Milestones in the history of Fort Lewis College

Uniformed men line up outside army barracks at Fort Lewis. The property was a military fort from 1880 until 1891. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Fort Lewis College Center for Southwes

Uniformed men line up outside army barracks at Fort Lewis. The property was a military fort from 1880 until 1891.

1880: Fort Lewis military fort established five miles south of Hesperus.

1891: Fort Lewis begins as an Indian boarding school.

1911: The tuition waiver is born when Colorado accepts the 6,279-acre Fort Lewis School property grant from the federal government. In accepting the grant, the state agrees to maintain the property as an institution of learning and admit Native American pupils free of charge. Fort Lewis high school established with a focus on agriculture, household training and mechanical arts.

1927: A two-year college begins at the Fort Lewis campus.

1956: Fort Lewis College moves to Durango.

1960: Colorado State University begins operating an agricultural research station at the Old Fort Campus, and also starts conducting high-altitude bull testing.

1971: Colorado lawmakers pass a bill to limit the tuition waiver to in-state residents who otherwise could not afford tuition costs. Two years later, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the conditions of the 1911 grant require the state to offer free tuition to all Native American students, regardless of economic or residency status.

January 2010: Colorado Rep. Karen Middleton introduces a bill that would reduce the amount of money the state pays to Fort Lewis College for nonresident Native American students. Protests ensued, and the bill was pulled days later.

June 2010: Colorado State University pulls out of its master lease agreement on the Old Fort Lewis property, leaving the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners with the responsibility to draw up new leases on the land.

2017: The expiration date of all leases on the property, including the leases for the Elk Research Institute and cattle grazing. At that time, Fort Lewis College and the Colorado State Land Board can create an entirely new plan for the land.

Emery Cowan

Employees at the Native American boarding school, which became a high school after the federal government granted the boarding school property to the State of Colorado. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Fort Lewis College Center for Southwes

Employees at the Native American boarding school, which became a high school after the federal government granted the boarding school property to the State of Colorado.

Fort Lewis College’s Durango campus photographed in October 1956. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Fort Lewis College Center for Southwes

Fort Lewis College’s Durango campus photographed in October 1956.

The clock tower on Fort Lewis’ campus was built in 2000 as a tribute to the college’s first president, Dale Rea. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Fort Lewis College.

The clock tower on Fort Lewis’ campus was built in 2000 as a tribute to the college’s first president, Dale Rea.

Fort Lewis College students packed into the Native American Center on campus during the fall of 2010 during a discussion about proposed legislation that would request federal funding for part of the Native American tuition waiver. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald file photos

Fort Lewis College students packed into the Native American Center on campus during the fall of 2010 during a discussion about proposed legislation that would request federal funding for part of the Native American tuition waiver.