Tribal College Trades Ideas with Appalachia

Feb 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 11-3: Native Language, Tribal College News
By Judy Jones, special to the Tribal College Journal

CUMBERLAND, Ky. – Sinte Gleska University has teamed up with an Appalachian community college to show students in both places the importance of retaining their cultures. Last fall, Sinte Gleska, in Mission, S.D., began offering a Native American history course with selections from Appalachian literature. “I saw a lot of parallels between the situation here and the situation in Appalachia,” said Todd Williams, instructor of literature at Sinte. “The land use and exploitation issues, the ownership issues, the economic issues – I could go on and on.”

At Southeast Community College in Cumberland, Ky., students are studying modern social problems in Appalachia, supplemented with Native American history. Students exchange e-mail and web sites so they can learn the problems of each community from those who live and work there.

The idea for the courses arose during a meeting of the Rural Community College Initiative, a 10-year project sponsored by the Ford Foundation to study ways to improve the economy of rural, low-income communities by improving access to higher education. Sinte Gleska and Southeast are two of 24 participants in the initiative.

“In spite of the harsh conditions in these distressed communities, we have found rich and vibrant cultures,” said Roy Silver, Southeast sociology professor. Themes at each college have a striking similarity. Deprived of land by outside exploiters, the native population is left with depleted natural resources and diminished indigenous leadership.

“We felt that to a great extent our Indian people had not participated in modern society because they never felt empowered,” said Dr. James Shanley, president of Fort Peck Community College in Poplar, Mont. “They never felt that anybody wanted them to participate, nor did they have any serious decision making or choices about how they were going to participate.”

“In Appalachia there was an idea that we weren’t supposed to be leaders,” Ayers said at a presentation to the American Association of Community Colleges. “This attitude had to be combated and, to a certain extent, must still be combated today.”


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