher-education opportunities have been denied, until recently. 

Clatsop Community College announced on May 6 at the North Coast Inclusion Seminar that they would be the first higher-education institute within the Chinook Indigenous lands to grant free tuition to the nation.

“I saw no other option.” Chris Breitmeyer, president of Clatsop Community College in Astoria, Oregon, said in a press release. 

“Knowing that hundreds of tribes are receiving these incredible opportunities while the Chinook Indian Nation is left to fend for themselves should upset every single Oregonian,” Breitmeyer said. “It is our responsibility to do better by our indigenous communities, and we are proud to support the Chinook Indian Nation in this way. We know we have done the right thing, and encourage other higher-ed institutions to follow suit.”

Chinook leadership believes that local support for the Chinook Indian Nation is pivotal to their continued efforts for federal recognition, and is grateful to Clatsop Community College for prioritizing Chinook citizens and respecting the nation’s sovereignty. 

“Clatsop Community College has made a significant commitment to honoring our place within the community, reaffirming our status as an active tribe, and supporting our members as they work to cultivate better futures for themselves,” said Rachel Cushman, secretary/treasurer of the Chinook Indian Nation Tribal Council. She called the college’s decision a move toward building economic security for her people. 

The Chinook Indian Nation hopes that other higher-education institutions in Washington and Oregon will follow the lead of the University of Oregon (which offers a similar program) and Clatsop Community College to treat them with the same respect and offer the same opportunities as federally recognized nations.