When John Blackhawk, interim president of Little Priest Tribal College, asked the class of '98 to ascend the stage of the community center to say a few words, all five graduates came forward. Beginning with Amy Bearskin, each spoke for a few minutes, expressing thanks to their parents and promising their professors -- four full-time and 11 adjunct -- that this day's success would lead to more.
Not that it was much noticed beyond the sere hills of the Winnebago reservation in northeastern Nebraska and northwest Iowa, with the Missouri River in between, but the commencement ceremony had two links with history: one making it; the other remembering.
This was the first graduating class at Little Priest, a two-year associate degree college offering 43 core courses and 24 electives to some 100 students. Two-thirds are adults, three-fourths women. The Little Priest campus, which has one building atop a hill that is a pasture and creekbed or two away from the tribe's buffalo herd, is named after the Winnebago chief whose dying words in 1866 to his community were: "There is nothing more I can do for you. Be strong and educate my children."
The remembrance of history goes back to the 1832 treaty between the Winnebagos and the …