AIHEC and the Development of American Indian Higher Education Policy, 1974-1978

Volume 28, No. 2 - Winter 2016
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(Editor’s Note: This is the second part in a two-part research series on the early history of AIHEC. For part one, click here: http://tribalcollegejournal.org/aihec-rise-events-leading-passage-tribally-controlled-community-college-assistance-act-1978/ )

The tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) entered the federal arena in an effort to develop a mechanism that would increase their operational resources. Although the AIHEC had no master plan for policy development, the organization’s professional staff and board members earnestly pursued strategies that enabled them to develop federal policy in Indian higher education. In order to understand why American Indian constituents were more influential in policy formation than other interested sectors, we must analyze the consortium’s methods for problem investigation, option assessment, alternative generation, and policy selection (D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993).

The initial section of this article reviews Indian affairs, the Indian community, and Indian legislation in Congress and the White House during the 1970s. The second section is devoted to a review of AIHEC’s strategies of policy development. The final section centers on the consortium’s policy selection process, and the generation and selection of policy alternatives. AIHEC’s strategies of policy development and selection clarify the extent of the consortium’s influence in the evolution of federal Indian policy and in the Tribally Controlled Community Colleges Assistance Act.

Indian Policy and the Sociopolitical Context of the 1970s

In the 1960s and 1970s, the United States adopted a federal poverty program agenda that promoted competition between various groups of Indian people, pitting urban, city-based Indian groups against rural, reservation-based tribes (Forbes, 1981, p. 46). The reservation leadership demanded special federal treatment based on treaty and trust obligations, and articulated this stance through the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the National Tribal Chairmen’s Association (NTCA) (Forbes, 1981, p. 18). A growing number of articulate Indian educators made their visions, concerns, and expertise known, especially with the inception and organization of the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993; P. Locke, personal communication, December 1993). At this point, the American Indian protest movement was at a peak and primarily urban based. American Indians protested poor living conditions and demanded reparations for lost tribal lands. Examples of this national Indian movement include the Indians of All Tribes’ 1969-1971 occupation of Alcatraz Island; 1972 American Indian Movement (AIM) takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) national headquarters in Washington, DC; AIM’s 1972 occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota; and the Six Nations pursuit of national recognition in the World Court in Geneva. The Indian resistance movement contributed to an inordinately attentive Congress and forum for Indian Affairs (Forbes, 1981, p. 1; J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993)

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Crucial pieces of legislation were passed during the Nixon era, particularly the Indian Education Act of 1972 and the Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act of 1975 (Forbes, 1981, p. 38). Coalitions among Indian communities effectively promoted legislative development in Indian health and child welfare (United States Civil Rights Commission, 1981, p. 60).

The new Nixon administration adopted the principle of self-determination, making it the headline theme of President Nixon’s address on Indian policy (Forbes, 1981, p. 64). The Nixon cabinet appointee to the Department of the Interior, Walter Hickel, aggressively sought to exemplify Indian self-determination, and appointed Indian people who were Indian rights advocates to leadership positions in the BIA. But Hickel was a short-lived secretary, and his firing after only one year was accompanied by a serious erosion of Indian self-determination in the BIA that resulted in staff replacements (Philp, 1986, p. 214). Indian leaders were frustrated and disenchanted with Nixon’s subsequent retreat from self-determination (Philp, 1986, p. 213)

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Legislation in support of tribal colleges was first introduced into a volatile and dynamic congressional climate (P. Locke, personal communication, December 1993). Despite the Nixon administration’s retreat from a meaningful commitment to tribal sovereignty, Congress was nevertheless plunging headlong into deliberations over the Indian self-determination bill. Basically, the bill regulated tribal services contracts previously provided by the BIA or Indian Health Services (Senese, 1986, p. 153). The new act allowed tribes to contract and operate programs previously run by the federal government, and enabled them to expand tribal management services. However, the act maintained the contracts under strict administrative BIA control, leading to a new series of problems for Indian tribes (Senese, 1986, p. 163).

Two congressional study groups contributed to a well-informed and favorable Congress. The House Advisory Group on Indian Education of the House Education and Labor Committee gathered an unprecedented record on Indian education, while the American Indian Policy Review Commission of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs studied Indian policy (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993); Scheirbeck, 1980, pp. 208-209; United States Civil Rights Commission, 1981, p. 13).

Indian self-determination was a powerful theme during the 1970s (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993). South Dakota Senator Abourezk entered office to positively transform the Indian-federal relationship. Abourezk collaborated with Senators Young of South Dakota and Jackson of Washington State to formulate improved tribal independence and self-determination (J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993). The senators’ interest coincided with the momentum among tribes for increased independence and the Nixon commitment to the concept. The Indian Self-Determination Act of 1975 was the result.

In the House, Indian education had been newly assigned to the authorizing jurisdiction of the House Education and Labor Committee. Committee chairman Carl Perkins appointed the Advisory Study Group on Indian Education (ASGIE) to review all Indian education federal authorities (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993). ASGIE co-chairman, Minnesota Congressman Al Quie, had a commitment to tribal sovereignty and a sense of obligation to improve Indian education. The other co-chairman, Iowa congressman Michael Blouin, a former teacher and believer in field-based expertise, aspired to a new and responsible sense of leadership. The ASGIE field hearings, interviews, and observations created an unprecedented record on Indian education from Indian educators’ situations, expertise, and knowledge. The ASGIE was instrumental in crafting the Indian vocational education set-aside provision, significantly improving the Indian Education Act, developing the educational provisions in the Indian Self-Determination Act, and collaborating with the tribal colleges on the Tribally Controlled Community Colleges Assistance Act of 1978 (J. Forkenbrock,  personal communication, December 1993).

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The Office of Economic Opportunity stimulated comprehensive educational programming during the 1960s, from early childhood education through college scholarship support. Indian people wanted educational programs that were meaningful and directed by tribal people themselves, not others (D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993). The Navajo community-controlled model education projects, Rough Rock Demonstration School and Navajo Community College, gained national attention, especially among Indian educators (Haymond, 1982, pp. 108, 130). The policy shift represented by these models indicated a policy acceptance of Indian choice and control in education, as well as an unprecedented American Indian cultural orientation and content in curriculum (W. Demmert, personal communication, December 1993); Forbes, 1964, p. 130; J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993). The congressionally supported and tribally chartered Navajo Community College had been established with a college mission that affirmed the two worlds of experience: the Navajo and the mainstream (D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993; Haymond, 1982, p. 130). Clearly, the decade of the 1960s contributed significant federal and tribal initiatives of parental/community involvement and control that altered and expanded the boundaries of Indian education policy.

Apart from other American minority groups, the Indian people held high regard for their culture, identity, and language.  The Indian education parental and tribal control movement was counter to the larger American civil rights-inspired structures of integrated schools and colleges (W. Demmert, personal communication, December 1993).

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The colleges were surrounded by tribal leaders who had become frustrated with tribal control under the new Indian self-determination law of 1975 (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993). Under the new authority, the tribes experienced BIA contracts with serious administrative complications such as late payments, funding shortages, and technical limitations (Philp, 1986, p. 253). Although local and tribal control were exercised in some limited areas, the extent of control was seriously constrained, and in the final analysis, the act had not altered the BIA discretion and power in Indian programs (Senese, 1986, p. 158). In theory, the act appeared revolutionary, but in practice the BIA made the contracting process more “like operating a county mosquito district than a sovereign tribal administration” (Forbes, 1981, p. 120). Here, in the midst of these tests of the new and perhaps disappointing law, the tribal colleges were examined with unwarranted scrutiny from national and tribal organizations (P. Locke, personal communication, December 1993).

Despite the Self-Determination Act and its disappointing application in Indian tribal programs, the TCUs were nevertheless ready to take the full step to self-determination (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993). The new concept played a major role in the tribal colleges’ development. AIHEC leader David Gipp reflected, “We wanted higher education with true meaning and directed toward degree completion” (D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993). The consortium had a driving vision toward community development, toward education as an element in the freedom of the Indian people (J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993). TCU leaders sought to promote the culture, language, and history of their tribes (Belgarde, 1993, p. 42). All of this was in a context of Indian tribes’ high expectations, experiences of disappointment, and BIA contracting that was just as rigid and paternal as it had been before Indian self-determination.

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Title IV of the Higher Education Act dramatically increased Indian students’ enrollment in higher education (Haymond, 1982, p. 14). The coalition of tribally controlled colleges, AIHEC, incorporated in 1973 with six member colleges. The consortium testified in Congress in 1974 to amend the self-determination bill (Haymond, 1982, p. 132). The Indian Self-Determination Act of 1975, Title II, mandated a study of the tribal colleges to be completed by the BIA (D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993). The House Advisory Group on Indian Education conducted oversight hearings on the Indian Education Act in locations throughout Indian Country and included a study of the tribal colleges (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993; Scheirbeck, 1980, p. 209). The Bureau of Indian Education already operated Haskell Indian Junior College and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute. Existing federal policy helped with Indian student financial aid to attend college and support the BIA-operated colleges, but only minimally addressed Indian higher education in terms of TCU support.

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The decade of the 1970s was an accelerated period for congressional collaboration with American Indians. Legislation proliferated in the areas of education, health, child welfare, housing, and in tribal control of BIA programming. Proactive Indian leaders were initiating highly visible protest acts, especially in urban areas, but also on some reservations. AIM decried the deplorable living conditions of Indian people and demanded reparations for lost or stolen Indian lands.  The nation’s tribes had effective and articulate organizations that represented their positions in Congress and in forums around the country, like the National Congress of American Indians and AIHEC. By 1978, 16 TCUs had been chartered and were operating on their respective reservations, largely in the Northern Plains states of North and South Dakota and Montana

Strategies of Policy Development

The process of policy formation is complex, and the potential for new policy measures is, over time, acted upon by many interested parties with specific views and interests. (Dery, 1984, pp. 60, 68). The parties subscribe to new policy measures according to their respective bases in theory, legal precedents, social and political values, and religious tenets (Shirley, Peters, & El-Ansary, 1981, p. 77). In Robert C. Shirley, Michael H. Peters, and Adel El-Ansary’s work on policy measure development, they assert that persons involved exert “guiding principles derived from cultural values” that impose “a criteria of choice among alternatives” (Shirley et al., 1981, p. 80). The tribal colleges were deeply committed to new policy measure development, but lacked the literal political influence.

From the earliest AIHEC member lists, the consortium had six college members. When the first draft was filed, the total congressional delegation that represented the six AIHEC-member colleges included congressmen from North Dakota, South Dakota, Arizona, and California. Senators were more numerous since each state had two senators. In 1974, the consortium’s political influence in Congress was minimal and required compensation by increased foresight and speed of estimation.

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According to policy analysts Gary D. Brewer and Peter deLeon, the process of estimation is the “systematic investigation of a problem and the thoughtful assessment of options and alternatives” (Brewer & deLeon, 1983, p. 83). In view of this definition, AIHEC employed a systematic investigation of the problem and was deeply involved in the assessment of alternatives.

In Brewer and deLeon’s estimation framework, the tribal colleges analyzed and identified the root causes for a new policy (Brewer & deLeon, 1983, p. 84). AIHEC’s efforts were affected by important time factors and were affected both positively and negatively by unintended consequences or externalities (Brewer & deLeon, 1983, pp. 92, 95). Higher education policy and Indian education policy were built through historical and legal precedents and rigidly administered by executive agencies and congressional committees. The agencies and committees or institutional structures set conditions on the tribal colleges that narrowed their legislative options (Brewer & deLeon, 1983, p. 102). Alternatives were reviewed carefully and shared with other constituents through “issue papers in rapid response time” (Brewer & deLeon, 1983, p. 96). The issue papers and testimony served the additional purpose of “complexity and conflict reduction” (Brewer & deLeon, 1983, p. 102). AIHEC initiated prototype fielding by their broad circulation of draft bills. The consortium elicited a spectrum of criticism from congressional committee staff members, national Indian organizations, and members of the higher education community at large.

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Policy proponents must elicit a clear sense of purpose and a well-defined root cause for the policy measure process (Brewer & deLeon, 1983, p. 84). The tribal colleges had incorporated in 1973, with the primary purpose of resource development (American Indian Higher Education Consortium [AIHEC] Articles of Incorporation, 1973). A central driving force of the consortium was the reality that the colleges had no money (D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993; J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993). In 1974, two TCUs lost the federal support they had been receiving from the Snyder Act (BIA-authorized funding). The inaccessible nature of this resource was clarified and analyzed in AIHEC correspondence and an issue paper (Gipp, 1974; AIHEC, Recent Developments on S.2634, 1975; J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993).

Entitled, “Developing and Strengthening Institutions,” Title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965 was a second resource for the tribal colleges. In 1975, extensive AIHEC testimony was written and delivered on Title III before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education. AIHEC found the Title III funding to be short-term and unreliable (AIHEC, Testimony to House Subcommittee, May 19, 1977; J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993-44).

A major purpose of the movement was tribal control of tribal higher education. Also in 1975, AIHEC issued a paper entitled, “AIHEC Issues and Recommendations,” which discussed tribal control as the “unique and integral precept to tribal colleges” (AIHEC, Testimony to Senate Select Committee, November 1975). The South Dakota legislature and the South Dakota Board of Regents declined funding to the tribal colleges, making the State of South Dakota’s support potentially nil (Stein, 1988, pp. 100, 121). The colleges lacked tax bases and wealthy alumni due to their economically impoverished community base and chartering tribal governments (J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993-44). TCUs thoroughly investigated many funding resources and mutually understood the root cause of their policy development efforts: money.

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The lack of reliable operational resources for the tribal colleges served to pressure them in their efforts. Those resources that had been acquired at each college were short term and discretionary. The longest term funding was the Title III, Higher Education Act funds, which were rarely over three years in grant term. The colleges’ individual institutional time was limited and the pressure to find a stable and reliable funding source weighed on the AIHEC leadership. The practical and daily operations of the colleges were constantly at risk throughout the period 1973 to 1981 (Stein, 1988, p. 156).

TCU policy development period coincided with the Indian self-determination movement. House staff assistant John Forkenbrock observed, “The timing was just too fast after 638, the Tribal College Act was another phase too fast” (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993). In addition, the movements’ centrality of tribal control and tribal language, culture, and history oddly contradicted the principle and practice of civil rights as it applied to American higher education (W. Demmert, personal communication, December 1993). The Indian communities that chartered the tribal colleges were bound to self-development in light of Indian self-determination. Congressman Ford, a strong civil rights educator and Democrat, complained that the tribal colleges bill served only one racial group and might proliferate (Ford, W., Ford to House Subcommittee, January 1976).

Time was also a factor in the assessment of the administrative home for the tribal colleges. In 1976, the colleges were divided over which federal executive department would potentially administer the pending Tribal Colleges Act. The leading candidates were the U.S. Office of Education (USOE) in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; or the Department of the Interior. Influential Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy and his staff favored the USOE. The committee staff members wanted clear consortium direction on this matter, but the consortium was stalemated until July of 1976. Finally, a Kennedy staff member conveyed to AIHEC that the senator had spent his clout on other issues and could not give primary support for the tribal colleges bill. Without the Kennedy sponsorship, the Department of the Interior became the undisputed administrative destination for the legislation (AIHEC, phone transcript, July 26, 1976).

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The constituents involved in the federal policy development process included the Departments of Education and the Interior, the Indian tribes and national organizations, the American higher education community, and the tribal colleges. The TCU concept was basic and straightforward, but, not surprisingly, the concept encroached on various constituents’ proprietary interests. House and Senate hearing records reveal the breadth and depth of these perspectives.

Among the harmful and beneficial externalities that resulted in unintended consequences were the positions taken by national Indian organizations. Supportive leadership from NCAI Executive Director Chuck Trimble resulted in positive Senate testimony in 1977 (Trimble, 1977). The 1977 NCAI education committee hearings in Dallas were a scene of heated debate and contest for AIHEC. Patrcia Locke held the committee chairmanship as well as the NIEA presidency in 1977. The committee deliberation over tribal control mechanisms in tribal higher education placed a delay on the legislation. House staff member Forkenbrock reflected, “Congress paid real attention to Indian education, and in particular the National Congress of American Indians; AIHEC had to overcome the NCAI politics” (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993). The committees had to sort out the apparent conflict, taking serious and valuable amounts of time.

The beneficial externality of the national Indian organizations’ involvement was their insistence on criteria for TCU funding eligibility, on tribal consultation in the development of feasibility studies and rule making, and on a refined definition of tribal control mechanisms, such as tribal charters (Trimble, 1976; National Indian Education Association [NIEA], Policy Resolution No.8, September 20, 1977; NIEA, Testimony to the House Advisory Group, May 19, 1977). The consequences of these externalities were unintended and costly, whether harmful or beneficial.

The early AIHEC board position to diminish and eliminate the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s (WICHE’s) role in the consortium Title III grant (1973) figured prominently in the slowed progress the colleges experienced in policy development. The consortium members had no method to foretell Locke’s prominence in 1976 and 1977. Locke brought to bear powerful and deliberative influence on the national Indian organizations assemblies of the NCAI, the NIEA, and in congressional hearings (National Congress of American Indians [NCAI], Education Concerns Committee Resolution, October 22, 1976; Trimble, 1977; Snake, 1977). The Locke influence was supported in Indian country. The WICHE organization had supported Locke’s extensive travel to over 50 Indian tribes to assess their higher education needs (Stein, 1988, p. 180).

The national Indian organizations were poised and prepared for the tribal control debate, having only recently and integrally been involved in the Indian Self-Determination Act development. The self-determination legislation expanded the frontiers of Indian policy and enhanced tribal control of federal services through a new contracting authority. To the colleges, there appeared to be new, substantial, and beneficial policy potential available to them (Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, 1975).

The tribal colleges brought their draft legislation to the oversight hearings on the Indian Self-Determination Act. They were interested in amending Title II, the provision for tribal contracting of K-12 Indian schools (D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993). But congressional oversight is a process based on identification of legal shortcomings and suggested technical improvements. In this scrutinizing environment, the tribal colleges draft bill was subjected to excessive review that required detailed terms, conditions, and responses as they pertained to tribal control. This inordinate attention on the colleges bill approximated overload (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993; D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993; Locke, 1977).

The NCAI and NTCA testimony went beyond the principles of tribal control and magnified the characteristic structures that preserved tribal control in governing board membership and in the funding path—whether directly to tribal governments  or to the colleges. Despite the tribal charters that established each AIHEC-member college, the NCAI charged the consortium with tribal contravention or circumvention (Echohawk, 1977; NIEA, Policy Resolution No.8., September 20, 1977). What the colleges initially perceived as an appropriate context for TCU legislation was in fact loaded with harmful externalities. Yvonne Franklin, House Education and Labor Committee staff member, remarked to Senate staff member Ella Horse, “The tribal control discussion totally eclipsed the educational issues and the tribal colleges’ educational qualities” (Franklin, Y., Memorandum to E. Horse, March 19, 1976).

The anti-Indian, White backlash of the 1970s was a result of the Indian protest movement that demanded treaty-based fishing rights and reparations for lost lands. The White backlash impacted AIHEC. The newly formed House Subcommittee on Indian Education was initially chaired by Washington congressman Lloyd Meeds, who had been a pro-Indian ally and had pledged early support to the tribal colleges bill. During his 1976 reelection bid, an Indian fishing rights controversy cost him White votes. The lost White votes damaged the Meeds election totals, as did large numbers of Indian constituents who simply did not vote in that election (U.S. Civil Rights Commission, 1981, p. 7). Barely re-elected, Congressman Meeds returned to the capital, resigned from the subcommittee, and withdrew his sponsorship from the tribal colleges bill (G. Tiger, personal communication, December 1993; D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993). House Education and Labor Committee chairman, Carl Perkins, then appointed new leadership and the subcommittee was reduced to an advisory study group. This transition also used valuable time for the colleges’ cause. However, the time loss was more than compensated by the valuable and supportive new leadership of co-chairmen Minnesota Congressman Al Quie and Iowa Congressman Michael Blouin (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993).

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Any source of opposition, caution, or question was the sure catalyst for AIHEC white papers. Including congressional testimony, the consortium published over 30 substantial discussions of the TCU legislation. Each was specific to the most recent question or criticism, and each directly answered criticism or questions, point by point. AIHEC’s response speed and its issue orientation demonstrated a rapid turnaround time from the date of the questions, comments, or criticisms of the draft bill (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993). Some of the contentious points that merited AIHEC’s immediate and specific response were the 1976 Locke points, the USOE objections, the paper to the Carter White House transition team, and Congressman Ford’s 13 issues of opposition (AIHEC, Information on the Indian Colleges Bill, 1976; AIHEC, Problems, Issues, Recommendations, December 2, 1976; AIHEC, Indian Controlled Postsecondary Institutions, February 1977). The issue papers functionally informed and explained the consortium’s perspectives and played a major role in complexity, uncertainty, and in conflict reduction. In the archival record, each issue and information paper was accompanied by lists of recipients that consistently included members of Congress, tribal chairmen, national Indian organizations, and higher education officials. AIHEC knowledgeably explored issues and assessed the potential questions and criticism in remarkable response time. Incidentally, at this time each of these papers had to be manually produced by typewriter, since word processing was not yet in use.

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The tribal colleges bill was scrutinized in a policy environment formed, claimed, and monitored by multiple institutional structures. The federal higher education policy was administered by the Office of Education, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Certainly, the institutional structures that encompassed higher education and Indian law left little creative space for new policy. Each structure appraised the bill from its own rules and perspectives.

The federal agencies had provided tribal colleges with development or operational support while imposing conditions and constraints on the funds. In turn, the same agencies imposed similar conditions on the bill during testimony.  For example, the Title III staff imposed assisting institutions on AIHEC, outside the knowledge and consent of the consortium board (Bordeaux, 1974; P. Locke, personal communication, December 1993; D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993). Mattheis, from the USOE, testified that no new structures were needed, that available programs were adequate in spite of their short-term and constraining conditions (Mattheis, 1976).

Under the Snyder Act authority, the BIA had supported tribal colleges. The Snyder Act funds use was based on the tribal priority system. In spite of the fund priority established by these tribes, the BIA withheld the funding. Commissioner Thompson testified that existing authority was adequate to serve the tribal colleges, meaning the Snyder Act, even though the funding had been withheld (Thompson, M., Thompson to H.M. Jackson, March 12, 1976). Elsewhere in the BIA budget was support for the BIA colleges. Yet, the BIA withheld funds to the tribal colleges (J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993). Although in theory authority existed for appropriations, in practice the BIA set the conditions of their appropriate use.

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The institutions that held interests in Indian higher education applied questions and criticism, a process that resulted in the expansion and increased complexity of the draft bill. The bill started with two paragraphs and became 12 pages in length with 14 sections. AIHEC analyzed the concerns and wrote issue papers with focused and specific responses in an effort to promote understanding and reduce complexity. AIHEC issue papers addressed the Indian higher education context and, on an issue basis, expanded the participation of many constituents.

Additionally, the congressional committees’ staff members sought perspectives from a broad cross section of participants, and correspondence to the committees indicated participation from members of Congress, their respective staff representatives, national Indian organizations, the Commissioner of Education, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

The constituents’ influence with the congressional members was evidenced by their respective requirements, limits, and definitions that shaped and refined the tribal colleges bill. The consortium issue papers examined each question and criticism, with rapid factual rationale and discussion. Largely, the consortium issue and white papers explored and defined the issues, and successfully reduced complexity and conflict. However, they sometimes enlarged and even complicated the policy development process with some constituents.

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In cooperation with the congressional committee staff members, AIHEC sorted through the numerous and diverse parts of Indian higher education policy that interact in a non-simple way (Dery, 1984, p. 68). Thirty issue papers and written testimony were authored by the consortium from 1974 to 1981.  Model proposals, alternative formulations, problem diagnosis, and data analysis were all elements of these focused issue papers. AIHEC staff members David Gipp, Perry Horse, and Leroy Clifford were consistently engaged in the search for the best policy measures, and were respected for this consistent approach to their work (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993).

The consortium issue papers thoroughly examined the competing issues and ideas. These papers were, in turn, examined and reexamined by the constituents and congressional staff who cared about the tribal colleges bill to expand the record of information available on TCUs. House Education and Labor staff member Forkenbrock described the consortium papers this way: “the best answers, the best knowledge, field-based information and greatly respected by Congressmen Blouin and Quie” (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993).

When Congressman Ford argued against the bill with his 13 points of objection, in January 1977, AIHEC countered each point with a response and rationale in a lengthy issue paper (AIHEC, Indian Controlled Postsecondary Institutions, February 1977). When Locke levied heavy criticism against the bill in Senate hearings, in March 1976, the consortium responded to each charge in an orderly and scholarly manner (AIHEC, Testimony to Senate Select Committee, March 15, 1976). Issue papers were written on both the Title III funding and on BIA Snyder Act constraints (J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993). It is apparent, however, that AIHEC issue papers did not always reconcile contradictory perspectives among other constituents or in Congress.

AIHEC’s issue papers provided decision makers, the congressmen and senators, a massive record of information, ranging from numerical data to philosophical rationale. An effective working partnership was built between congressional staff and the consortium, sustained by AIHEC’s ready response to “bill drafts and changes” (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993). This record expanded the judgment criteria, the measure of consequences, and finally projected acceptable paths. In their study, Foundations of Policy Analysis, Brewer and deLeon reason that the issue analysis effort on the part of policy proponents both enhances the understanding of the root causes and problems, and creates policy opportunities (Brewer & deLeon, 1983, p. 112). AIHEC had volumes of information and alternatives, especially in the study mandated by the Indian Self-Determination Act (D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993). The record afforded the decision makers significant and opportune understanding of TCU policy

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The estimation process of policy development is one of analysis and exploration.  AIHEC employed several significant strategies in what Brewer and deLeon term the “systematic investigation of a problem and the thoughtful assessment of options and alternatives.” A survey of consortium documents reveals the extent of problem investigation and assessment that existed. While these estimation strategies reduced some of the complexity and revealed some significant potential policy elements, it also uncovered biases and perspectives from the national Indian organizations and the federal higher education community that not only expanded the relevant issues, but complicated the process. AIHEC undertook these estimation strategies in a methodical manner and answered criticisms and questions with initiative, data, and rationale—and with remarkable speed. Concurrently, TCUs were pressured by the urgency of their need for resources, and to complete the estimation process and legislative deliberations. Fortunately, the tribal colleges were somehow able to piece local operational institutional resources together. It is remarkable under these circumstances that AIHEC’s investigation and assessment of legislative options were both thorough and exhaustive.

AIHEC’s Policy Selection Process

In their book, Foundations of Policy Analysis, Brewer and deLeon, defined “selection” as the “the decision-making stage of policy process” (Brewer & deLeon, 1983, p. 179). For AIHEC, the federal policy development or selection process was an overtly political process (Brewer & deLeon, 1983, p. 180). The consortium paid respect and attention to the congressmen and their staff members. AIHEC’s telephone records and notes from the time indicate frequent contacts with congressional committee staff members and with all constituents in the process. Congressional contacts were maintained through a broad distribution of issue papers and testimony, as demonstrated by the lists of office destinations attached to each AIHEC document. In addition and at great travel expense, the colleges sent delegates to meet firsthand with members of the House and Senate and their staff representatives (AIHEC, phone record, May 2, 1977).

Consortium leaders also attended the quarterly and annual meetings of the national Indian organizations held throughout the United States. AIHEC leaders carefully interacted with the other constituents and carried out precise assignments and functions, as demonstrated in the meetings and discussion notes of the consortium (AIHEC, discussion notes, May 23, 1977).

AIHEC was deeply involved in the selection of policy elements, the decision-making process that formulated the Tribally Controlled Community Colleges Assistance Act. Unforeseen sources of opposition and criticism occupied inordinate amounts of precious time for the tribal colleges. Context perception was a crucial factor in making sound choices. For the constituents participating in the process, all held proprietary interests in existing policy. Strong points of leverage were prerequisite for a bill’s successful passage through the congressional committees and through the House and Senate.

Despite being a newcomer to the congressional environment, AIHEC became a reliable and trusted source of information and data pertaining to TCUs. The decision makers’ personalities and their culturally derived values influenced the legislative process. The tribal colleges had to constantly bear in mind the most basic issue as the process gained momentum and complexity. These following crucial areas comprise AIHEC’s policy selection process.

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AIHEC was well aware of the depth and breadth of contextual study, coupled with the limitations and conditions interjected by the related federal higher education institutions and offices. TCUs experienced several unforeseen reactions to their proposed bill. First, the influence of Locke with the three major national Indian organizations posed formidable delays and required extensive negotiations with the Senate and House committees with regard to tribal control and the mechanisms that insured that control (AIHEC, Testimony to Senate Select Committee, March 15, 1976; Locke, P., Locke to Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, March 3, 1976; Snake, 1977; Locke, 1977). Second, the 13 points of opposition detailed by Congressman William Ford of Michigan illustrated the higher education establishment’s appraisal of the bill. Ford complained that the colleges bill fragmented federal higher education, was a contradiction to the civil rights inspired goals in higher education, and provided no educational quality assurances.

A third situation developed in 1977, when the staff of Senator Abourezk of South Dakota and Jackson of Washington State were inattentive to the tribal colleges bill. The delay intervened and countered AIHEC strategies. However, the alliance and partnership with Congressman Blouin of the House heightened Senate attention, and Abourezk refocused positive efforts on the bill (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993).

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The tribal colleges were in urgent need of operational resources, for their access to operational funding had run short. Despite the urgency of their needs, TCUs could only encourage the scheduling of hearings, markup sessions, tradeoffs among members, floor readings, and conference sessions (AIHEC, Indian Controlled Postsecondary Institutions, February 1978; AIHEC, contacts list, March 8, 1977).

The frequency of AIHEC documents demonstrated their continuous efforts to encourage the committees’ hearing date choices through extensive letter and telegram campaigns (AIHEC, mailgram, July 7, 1978). The tribal colleges submitted sets of questions to committee staff to more clearly elicit key points from all witnesses during hearing testimony (AIHEC, Comments to Lovesee, August 3, 1977). AIHEC often anticipated and developed information in advance of congressional requests (AIHEC, Cost Estimates, August 1976; AIHEC, Comments Regarding Draft Legislation, 1977). The congressional committees assigned jurisdiction in Indian affairs were select and well-informed to the needs of Indian Country. However, their previous review of Indian higher education issues was limited to their interaction with BIA colleges, so their understanding of higher education needed development.

The congressional level of attention given to Indian issues was dedicated to and preoccupied with heavy debate and discussion over the Indian Self­ Determination Act. The tribal colleges bill was therefore subjected to inordinate scrutiny by Indian tribes and national Indian organizations for measures of practical tribal control and tribal consultation (D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993; Snake, 1977; NTCA, S. 1215. Entities, August 16, 1977; NCAI & NIEA, 1977). The tribal control of schools was the primary discussion that existed, and many elements of that debate were applied to the colleges bill. The consultation interest was a consistent tribal demand, regarding any and all changes in the federal Indian trust relationship (NIEA, Policy Resolution No. 15-77, November 10, 1977).

The tribal colleges draft bill drew attention from tribes and the BIA. The new authority tested the BIA capacities to operate under a new contracting law (P. Locke, personal communication, December 1993). The BIA .demonstrated rigid capacities and recalcitrance in contracting with tribes. The tribes’ disappointment, reaction, and protest were vented through the national Indian organizations such as the NCAI and the NTCA. The Self-Determination Act oversight hearings were replete with competing interpretations of law provisions, fueled by unmet tribal expectations. The tribal colleges presented the draft amendment in this hearing environment, and met BIA opposition along with undue scrutiny from national Indian organizations (J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993; Thompson, Testimony to Senate Committee, May 12, 1976).

The USOE strenuously opposed the legislation. The USOE cited duplication of existing programs and potential proliferation of budget obligations as justification for that position. The USOE testimony characterized TCUs’ constituency as just another American minority group, and indicated little knowledge of the unique federal-Indian trust relationship, tribal control of education, or tribal sovereignty (Mattheis, 1976).

With the Carter White House’s appointments to education, the position of the USOE softened to one of deferral (Demmert, 1977). The appointment of Ernest Boyer to the U.S. Commission of Education improved TCU support in the administration, as the bill reached its final stages before passage (J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993).

The legislative environment in the U.S. House of Representatives was active and supportive. The ASGIE leadership, as embodied by Blouin and Quie, exhibited respect for and trust in AIHEC, tribal sovereignty, and, more importantly, the tribal colleges bill. The ASGIE staff of Lovesee, Forkenbrock and Franklin carried out the field-based agenda as assigned and built meaningful relationships with TCU leaders. The committee leadership combined political clout with the ASGIE leadership and overcame the Ford opposition expressed in 1977. They successfully voted the tribal colleges legislation out of committee and on to the House floor in 1978 (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993; Gipp, personal communication, December 1993; G. Tiger, personal communication, December 1993).

The decision makers viewed this bill in the context and precedent of federal Indian law. The House report that accompanied the bill to the White House in September 1978 attested to the unique legal status of Indian tribes (House Education and Labor Committee, 1978):

Under special trust relationship to Indian tribes as a source of funding, as States or local governments stand with regard to their own schools … this is an intensification of existing federal commitment … there should be no doubt in the eyes of the Higher Education community that H.R. 9158 is a program built around the special legal responsibility that exists between the federal government and Indian nations.

Congress had expanded the policy boundaries and intensified the federal commitment. Moreover, the objections from the USOE were of diminished importance in the context of past points of reference for Indian law and the Indian trust relationship.

***

The selection process must access points of leverage which Brewer and deLeon defined as points that reflect power of influence necessary to correct the problem (Brewer & deLeon, 1983, p. 197). The tribal colleges were located in the most sparsely populated states in the country, with the exception of D.Q. University in California. The colleges’ respective state congressional delegations were only a small sector of the leverage needed to obtain successful bill passage. In this case, because the bill was appraised by Congress as an expansion of Indian law, the Senate committee of jurisdiction was the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, later the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs. The senators who served on the committee held senior rank in the Senate and were influential and beyond the influence of the tribal colleges’ state delegations. The multi-year debate over the Indian Self- Determination and Educational Assistance Act had expanded the knowledge, expertise, and numbers of congressional members prepared to support the tribal colleges bill (Blouin, 1977; Franklin, 1976; Jackson, 1976; Lovesee, 1977).

However, out in the Indian community, the colleges were subject to intense and excessive scrutiny, especially within the newly legislated criteria for tribal control under the Indian Self-Determination Act. AIHEC had many miles to cover and meetings to attend throughout Indian country to negotiate support from the national Indian organizations (Northwest Indian Education Association, 1977; NIEA, Policy Resolution No. 15-77, November 10, 1977; NCAI, Education Committee Minutes, October 22, 1977). A solid working relationship with the leading national Indian organizations existed with congressional leadership. AIHEC was a relatively new player in this environment, and was initially eclipsed by the influence of the leading national Indian organizations.

Despite their new presence in the congressional forum, the tribal colleges were conscientious to develop a foundation and record of reliable and trusted data on their institutions (AIHEC, Testimony to House Subcommittee, May 19, 1977; AIHEC, Information on the Indian Colleges Bill, 1976; AIHEC, Report to Congress, January 30, 1976). Their legislative activity included several major efforts to collect, refine, analyze, and summarize data on the tribal colleges (AIHEC, Indian Controlled Postsecondary Institutions, February 1977). The House Advisory Study Group on Indian Education had journeyed to the colleges and, with their corroborative TCU information, became strongly allied with AIHEC (D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993). The ASGIE information complimented the consortium data, an information base that comprised a crucial six-volume congressional record and served as a strong point of leverage with both houses of Congress (Advisory Study Group on Indian Education [ASGIE], Memo to AIHEC, August 10, 1977; ASGIE, Comments on Changes in H.R. 9158, September 9, 1977; J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993). The colleges had points of leverage beyond their actual institutional and personal influence due to the Indian law-related structures in Congress, and the consortium’s well-respected database record on the tribal colleges (D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993).

***

Although decision makers harbor a suspicion of numbers, Brewer and deLeon’s analysis suggests that the politicians must have available and trusted sources of information (Brewer & deLeon, 1983, p. 201). The baseline data in the process was laid when the Indian Self­ Determination Act, Title II, mandated a study provision on tribal colleges in 1975. The BIA contracted with AIHEC to perform the study, and in just a few months (by May 1975) the multi-volume TCU study was submitted to Congress.

AIHEC’s director of research and data, Perry Horse, and field coordinator, Twila Martin of Turtle Mountain Community College in North Dakota, developed data forms while the colleges held training sessions to prepare and complete the data gathering at their institutions (D. Gipp, personal communication, December 1993). The information was submitted in congressional testimony beginning in 1976.

The BIA was officially silent on the study and subsequent data on the tribal colleges, but the record of TCU data was voluminous and reliable, and it was officially in the Congressional Record (AIHEC, Report to Congress, January 30, 1976; AIHEC, Testimony to Senate Select Committee, March 15, 1976). This study was coupled with the ASGIE two-year study on Indian education. Committee questions were answered speedily and ·in detail.  AIHEC earned a reputation for being a reliable and trusted information source (House Education and Labor Committee, 1976).

***

The factors of personal energy, motivation, vision and compromise were all significant influences in the tribal colleges bill development. The motivation levels among TCU leaders and AIHEC staff were strong and stable, fueled daily by the basic survival issue: no money, no tribal colleges (J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993). House staff member Forkenbrock described the AIHEC staff and board members: “They were prepared and ready to go, never doubted their motivation … all very above board” (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993).

AIHEC leaders Thomas Atcitty, Lionel Bordeaux, James Shanley, Carol Juneau, Phyllis Howard, Thomas Shortbull, David Risling Jr., and others demonstrated remarkable tenacity, vision, and longevity in their legislative endeavor (AIHEC, Testimony to House Subcommittee, May 19, 1977; P. Locke, personal communication, December 1993; G. Tiger, personal communication, December 1993). AIHEC ensured problem exploration through careful critical analysis and response, issue-oriented papers and testimony, and reliance on expertise.

TCU presidents originated from their respective reservations. The grassroots tribal college movement consisted of a unique forum for non-elected, well-educated Indian leadership. AIHEC leaders were articulate participants and initiators in the legislative development process. Former Standing Rock Community College president James Shanley stated, “They shared the experience and belief that higher education had to do with the freedom of the people” (J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993). With few exceptions, AIHEC leaders were young (under 40 years of age), well-educated, and tribal members. About half of the TCU leaders were formally educated in the High Plains regional universities and colleges, and the other half in the Office of Economic Opportunity-sponsored graduate education projects at the University of Minnesota, Arizona State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Harvard University (W. Demmert, personal communication, December 1993-13; G. Tiger, personal communication, December 1993).

AIHEC leaders had individually achieved rapport with various congressmen, but chose to share the benefits of that rapport with the consortium. Thomas Atcitty of Navajo Community College was influential with Arizona senator Barry Goldwater and Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall; Lionel Bordeaux of Sinte Gleska College in South Dakota was a lifelong acquaintance of South Dakota Senator Abourezk; David Risling Jr. of D.Q. University in Davis, California knew staff members of Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy and California congressman Edward Roybal. Forkenbrock observed, “The consortium leadership were the right people at the right time, non-conformists, creative, thinking and courageous” (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993).

From outside their allies, from AIHEC’s most tenacious critic, Patricia Locke, reflected on the consortium leaders as “patriots and heroes, the shapers and organizers with the most vision” (P. Locke, personal communication, December 1993). AIHEC presidents and staff members were determined, scholarly, and knowledgeable strategists in their own right. With little or no money they brought an idea of major magnitude to bear fruit and actually work for the tribes they served (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993; G. Tiger, personal communication, December 1993).

The staff of the House and Senate committees demonstrated problem-minded exploration of issues and questions, for they heard and analyzed the voices of all constituents. They investigated the TCU concept in all its facets and posed questions to the BIA, the USOE, the Office of Management and Budget, the Congressional Research Office, and AIHEC (J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993). The House field hearings and interviews developed knowledge and understanding of Indian education on the part of the ASGIE chairmen Quie and Blouin. The committee staff of Lovesee, Forkenbrock, and Franklin translated the record and enjoined the participants, including Locke of WICHE, to settle on the basic principles in the legislation (AIHEC, meeting notes, August 3, 1978; ASGIE, 1978; J. Forkenbrock, personal communication, December 1993). The national Indian organizations demanded a definition of tribal control, motivated by the frustrations of the practical application of the Indian Self-Determination Act. And the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges held to their general support of the Tribal College Act and commented only on the details of funding formulas (Tirrell, 1978; Hamilton, 1978).

 ***

TCU leaders were all members of Indian tribes, a factor that magnified their specific dedication to and involvement in the federal Indian law policy forum. The culturally derived values from tribal membership interjected an integral value among AIHEC’s board and staff (Stein, 1988, pp. 73, 96, 112, 128, 133, 138). Their choices reflected a deep seated respect for tribal people, a respect that promoted remarkable unity of purpose.

The cognitive styles of the TCU presidents and congressional staff members were made evident in the frequent exchange of questions and answers in the development of policy prototypes and proposed language, and in their exploration of higher education concepts and principles as evidenced in issue papers. The sheer number of issue papers, more than 30, along with 10 prototypes, imparted an attitude among the participants, a shared quest for the best policy measure solutions (AIHEC, Mailgram Prototype, November 7, 1974; AIHEC, Mailgram Prototype, February 19, 1975; AIHEC, Draft Bill, August 14, 1975).

Clearly, the process held its share of conflict and confrontation. The coalition of national Indian organizations, catalyzed and mediated by WICHE, supported the basic concept of tribal colleges, but insisted on specific means for achieving tribal control mechanisms. The scenes of disagreement were frequent in the quarterly and annual meetings of these key organizations from Dallas to Salt Lake City to Washington, DC. The organizations issued resolutions after well-attended committee hearings. They were dynamic and heated debates with AIHEC leaders (NCAI & NIEA, 1977; Youpee, 1977; G. Tiger, personal communication, December 1993).

Conclusion

The federal provision of postsecondary education to tribes implicated the very definition of federal trust responsibility, and the powers of sovereign Indian tribes. The tribal colleges proposed provisions for institutional planning and development, facility remodeling and construction (AIHEC, Comments Regarding Draft Legislation, 1977). However, in August 1978, the tribal colleges emerged from the selection process in eleventh hour meetings with the Office of Management and Budget, the BIA, and the USOE with congressional support intact and a bill to support the most basic operational and educational costs of the tribal colleges. (AIHEC, meeting notes, August 3, 1978; J. Shanley, personal communication, December 1993).

Throughout the 1970s, AIHEC was immersed in a context of competing interests and divergent fields of policy, including higher education versus Indian law. The consortium participated in this overtly political series of disciplined actions and achieved the federal decisions or policies to support TCUs. The unforeseen coalition of national Indian organizations delayed, but nevertheless profited TCU policy, for it provided tribal consultation opportunities, refined the concept of tribal control and tribal colleges, and established a college criteria for eligibility under the law. The reference points from past Indian law and policy greatly assisted the tribal colleges in complexity reduction.

Their expertise in both houses of Congress and their respective committees was a prominent point of leverage for the success of the bill. AIHEC upheld the basic and fundamental issue and kept the policy goal in focus. TCU leaders possessed culturally derived values from their tribal memberships and a commitment to education that promoted a remarkable and effective unity of purpose. The congressional members and staff sought and achieved a consensus through compromise and a balance of interests.

Janine Pease, Ed.D. (Crow), was the founding president of Little Big Horn College and served as the president of American Indian Higher Education Consortium from 1983-1984 and 1999-2000.

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