THE RIGHT TRACK
Bridging two worlds
By Coleman Cornelius | Jan. 1, 2023
FOR WESTON JONES, philosophy was a perfect fit. His major at CSU helped him bridge his belief system as a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation and his life in a largely white society.
“My ancestors and the Native way – we are philosophers in the traditional sense. We have always set out to see the world differently and to create a strong belief system. Studying philosophy, I learned how to translate my experiences coming from the reservation into life at a predominantly white institution,” said Jones, who grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. “The main thing CSU taught me was to walk in two worlds.”
Now, Jones is working to translate law for tribal progress. He graduated from CSU with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in Spring 2021, then enrolled at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. In addition to his J.D., Jones will seek specialty certification through the school’s Native American Law and Sovereignty Institute. He hopes to practice tribal law when he graduates.
Law school was a natural progression after he excelled in a class called Federal Indian Law and Policy at CSU. “I fell in love with that class. It spoke to me on so many levels,” said Jones, who is a first-generation college student. “My grandpa always said that when you are on the right track in life, there will be signs. I took it as the world telling me.”
He also was emboldened by CSU’s Native American Cultural Center, which welcomed Jones to Fort Collins and helped him fit in on a campus very different from his home community. He reciprocated by mentoring more than four dozen Native American freshmen.
HOW HE PAID
- Received in-state tuition rate, available for all Native American students
- Multiple scholarships
- Federal student loan
- Minimal debt
“I would always try to make them understand they belong,” Jones said. “I would try to ground them to the land around us and the reality that they’re at home. They’re right where they need to be.”
Photo at top: Weston Jones, 23, grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and graduated from CSU in 2021 with a degree in philosophy. Now, he’s attending law school.