The American Indian Higher Education Consortium’s (AIHEC’s) annual student conference kicked off yesterday in Rapid City, South Dakota. Representatives from 37 tribal colleges trekked from all corners of Indian Country and convened at the Best Western Ramkota and Convention Center for three days of competition and comradery. South Dakota’s four tribal colleges—Oglala Lakota College, Sinte Gleska University, Sisseton Wahpeton College, and Sitting Bull College—are serving as the host institutions, planning and organizing the conference.
Festivities began on Saturday evening with a T-shirt exchange. Students traded school apparel, rekindled friendships and made new ones. The fourth annual poetry slam followed. Nearly 30 students participated with Michael Fast Buffalo Horse from Black Feet Community College earning runner-up and Brett German of Navajo Technical University winning first place.
Student competitions begin in earnest on Sunday with the science bowl, handgames, knowledge bowl, web construction, business bowl, speech, the one-act play, and student film. Off-site, at Douglas High School, tribal colleges are battling it out on the boards for the AIHEC basketball championship—Indian Country’s version of March Madness. The conference’s official opening ceremony, the Parade of Flags, will be held Monday morning, and will be followed by two more days of competitions, presentations, and workshops. The AIHEC powwow will be held Monday evening and the 5K run Tuesday morning. The conference will conclude Tuesday evening with the AIHEC student awards banquet.