“They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they did.”
Mahpiua Luta (Red Cloud), Oglala Lakota
Nowadays, when gender and ethnicity questions arise in the context of business school education, they most frequently focus on Asian, Hispanic, or Black communities. There is, however, another community not often spoken of in these discussions about diversity—Native Americans. In fact, during my tenure of six plus years providing data to AACSB members, I have never had an inquiry concerning Native Americans, which is not surprising given our history. We remember the Alamo. We remember Pearl Harbor. But few of us recall Wounded Knee. The rise of the Industrial Revolution, and the slow progression westward during the 19th century, forged political and military policies that saw a considerable attrition of the native population. Add to this the resulting insularity of their own society, and it is easy to overlook them in these kinds of studies.
Today, based on the last update from the Department of Education (summer 2009), there are approximately eight tribally controlled institutions that offer four-year degrees. The enrollment in these schools went from 5,405 in 2000 to 6,324 in 2006, a whopping increase of 919 students in all academic disciplines.
In the realm of business education, among AACSB member schools providing data to us over the last seven years, total business school enrollment for those classified as Native Americans has gone from 4,769 in 2003–04 to 5,457 in 2009–10. That’s a mere increase of 616 students. When you take into account that enrollment has actually dropped the last two years from a high of 6,381 in 2007, it becomes even more sobering. That number of 5,457 is a paltry 0.62% of the business education community at AACSB reporting schools. By contrast, Black students in business schools have increased by 6,292 in just the last year, representing 10% of the total population, and while that percentage is not something to shout from the rooftops, it sure looks good from a Native American’s perspective. Here are the enrollment percentages by ethnicity for the last five years:
Of course, none of this is groundbreaking news. There are no surprises or revelations in these numbers. Business enrollments, like many things, are subject to the vagaries of socio-economic conditions, but except for Native Americans, there has been a trend upward in the last two years. Ten years from now, the data will likely not change much. The general population of Native Americans is small to begin with; and does not appear to be on the rise.
For better or worse, we are a nation ruled by corporations. No one defined it better than Calvin Coolidge when he stated “the business of America is business.” To succeed in this culture, an ethnic group must eventually relinquish its own. Failure to do so can render any segment of society irrelevant. If the history of Native Americans has taught us anything, it has taught us that.