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Buffalo

William Roberts looks at the Eastern Shoshone buffalo herd from a hilltop on the Wind River Reservation on June. 23. Both the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes have an agreement with Central Wyoming College to bring some classes to the reservation.

A Wyoming college is hoping to make higher education more accessible for students living on the Wind River Reservation after recently completing an agreement to bring classes to the reservation.

Central Wyoming College now has agreements with both Wyoming tribes to bring some classes to Wind River after it signed an agreement with the Eastern Shoshone Business Council on Sept. 3. College and tribal officials say they hope the partnerships make it easier for students who live on the reservation to start or continue their education.

The college and Northern Arapaho Business Council signed a similar agreement in May.

“I’m so excited about this joint venture and partnership,” said CWC President Brad Tyndall in a news release. “I truly believe that offering first-year college classes on the reservation will help many tribal members advance their lives and have additional employment opportunities.”

About 7.8 percent of CWC’s nearly 2,000 students in the fall of 2017 were American Indian or Alaska Native, according to the most recently available enrollment data from the Wyoming Community College Commission.

Anybody can enroll in classes on the reservation in what college officials are calling CWC-Wind River.

The college won’t initially offer full-degree programs on the reservation. Instead, students will have the opportunity to take first-year classes that can then be applied to a degree program, general education requirements or transferred to another institution, according to the college.

Students will have access to all Central Wyoming College resources like advising, financial aid and tutoring. College and tribal staff members will also work to support students, the college said.

Classes through the Northern Arapaho Tribe and Central Wyoming College partnership were scheduled to start this fall, officials have previously said.

Although the college has offered some classes in Fort Washakie and Ethete in recent years, the new partnerships are part of an expanded effort to be more accessible to Wind River residents, Central Wyoming College officials have previously said.

Those efforts have also included an educational project with Americans for Indian Opportunity to improve cultural understanding among college staff and eliminate some barriers, like travel and childcare, to higher education for those who live on the reservation.

Wyoming higher education institutions have “come a long way” in wanting to work with the Eastern Shoshone, said Business Council Chairman Vernon Hill at the signing of the agreement earlier this month.

“It’s good to see that something is coming together, to get our people educated, and I like that it’s here on the reservation,” he said. “We’re hoping that we can get a lot more done with this (agreement) and get more Shoshone people educated.”

Follow reporter Chris Aadland on Twitter @cjaadland

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Chris Aadland covers the Wind River Reservation and tribal affairs for the Star-Tribune as a Report for America corps member. A Minnesota native, he spent the last two years reporting for the Wisconsin State Journal before moving to Wyoming in June 2019.

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