Williams Says Public Relations ImportantNov 15th, 2004 | By tcj | Category: 16-2: Tribal College Research, Tribal College News
Former U.S. Congressman Pat Williams focused upon the importance of tribal colleges and universities and the importance of their organization, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). Williams, who served as a Democratic congressman representing Montana from 1979 until 1997, now is senior fellow at the Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana.
Speaking at a strategic planning meeting of AIHEC in July in Montana, he said, “The greatest single educational success story in this country is the increase in graduation rates for American Indians,” he said. “When I graduated from the University of Denver in 1961, my class had 900 graduates, and there were 66 American Indians earning bachelor degrees that year – in the whole country. This year, there are more American Indians than that earning doctorates.”
Williams suggested that tribal colleges should focus even more on informing U.S. Congress members and constituents about tribal colleges and on providing good data to them. “Tell them about your success and about how you have done it on a shoestring.” He said that some tribal colleges in the room were graduating more American Indians than their neighboring universities and doing it at a fraction of the cost.
“Invite them to visit your school and talk to people, find out your troubles first hand. I am surprised at the number of members of Congress who have never visited a tribal college in their district…. Inform them that Indians vote.”
Williams complimented AIHEC for its advocacy work. “Your organization is widely respected by members of Congress who pay attention to education and particularly to Indian education.
At the request of tribal leaders in Montana, Williams is raising money to create a Tribal Leaders Institute at the Center for the Rocky Mountain West. He told the tribal leaders he would do it only if the tribal colleges and universities were involved. The institute will provide educational courses designed for Indian elected officials, Indian legislative representatives, and cultural leaders in the Northern Rockies and High Plains. Courses will be offered at the University of Montana and on reservations on subjects such as federal/state legislation, tribal sovereignty, judicial reviews and opinions, water compacts, etc.
During the pilot year, two conferences will be provided. Williams hopes that similar institutes will be established in the Northwest and Southwest.