Since taking their positions for the 2016–2017 academic year, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium Student Congress (ASC), which consists of 10 students from various tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), has worked diligently on the organization’s initiatives. Their first project was the new Leader in Future Endeavor’s Conference (LIFE), which was held at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) campus in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The ASC hosted a group of speakers, including Native activist Charlene Teters, dean of academics at IAIA, leadership speaker Butch Oxendine Jr., and inspirational speaker Chance Rush, all of whom gave inspiring advice.
ASC members have worked industriously on their personal initiatives, including Indigenous Peoples Day—a proposal to change the name of Columbus Day. On the IAIA campus they already celebrate the day with a community-gathering luncheon filled with music, and a demonstration of stick ball. ASC Southwest representative Del Curfman of IAIA proposed the initiative. Curfman drafted a handout and survey, which was then sent out to the TCUs during ASC’s fall meeting. It underscored the importance of the change and the transitions that IAIA and other TCUs have made changing from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. “The initiative is in its final stage, I have collected the survey responses,” says Curfman. ASC is also developing an informational handout that seeks to connect with those TCUs that have not made the transition but are interested in doing so. Another ASC initiative is a TCU awareness proposal, drawn up by ASC president Chris Sindone of Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU). This entailed that the ASC members would work together, utilizing leadership skills that they have acquired from the LIFE conference, to advocate for tribal colleges.
At ASC’s fall meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, this past October, representatives discussed finalizing their initiatives and began planning for the 2017 LIFE conference. They elected HINU in Lawrence, Kansas, as the conference venue. ASC, along with lead coordinator Bethany Tarbell, has been diligently working to make this year’s conference a successful and prosperous, fun-filled event.
The ASC has worked hard to represent TCUs respectfully and productively. Many have worked hard to guide and assist the ASC, including Dean Carmen Henan, ASC’s lead adviser; Alex Grandon, ASC adviser; Marvene Tom, ASC advisor and the office manager at Tribal College Journal; as well as the presidents and board members of the TCUs. ASC would like to extend their appreciation to all who have helped and guided them on this wonderful learning experience.
The 10 students who have made up the ASC for 2016–2017 include Chris Sindone, president, HINU; Breanne Luger, vice president, Sitting Bull College; Valirie Serawop, secretary, IAIA; Bethany Tarbell, treasurer, HINU; Leroy Grafe, historian, IAIA; Waycen Owens-Cyr, sergeant-atarms, Fort Peck Community College; Adriana Kingbird, Great Lakes representative, Leech Lake Tribal College; Sheyanna Ashes, Midwest representative, Turtle Mountain Community College; Robbie Racine, Northwest representative, Blackfeet Community College; Del Curfman, Southwest representative, IAIA. All students have contributed their time and effort while maintaining their gradepoint averages and volunteering for various causes within their communities and at their TCUs. They have been inspired and hope to inspire others as they continue in their educational endeavors.