Gail Bruce is the Founder and CEO of HipSilver and co-founding board member of the American Indian College Fund (AICF). She was blessed in the mid-’80s when a close friend, Anne Sward Hansen, opened a new world to her that changed her life forever. She introduced Gail to the American Indian Education Movement in its beginning stages.
From here, they started the American Indian College Fund. Anne was the first chairman of the board and Gail her first volunteer, before ascending to co-founding board member. They dedicated their efforts to raising scholarship and endowment money for Native students to attend Tribal Colleges on their reservations.
It was an exciting time that included their first book drive and the AICF’s annual fundraiser. Since 1984, the College Fund has become one of the most successful Indian education fundraising organizations in the country. The College Fund has grown from six tribal colleges in the early ’70s to thirty-seven and has awarded scholarships to over 100,000 students.
With help from the College Fund, AICF’s students are bringing their education back to their communities by offering examples of their personal, emotional, and educational growth.
Tada, Cheyenne River Sioux
One example is the story of Tada, Cheyenne River Sioux, who says, “if you knew her [me] just five years ago, you would never have guessed that she would be achieving the incredible success she’s experiencing today. In fact, if you knew me, you would probably bet money that it was only a matter of time before I was on another downward spiral. Statistically, I should not be here right now.”
Tada has overcome many obstacles, including addiction and homelessness, to become one of AICF’s most promising scholars. With the support of her college, Oglala Lakota, and of scholarships from the American Indian College Fund, Tada has gained a lifetime of exceptional experiences in a few short years.
Tada was serving as a Tribal College Student Representative in Spring of 2018 and has been informing Capitol Hill of the importance of Higher Education in Tribal communities for three years. She completed a 2017 summer internship program at the National Institute of Health in National Human Genome Research. This past October, Tada was selected by the British Council to participate in the Future Leaders Connect program to tackle global issues alongside 49 other participants from around the world. By incorporating her research on the genetic health of bison in the Pine Ridge reservation, Tada addresses her policy issues: the food sovereignty concerns in tribal communities.
When asked what inspires her, Tada says “Your history does not define your destiny.”
In addition, you can purchase a Pendleton Blanket from the Pendleton Company. These blankets represent high honor during spiritual events and the proceeds go to AICF.