American Indian Graduate Center Awards First Fellowship to Shinnecock Law Student

Albuquerque, NM – November 30, 2010 – The American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving cultural and economic wellbeing for individuals and tribes through undergraduate and graduate education, today announced that it has awarded its first fellowship scholarship to a Shinnecock Indian Nation member. Members of the Shinnecock Nation, which became the 565th Native American tribe recognized by the United States government earlier this year, were formerly ineligible for the fellowship program because the tribe lacked federal recognition.

Kelly Dennis, a law student at the University of New Mexico School of Law in Albuquerque, NM, received the $3,000 fellowship award. A member of the Shinnecock Nation, graduate of the Pre-Law Summer Institute at the American Indian Law Center, and participant in the American Indian Law Certificate Program, Dennis hopes to represent her tribe and other underrepresented American Indian tribes upon her graduation.

“Kelly would like to use her expertise to assist tribes striving to find creative paths that will strengthen and rebuild their nations,” said Sam Deloria, Director of AIGC. “AIGC recognizes the potential of these dreams and considers it a privilege to lesson the financial burden of paying for a law degree in order to achieve such aspirations. And we like to hope that her award marks the first federal assistance to the Shinnecock Nation.”

Kelly is one of more than 350 Native American and Alaska Native graduate students who received a monetary award through the AIGC fellowship program this year. The U.S. Bureau of Indian Education funds the fellowship program, which includes approximately $1.2 million in annual awards. The fellowship amount is typically between $1,000 and $5,000 per academic year.

“After 32 years of persistence to gain federal recognition, it is so satisfying to learn of the opportunities we have opened for our deserving young minds,” said Gordell Wright, a member of the Shinnecock Nation Board of Trustees.