The Lanthorn, the student newspaper at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), has come to the defense of West Michigan area representative Dave Agema’s plan to abolish the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver. The Waiver, codified in 1976 but guaranteed in treaties signed with legally sovereign Native American nations in the 1890s and 1900s, give many Native American students free tuition at state run colleges and universities in Michigan.
In an article titled “Legislator: State should cut Indian Tuition Waiver,” The Lanthorn reports that 101 students at GVSU qualify for the waiver. The article quotes a student, Josh Leask, who receives the waiver as saying “(The waiver) helped me out so much, and I wouldn’t even consider myself bad off… he said. “But there are definitely some disadvantaged people out there that need that money … by (removing the waiver), it will cut the legs out from a lot of students who depend on this to better their lives.”
However, this comment seems lost on The Lanthorn‘s staff, as they instead call for abolishing the waiver in an editorial titled “Wave it goodbye.” The Lanthorn portrays Native Americans as getting a “free ride” and portrays the Waiver as being in violation of the anti-affirmative action ballot initiative Proposal 2. The Lanthorn writes:
“Minority scholarships are one thing, but singling out an entire nationality based on a 30-year-old waiver just isn’t fair. Native Americans, along with all nationalities, deserve the right to receive higher education at little to no cost, but it should be based on merit and not skin color.”
Of course, The Lanthorn misses the fact that the Indian Tuition Waiver exists due to treaty obligations. Treaties that were signed between sovereign nations. Moreover, The Lanthorn fails to take into account the legacy of more than 500 years of colonialism and genocide. To a large degree, the Waiver exists because the conquest of the Americas devastated the Native American population.