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The Morrill Land-Grant Acts and Tribal Lands: What Happened, What's Next

Event Date:

September 10, 2022 | 8:30 AM EDT TO 1:00 PM EDT


Vermont Law School Chase Community Center
164 Chelsea St

South Royalton, VT 05068


Editor’s note: While the Pulitzer Center is not directly supporting this event, we are excited to see grantees Tristan Ahtone and Robert Lee’s project reach new audiences.

Pulitzer Center grantees Tristan Ahtone and Robert “Bobby” Lee will join Twyla Baker, president of Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College, and Hillary Hoffman, co-director of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, for a symposium at the Vermont Law and Graduate School titled “The Morrill Land-Grant Acts and Tribal Lands: What Happened, What's Next.” This event will be open for in-person as well as virtual attendees.

The Morrill Land-Grant Acts directed the construction of public universities across the country, but at great cost to Indigenous nations whose land was taken by treaties, cession, and seizure. Today, the funds created in 1862 remain on the books, land-grant colleges’ legacies live on, and Indigenous lands remain under threat. The featured presentations will discuss the past, present, and future possibilities of the land-grant colleges’ ties with dispossession.

Ahtone and Lee’s Pulitzer Center-supported story, “Land-Grab Universities,” received Polk, Sigma Data, and Investigative Reporters & Editors journalism awards in 2021. A two-year investigative project, Investigating Land Grants to Universities, documents how American universities profited from the seizure and sale of Indigenous lands. The project’s geodatabase cataloged over 11 million acres of public land, the original tribal nations who previously stewarded the land, and the exact worth of its sale. Since “Land-Grab Universities” was published, Cornell University, Ohio State University, the University of California, and more schools created initiatives to settle the debts they owe to Indigenous communities.

This event is presented by the Vermont Law and Graduate School and Friends of the Morrill Homestead, with support from the Center for Justice Reform, Hotel Coolidge, and Vermont Humanities. Join us on September 10 from 8:30am to 1:00pm EDT.


  • Tristan Ahtone has served as editor-in-chief at the Texas Observer, Indigenous affairs editor at High Country News, and president of the Native American Journalists Association. He has reported for Al Jazeera America, PBS NewsHour, National Native News, NPR, and National Geographic
  • Robert “Bobby” Lee is a lecturer in American history at the University of Cambridge, a Selwyn College fellow, and a junior fellow at Harvard’s Society of Fellows. 
  • Twyla Baker is the president of Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College, a tribal school in New Town, North Dakota. She is a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation and works to improve the quality of life for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.
  • Hillary Hoffman is a co-director of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, a consortium of five sovereign tribal nations working together to protect the sacred Bears Ears cultural landscape.


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Indigenous Rights

Indigenous Rights
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Land Rights

Land Rights