Press release | December 26, 2019
BROOKINGS, S.D. – Dec. 26, 2019 – President Donald Trump signed the 2020 Agriculture
Appropriations Bill, Friday, with a historic provision that will provide full funding to support
American Indian students seeking the benefits of higher education. The bill passed both the
House and the Senate prior to Trump signing.
New Beginning for Tribal Students authorizes the USDA to match state funding for programs at
land-grant colleges or universities that support American Indian students. The authorization is
capped at $5 million per year and $500,000 per state.
South Dakota State University leadership, led by President Barry Dunn, worked with South
Dakota’s delegation in Washington, D.C., to gain support for the New Beginning program. Rep.
Kristi Noem, prior to becoming governor of South Dakota, proposed a USDA funding match
that was later supported by Rep. Dusty Johnson. Sen. John Thune led the effort in the Senate
with Sen. Mike Rounds. Rep. Johnson and Sen. Thune then led efforts in the House and Senate
to secure the historic first-ever appropriation for the New Beginning program.
“The support and involvement of the South Dakota delegation in Washington, D.C., to get this
provision in the Farm Bill and have it become a fully funded appropriation has been
extraordinary,” Dunn said. “South Dakota has certainly been a leader in working to provide
opportunities for American Indian students to gain better access to higher education through
the Wokini Initiative and to see that grow into an effort to provide that same access across the
United States is very rewarding.”
Gov. Noem added, “This is another example of how South Dakota is leading the nation and how
one idea can spark change; having a lasting impact on the next generation’s success. Not only
will this bill have a positive impact on our American Indian families, it also aligns with one of
my main priorities of strengthening South Dakota’s families. Strengthening families is a key
element to every decision I make as governor, and I’m committed to keeping it at the center. I
am very proud to have been a part of the support network of what is happening here.”
Dunn launched the Wokini Initiative at South Dakota State University early in his presidency to
create greater access to higher education for American Indians in South Dakota. Funding for
the Wokini Initiative has come through private donations to the SDSU Foundation and revenue
generated by land as part of the South Dakota Permanent Trust Fund. Much of that land was
claimed by the federal government in 1887 as part of the Dawes Act, assigning 160,000 acres
to South Dakota to support its new land-grant college and agricultural experiment station.
New Beginning for Tribal Students gained support of universities throughout the country,
including North Dakota State University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Maine,
University of Arkansas, Michigan State University and the University of Wyoming. The
Association of Public Land-Grant Universities also supported the initiative.
“This is a milestone for American Indians throughout the United States as they look to the
future and the opportunities afforded to attend, and graduate, from some of the best colleges
and universities in the country,” Dunn said. “The Wokini Initiative’s initial pledge to develop
and provide more sustainable financial resources for SDSU was a critical step to creating
greater access to higher education for our native students, giving them a better chance to be
“I am thankful for the many visionary leaders who saw that pathway through the Wokini
Initiative and came forward to develop a plan that creates more opportunities for students
throughout the U.S.,” Dunn added. “We are changing the dynamic that American Indian
students face in higher education and giving them a chance to have a positive impact on their
lives, those of their families and their communities.”
About South Dakota State University
Founded in 1881, South Dakota State University is the state’s Morrill Act land-grant institution
as well as its largest, most comprehensive school of higher education. SDSU confers degrees
from seven different colleges representing more than 200 majors, minors and specializations.
The institution also offers 36 master’s degree programs, 15 Ph.D. and two professional
The work of the university is carried out on a residential campus in Brookings, at sites in Sioux
Falls, Pierre and Rapid City, and through Extension offices and Agricultural Experiment Station
research sites across the state. SDSU’s research expenditures for the 2018 fiscal year were
more than $60 million.
For more information: SDSU News • www.sdstate.edu