Expropriated Indigenous land is the foundation of the land-grant university system.
Nearly 11 million acres of Indigenous land, over 160 violence-backed treaties and land seizures, approximately 250 tribes, bands and communities, and fifty-two universities: Our investigation reveals how expropriated Indigenous land financed the land-grant university system, and how many institutions continue to profit.
By Robert Lee and Tristan Ahtone
Photos by Kalen Goodluck
High Country News, March 30, 2020
2020 George Polk Award for Education Reporting,
2020 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award (IRE Award) in Division IV of the Print/Online Media category
Impact: Within months of publication several major initiatives took shape in response to our reporting. At Cornell, the largest Morrill Act beneficiary, faculty launched a project to document the university’s financial windfall. Similar internal reviews are ramping up at MIT and the University of Connecticut, which is developing an exhibition based on the data as part of a push for a new Cultural Center for Native & Indigenous Students. At Ohio State researchers have partnered with the First Nations Development Institute to draft a reconciliation plan that will benefit the tribal communities whose land seeded the school’s founding. Washington State University has taken the lead in actually rewriting its land acknowledgment to incorporate the report’s findings, and pledged to commission a team to determine reconciliation plans. Working groups at Colorado State, Arizona State, the University of Minnesota, and others are likewise laying the groundwork for reforms tying their land-grant legacies to the needs of their Indigenous students.