Indigenous Nursing Program Receives $2.2 Million Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant

Now entering their fifth year, Niganawenimaanaanig supports Indigenous nursing students within BSU’s four-year and RN-BS tracks, that are enrolled members of a tribal nation or a descendant of an enrolled member.  

Bemidji, MN — Following a competitive federal application process, the Niganawenimaanaanig Indigenous Nursing Program at Bemidji State University was recently awarded $2.2 million to continue their innovative support services for Indigenous nursing students.

Niganawenimaanaanig was one of 32 programs selected for the U.S. Health Resources & Service Administration’s Nursing Workforce Diversity Program, which seeks to increase nursing education opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, including racial and ethnic minorities underrepresented among registered nurses. The 4-year award will provide funding until 2025.

Niganawenimaanaanig is led by Dr. Misty Wilkie (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa), Program Director and Professor of Nursing at Bemidji State University, who says that creating the program has been the realization of lifelong dream. Basing the program’s service model upon her own life experiences as an Indigenous woman, student nurse and professor, Wilkie believes that BSU’s support and geographic location among Minnesota’s three largest tribal nations (Red Lake, White Earth, and Leech Lake), have made it an ideal fit for supporting Indigenous nursing students through graduation.

A 2017 National Council of State Boards of Nursing survey found that nurses from minority backgrounds represented 19.2% of the RN workforce, with American Indians/Alaskan Natives comprising only 0.4%.

Now entering their fifth year, Niganawenimaanaanig supports Indigenous nursing students within BSU’s four-year and RN-BS tracks, that are enrolled members of a tribal nation or a descendant of an enrolled member, providing them relevant academic, financial, cultural, and social support. In addition to staffing and holistic services, which includes a dedicated full-time mentor, grant funds will provide expanded student scholarships and monthly stipends. To date, the program has awarded more than $500,000 to students, as they work towards their bachelor’s degree in nursing!

In four years, Niganawenimaanaanig has served 38 nursing students from 15 different tribal nations and has already graduated 17 nurses who are now working in underserved communities.

Prospective nursing students interested in Niganawenimaanaanig should visit the program’s website or contact Dr. Misty Wilkie ( Applications are open and space is currently available.

About Bemidji State University (BSU) BSU is located amid the lakes and forests of northern Minnesota, occupies a wooded campus along the shore of Lake Bemidji. BSU offers 70 undergraduate areas of study and eight graduate degrees encompassing arts, sciences and select pre-professional programs. Bemidji State University educates people to lead inspired lives and is a Minnesota State university.  For more, visit

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