DENVER – Collegebound students from the Northern Arapaho Tribe will have access to an endowed scholarship to attend the University of Colorado Denver, thanks to an agreement signed between the university and the tribe last week.

A $50,000 scholarship has been established to increase college attendance and graduation among members of the Northern Arapaho Nation. The scholarship was established with an initial contribution of $25,000 from the Northern Arapaho Tribe through the Northern Arapaho Business Council (NABC), and CU Denver has matched it with another $25,000 for a total of $50,000 with a goal of growing the scholarship over time. 

“I am thrilled to welcome the next generation of the Northern Arapaho Tribe to our campus, on land where their ancestors once lived,” said CU Denver Chancellor Michelle Marks. “We are committed to making education work for all, and this agreement is an important step for our university in partnership with the Northern Arapaho people in making this idea a reality.”

This scholarship has special meaning for the Northern Arapaho who, along with the Cheyenne and Ute people, were original inhabitants of portions of Colorado, including the downtown Denver area. They were displaced and the Northern Arapaho Tribe is now based on the Wind River Reservation. The opportunity to complete a college education on ancestral lands is especially significant to the Northern Arapaho representatives.

“As a tribal leader and Northern Arapaho, I’m very proud we are returning to our ancestral lands in Colorado through education,” said Lee Spoonhunter, a council member of the NABC. “As an elder once said, higher education is our bridge out of poverty. Education is our number-one priority along with preserving our language. This agreement is a dream come true and we’re only getting started. We have a long way to go, but we feel welcomed at the University of Colorado Denver, and we hope to grow our relationship to benefit our people.”

Councilwoman Kim Harjo added that the agreement was an easy decision because of the opportunities it offers her people. 

“Our Arapaho children are sacred. They are our future,” she said. “The decision to pursue this agreement was a definite yes. It provides all our people, our children and adults who want to back to school, an excellent opportunity.”

Like her colleagues, Councilwoman Teresa Hischase is supportive of the agreement.

“We need doctors, lawyers, botanists, engineers, petroleum engineers, businessmen and women, hydrologists, scientists, etc., so that we can utilize our sovereignty and be in complete control of our own destinies,” said Councilwoman Hischase. “Through this endowment, our people’s presence will still be alive in Colorado. I am thankful for this endowment as we’re coming together for our future Arapaho students who will attend college, and by doing so, our entire Arapaho Tribe will be blessed and benefit for generations to come.”

The scholarship will be available to undergraduate students who are members of the Northern Arapaho Nation starting in July 2024, said Dr. Aldora White Eagle, CU Denver’s program director of American Indian Student Services and special assistant to the vice chancellor of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She is a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe and helped broker the agreement. 

“I see CU Denver’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion through its actions,” White Eagle said. “For me, this first agreement is especially meaningful because of the impact this scholarship will have on our people. Our children will have an opportunity to bring what they learn at CU Denver – our ancestral homelands – back to the reservation and improve the lives of our entire people.”

In the coming months, CU Denver is looking to forge similar agreements with the other original residents of Colorado including the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and Ute nations, White Eagle said.

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The University of Colorado Denver is the state’s premier public urban research university and equity-serving institution. Globally connected and locally invested, CU Denver partners with future-focused learners and communities to design accessible, relevant, transformative educational experiences for every stage of life and career. Across seven schools and colleges in the heart of downtown Denver, our leading faculty inspires and works alongside students to solve complex challenges through boundary-breaking innovation and impactful research, and creative work. As part of the state’s largest university system, CU Denver is a major contributor to the Colorado economy, with 2,000 employees and an annual economic impact of $800 million. For more information, visit