NATCHITOCHES, LA – The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana and Northwestern State University (NSU) signed an agreement that will advance economic development and research opportunities for both the tribe and the university. The five-year partnership will support the tribe’s mission of developing educational opportunities for tribal citizens and provide vital workforce development resources for its 1,500 tribal citizens across the country.
“The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana is ecstatic to continue and expand our longstanding relationship with Northwestern State University by signing a memorandum of understanding with University President Dr. Jones,” said Tunica-Biloxi Chairman Marshall Pierite. “This five-year MOU focuses on working together on efforts focused on economic and workforce development, funding advocacy, academic and scholarship opportunities and much more. We look forward to, not only deepening our relationship with the university, but also working together to provide our students with resources and opportunities to succeed academically and beyond.”
The MOU will enhance academic opportunities through first-generation scholarships for traditional students and continuing education for adult learners. Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to partner with members of the tribe to advance collaborative efforts. NSU already has a tuition waiver in place for federally acknowledged American Indian tribes in Louisiana and beyond through the American Indian Opportunity Plan.
“I’m a firm believer that culturally meaningful college education is critical to building tribal sovereignty,” said Dr. Marcus Jones, NSU President. “NSU is a committed partner to tribes in helping to do just that, provide meaning educational opportunities.”
Chairman Pierite acknowledged the work of Dr. Hiram “Pete” Gregory, NSU professor of anthropology, for his work and advocacy with many tribes in Louisiana, including the Tunica-Biloxi over many decades.
The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana is a federally recognized Native American tribe consisting of Tunica, Biloxi, Ofo, Avoyel, and Choctaw located in Avoyelles and Rapides parishes. It is one of four federally recognized tribes in Louisiana. The Tunica-Biloxi people first appeared in the Mississippi Valley. In the late 1700’s, they settled near Marksville, where they were skilled traders and entrepreneurs. Today, the tribe has more than 1,500 members throughout the United States, primarily in Louisiana, Texas and Illinois.
The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe received federal recognition in 1981 for its reservation within the boundaries of Louisiana. The tribe owns and operates the Paragon Casino Resort, the largest employer in Central Louisiana. Through its compact, negotiated by the late Tribal Chairman Earl J. Barbry Sr. and the State of Louisiana, the tribe has assisted local governments in the area with its quarterly distribution of funds, totaling more than $40 million over two decades.