NWIC Training Tomorrow’s Land Managers

Nov 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 12-2: Land is Life, Tribal College News

Northwest Indian College graduates who obtain their bachelor’s degrees can choose from a variety of tribal natural resource positions. Photo of (left to right): Julian Lawrence, Leonard Lawrence, and Paul Casmer at the sea docks with a bucket of oyster seed. Photo by Lee Marmon, American Indian College Fund.

The first cohort of students has graduated from Northwest Indian College’s Tribal Environmental Resource Management program. As part of its contract with the National Science Foundation, NWIC agreed to share its model American Indian land manager training program with other tribal colleges. The college sponsored a workshop last July to discuss what did and did not work. The college is also distributing a curriculum guide to other tribal colleges along with a video that could be used to start a similar program, according to the director of the program, Phillip Duran (Ysleta del Sur Pueblo).

At the workshop, NWIC emphasized the importance of its non-abandonment policy. “Students’ lives pull them away from classes,” said Dan Burns, who helped design the program. When drug and alcohol problems or family illnesses arise, the college continues to call the students and convince them to return to class. As a result of this policy, some of the students who dropped out have joined the new cohort. The cohort means that the students are in class together as a group 75 percent of the time, learning to work together.

The program is unique in several ways. Before it was designed, the college employed a technician for an entire summer to survey 26 tribes in the Pacific Northwest about what they needed in natural resource managers. To create well-rounded land managers prepared to work for tribal governments, the curriculum integrates tribal issues (including treaty law, water law, jurisdiction and Indian history) as well as various disciplines, such as biology, economics, chemistry, and English. The students did internships for the tribe and a university, helping with community surveys for the tribal planning department and fisheries restoration for the tribal legal department.

The associate degree is designed to prepare students for transferring to partner institutions: Evergreen State College and Western Washington University’s Huxley and Fairhaven Colleges. The NWIC program is described in a book (The Learning Edge) just published by the American Association of Community Colleges, which describes 13 of the programs funded by the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technology Education grants. For more information, call the association at 800/ 250-6557 or see the website <www.aacc.nche.edu>. For information about the curriculum materials, contact Phil Duran at Northwest Indian College, 360/ 676-2772.

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