Tribal colleges in the Southwest sponsored the 29th annual American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) March 21-23 in Chandler, AZ. At the AIHEC Conference, teams of students compete each year in a Knowledge Bowl, a Science Bowl, Business Bowl, Art Contest, athletic contests, and creative writing contest. They also give speeches and make Critical Inquiry presentations related to contemporary American Indian life.
Campaign posters appear throughout the venue as students vie for the highly competitive officer positions in the AIHEC Student Congress.
A highlight of the conference was the announcement of Mr. and Ms. AIHEC, David One Horn from United Tribes Technical College (UTTC, Bismarck, ND) and Valerie Phair from Northwest Indian College (NWIC, Bellingham, WA).
One Horn (a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe) is studying business management-small business management. At UTTC he is a student senate member, vice president of the American Indian Business Leaders, and student union representative.
He says, “My family members are my inspiration. They have encouraged me not to quit and to always have faith. My blood line comes from a long line of chiefs — Chief One Horn was a great Minneconju chief; including descending from Crazy Horse.”
“I think sometimes people forget that we all have the ability to motivate ourselves to transition if we are unsatisfied with what we see in the mirror, such as achieving our goal with our education.” One Horn wants to be one of the many pioneers to propel economic development within the reservation.
Phair (a member of the Lummi Tribal Nation) was raised by her grandparents, who always encouraged education. She is a single mother of three children and works hard to inspire those around her to make the choice to say no to drugs and alcohol. She says, “The young children of today are easily influenced to stray off the narrow path and onto the dark road.”
On campus Valerie is a student mentor, a member of the student executive board, a member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society chapter, and a member of the NWIC Powwow Committee. In her community she is a member of the Morning Star Canoe Club and volunteers in a third grade classroom.
The conference rotates locations each year. In 2010, the host colleges included Tohono O’odham Community College, Diné College, Navajo Technical College, Haskell Indian Nations University, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, Institute of American Indian Arts, and associate members Comanche Nation College and Muscogee Community College.