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Whitman College Announces New Scholarship for Native Students

Aiden Wolf ’26 and Lindsey Pasena-Littlesky ’26 are the first recipients of the Šináata Scholarship, created in recognition of the special relationship between the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and Whitman College.

By Gillian Frew ’11

Aiden Wolf
Courtesy of Aiden Wolf ’26

In partnership with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), Whitman College has announced a new scholarship intended for students who are enrolled members of the CTUIR. Indigenous students from other parts of the Pacific Northwest or with close ties to the CTUIR are also eligible. Two scholarships have already been awarded to students admitted into the Whitman College Class of 2026. 

“The Šináata Scholarship is one of the most generous scholarship programs that Whitman College offers,” said Provost and Dean of the Faculty Alzada Tipton. “It honors the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla peoples and represents the close and continuing collaboration between the college and the tribes.”

The Šináata Scholarship covers demonstrated need for the full cost of attendance at Whitman, including tuition and fees, room and board and books and supplies, and is renewable for all four years. It builds on a number of other educational initiatives developed under the framework of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that Whitman signed five years ago with the CTUIR, including the recent Long Tent exhibition during which the MOA was renewed. 

Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, the cultural education arm of the CTUIR, proposed the name Šináata [pronounced shin-AHH-tah] for the scholarship. Bobbie Conner, the director, explained the meaning behind it. 

Lindsey Pasena-Littlesky“This name is in the original Cayuse language and was prepared and submitted by Dr. Phillip Cash Cash, linguistic anthropologist and CTUIR member, and means ‘to seek.’ This name was recommended to provide the CTUIR and Whitman College the opportunity to actively use an Old Cayuse term in modern time as a signal that the language is still in use. It also provides an occasion to align the ancient practice of vision seeking with the pursuit of higher education, seeking knowledge, enlightenment, and insight.”

According to Dr. Cash Cash, the use of Old Cayuse terms “can only help elevate a greater awareness of the Cayuse language and how it contributes to the linguistic diversity of the Plateau cultural region. It must be understood that every opportunity to use our ancestral Cayuse language advances its status from ‘extinction’ into a new kind of language use. Such use bears cultural and scientific significance that cannot be overstated given today’s historical moment.” 

This year’s recipients of the Šináata Scholarship are Aiden Wolf and Lindsey Pasena-Littlesky, both of whom have been featured in recent issues of the Confederated Umatilla Journal for their achievement. Adam Miller, interim vice president for admission and financial aid, expressed his enthusiasm about officially welcoming Wolf and Pasena-Littlesky to Whitman. 

“We are thrilled to have our inaugural Šináata Scholars, Aiden and Lindsey, joining us on campus this fall. There is no limit to what these two young people can accomplish, and I am delighted that Whitman will be their academic home for the next four years.” 

Wolf has a storied family history that is deeply entwined with the cultural heritage of the region. He is a great-great-grandson of Ada Jones Patrick, who contributed to the Cayuse history of the Whitman Mission National Historic Site. Wolf is also descended from two of Cayuse warriors executed in 1850 following the Whitman Massacre, despite a lack of evidence of their involvement in the attack on settlers.  

“It’s a great honor to be here as a result of their sacrifices,” Wolf said. “I appreciate Whitman College stepping up alongside the CTUIR and providing this opportunity for a great education. I’ll do my best to be a good example.” 

An avid outdoorsman and athlete, Wolf plans to pursue Whitman’s combined degree program in forestry and environmental management with the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. 

Pasena-Littlesky is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of San Felipe tribe in New Mexico who lives on the CTUIR and has been actively involved with CTUIR programs. 

“I am honored and grateful to be a Šináata Scholarship recipient in its first year,” she said. “I would like to thank the CTUIR Youth Council for the many opportunities growing up.”

Pasena-Littlesky plans to study politics at Whitman with a focus on environmental law and psychology. She will also play on the women’s soccer team. 

“I could not be more pleased that we are offering these full scholarships for CTUIR students with the endorsement and support of local tribal elders and leaders,” said President Kathleen Murray. “We are humbled to learn from our neighbors and grow our understanding of the history of the Walla Walla Basin and the Native communities who have stewarded this land for generations.” 

Whitman Board of Trustees Chair Joe Davis, President Kathleen Murray and Provost Alzada Titpton

Published on Jun 7, 2022
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