What Hope Looks Like

Volume 24, No. 2 - Winter 2012
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With the publication of this issue, Tribal College Journal begins a year of celebrating the 40th anniversary of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). It is an exciting moment, and an important time to pay respect to all of those who have come before and who have led the way to this moment in history.

Today, there are 38 tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) within AIHEC. The 37 TCUs within the United States serve about 20,000 students. In addition, more than 46,000 community members rely upon the services and programs tribal colleges and universities provide. These community services include libraries, job training, health programs, and Head Start and youth programs, to name just a few.

Celebrating this milestone affords the opportunity to look toward the horizon and envision what the future might hold for the tribal college movement. In this issue, we share the voices and experiences of many people from different generations and from many tribal colleges and universities.

While researching her feature story, “Forty Years of ‘Fire in the Belly,’” Mary Annette Pember took the time to speak with the former and longtime presidents of various TCUs. She interviewed Dr. Elden Lawrence (former president of Sisseton Wahpeton College), Dr. Carty Monette (president of the Turtle Mountain Community College from 1974 until 2005), David Gipp (president since 1977 of United Tribes Technical College and a former executive director of AIHEC), Dr. Joseph McDonald (founding president of Salish Kootenai College and a former AIHEC president), Dr. Jim Shanley (president of Fort Peck Community College from 1984 until 2011), and Dr. Verna Fowler (founder and president of College of Menominee Nation since 1992).

Pember shares with readers their memories of the early days of the tribal college movement, their thoughts on the challenges and successes of TCUs, and their advice for future presidents and future leaders. Her story will likely elicit both memories of past challenges and hopes for the future. There are many other presidents who have played important roles in building not only their own institutions, but also the tribal college movement. We don’t have enough space to honor all of them in this issue, but look forward to continuing such coverage in future issues.

In preparation for this issue, we also asked Sinte Gleska University President Lionel Bordeaux to pen an essay about his experiences over the past four decades; he is the longestserving president of a TCU, and students had expressed to us their interest in his story.

He writes, in part, of the vision Stanley Red Bird, Sr. had for a tribal college on the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Nation in South Dakota:

Red Bird also wanted true Lakota ownership of education. The system of education we have, he said, had come from across the ocean; it had been forced upon us and would destroy us by taking away our cultural foundation. He wanted us to redefine and restructure a new system of educational development and delivery. He wanted us to author our own education and validate it through tribal laws, customs, and spirituality. He wanted us to develop our own accreditation model based upon our cultural foundation and authority and to seek reciprocity with existing Western institutions and their accreditation systems so our students would be proficient in two cultural environments.

Bordeaux chose to write of the past and of his personal journey, he says, so that students today might “plan their own educational lives and strengthen tribal education.”

Within this issue, TCJ shares the words of Cheryl Crazy Bull, former president of Northwest Indian College, as she considers what role tribal colleges might play in the future. “Often our history as tribal peoples is explained in the context of crisis—and as though our survival is contingent only upon our ability to resist and adapt,” she writes. “TCUs represent an alternative and more appropriate path for our survival. That path emerges from our pre-contact past when our cultural sovereignty was intact. In addition, the tribally-specific education TCUs provide can facilitate the journey of our peoples through colonization and dependency and into the freedom of a new cultural sovereignty.”


EYE TO THE FUTURE. A group of Oglala Lakota College business students have launched a traditional advertising and social media campaign to fight the epidemic of youth suicide on the reservation by asking children the question: What does hope look like to you? Photo courtesy of the Lakota Voice Project

In thinking about the future, it’s good to remember that tribal colleges don’t only impact the lives of their students. Tribal colleges play important roles within their home communities and among the youngest generations. At TCJ, we recently received a small packet of photographs snapped by Lakota children on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. A group of Oglala Lakota College (OLC) business students have launched a new advertising and social media campaign to fight youth suicide on the reservation. The students passed out hundreds of disposable cameras to children and asked them to use photographs to answer the question “What does hope look like to you?”

“Children feel like no one is listening to them, that they don’t have a role to play,” says Jason Alley, a board member of the American Advertising Federation of the Black Hills, which is a partner in the project. “The natural way to do that is to give them a platform.”

The project yielded hundreds of photos, many of which were on display at an art installation at OLC this summer. Children snapped shots of their families and homes. There are also photos of people at play—and of a basketball suspended in midair above a wooden backboard and hoop—and many, many pets.

“Their photos give a completely different perspective of life,” says Alley. “[The young photographers] have a great sense of what’s important to them, and what makes them hopeful.”

As we continue to celebrate AIHEC’s 40th anniversary and honor the many people who have brought the tribal college movement to where it is today, please email us your stories and photos, your recollections, and your hopes for the future. In our upcoming issue, AIHEC Executive Director Carrie Billy will write about the progress that organization has made since celebrating its 30th anniversary. If you’d like to re-read the 30th anniversary issue, you can also do that online at www.pixelright2.com/new-tcj.

Lastly, while we were assembling this issue, Cheryl Crazy Bull was named the new CEO and president of the American Indian College Fund. All of us at TCJ wish her the best in her new endeavor and as she and her family settle into their home just north of us in Denver, CO.

Laura Paskus is managing editor of Tribal College Journal. She can be reached at laura@pixelright2.com/new-tcj or (505) 217-5136.

2017 AIHEC Student Poetry Slam


On the opening evening of the 2017 AIHEC Student Conference in Rapid City, students from an array of TCUs entertained conference goers with the spoken word at the annual poetry slam. View the video

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