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Upcoming Commencement Dates

  • June 9, 2019
  • June 14, 2020
  • June 13, 2021
  • June 12, 2022

Dartmouth 2011 Honorary Degree Recipient: Elouise Cobell (Doctor of Humane Letters)

ELOUISE COBELL, you are an honored member of the Blackfeet Nation who challenged the U.S. government on behalf of hundreds of thousands of tribal citizens. Born and raised in Browning, Montana, in the shadow of the Rockies, you left to get an education and then moved to Seattle to begin your career in accounting. But the majestic mountains of your home presented a lure you could not deny, and so you returned to the reservation. By age thirty, you had become treasurer of the Blackfeet Nation.

In that role, you exposed the widespread mismanagement of Indian trust accounts by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. When your repeated requests for explanations and improvements went ignored, you became the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the federal government. You fought what many said was an impossible battle, persisting as the case dragged on through three presidential administrations. After more than a decade in the courts, you helped secure a $3.4 billion settlement that will bring some measure of justice to half a million Native Americans.

You are also a full-time cattle rancher and a tireless advocate for social, environmental, and agricultural causes. Where others see deficits, you see opportunities. You founded not only the first land trust in Indian Country but also the first Native-owned bank on a reservation in the United States. That bank has had a measurable impact on your community, enabling the creation of dozens of new Indian-owned businesses. Its success eventually led to the founding of the Native American Bank, a joint enterprise of more than 20 tribal nations. You now serve as Executive Director of the bank's non-profit affiliate, the Native American Community Development Corporation, working with Indian communities to support sustainable economic development.

Elouise, you have used your financial acumen to improve your community and make life better for countless Native people. You fought a David and Goliath battle and won. In recognition of your extraordinary bravery and determination, Dartmouth is proud to award you the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters.

Last Updated: 3/17/16