Native Educators Form Worldwide Consortium

Nov 15th, 2002 | By | Category: 14-2: American Indian Higher Education Consortium 30th Anniversary, Tribal College News

Rongo Watere and Lionel Bordeaux serve as co-chairs of the international consortium, which fulfills a lifelong dream. Photo taken at Kananaskis Village, Alberta, where WINHEC was born.

Native educators signed a landmark agreement August 5 in Stoney Park, Alberta, creating the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC). The educators who founded the organization came from New Zealand, mainland United States, Hawaii, Alaska, and Canada.

The consortium began as the dream of Lionel Bordeaux, president of Sinte Gleska University in South Dakota. In 1972 a council of elders on the Rosebud Reservation told him to get involved with their “brothers and sisters in the four directions.” In 1999, representatives from the Maori higher education institutions (wananga) traveled to Hawaii to meet with Sinte Gleska and other tribal colleges. Famed songwriter and educator Buffy St. Marie and W.K. Kellogg Foundation Program Director Dr. Valorie Johnson helped coordinate that meeting, which was held during the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education. (See TCJ, Vol. 11, N.2.) The indigenous educators honored each other in ceremony and song and promised to continue to work together.

Subsequently, Rongo Watere and his colleague, Trevor Moeke, visited Sinte Gleska. Watere is the chief executive officer for the Maori college headquartered in Hamilton, New Zealand, Te Wananga o Aotearoa. Then in March 2002, a delegation of tribal college presidents and staff from the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) spent two weeks visiting the wananga in New Zealand. While there, Bordeaux and representatives of the three Maori wananga signed a memorandum of understanding with an eye toward creating a larger consortium. (See TCJ, Vol.14, N.1.)

Indigenous higher education representatives worked together for several days in Alberta setting up the infrastructure, mission, and goals for the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium. They had long discussions about the use of the word “nations” and agreed that WINHEC would be a temporary working name. Bordeaux and Watere will serve as co-chairs of the new organization. WINHEC was started with a pledge of $500,000 NZ for the first year. The executive director is Turoa Royal, an official of Te Wananga o Raukawa.

Watere endorsed the concept of the organization, saying, “Lionel, we stand right behind you. Like you, I’ve been pushing the barrel for 20 years. I can’t wait.” Emphasizing the importance of having their own educational institutions, he said, “If mainstream institutions provided opportunities for language and culture, we wouldn’t be here, would we? In New Zealand the Maori represent 20% of the population and 50% of the prison population. That’s why we provide opportunities for our people to excel so they won’t go in the other direction. We believe inequities in higher education can be better challenged by world institutions.”

Native educators from around the world gather every three years for the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education. More than 3,000 people attended this year’s conference in Stoney Park, Alberta, where they attended cultural performances, shared ideas at workshops held in tepees, as well as forming the new organization. WINHEC plans to meet every three years in conjunction with the conference, which will be held in New Zealand in 2005.

For more information about WINHEC, see the organization’s website <>. For follow-up discussions resulting from the larger conference, see <>.

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