NICC Communities Capturing Their Power

May 15th, 1998 | By | Category: 9-4: Pre- K-12 Education, Tribal College News

Nebraska Indian Community College has embarked on a program to increase leadership and “capture power” in the communities it serves in Nebraska and South Dakota. The assets-building project began with educational summits in several communities to determine the local strengths and what kind of educational system would best build on those strengths. Accustomed to focusing on their problems instead of their assets, participants gradually began to voice their strengths, according to Carolyn K. Fiscus, community educator at NICC. For example, the Omaha kinship system is one of strengths of the Omaha tribal community. NICC serves the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska, the Yankton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, as well as some members of the Ponca Tribe. Fiscus, who is HoChunk (Winnebago), said the project involves the college, the tribal councils on the three reservations, and the public schools.

Through the community work, the need for more Indian teachers and role models has emerged as a priority. Although the students in the public schools are 90 percent Indian, only three teachers in the kindergarten through twelfth grade schools are Indian. Out of a kindergarten class of 65 on the Omaha Reservation, less than 20 will graduate this spring, 13 years later. Last year, half of the babies born had teenage mothers, and most of these mothers were not in school. Working with the University of Nebraska, the college is developing teacher training. The tribes need a comprehensive cultural education program, birth to grave, she says. Although the Head Start program provides culture and language education, students are not offered cultural classes again until they enter the tribal college. The educators also plan to hold a youth summit on education.

The results of the “asset-mapping” in the community will be incorporated into the college’s programs. Eventually, they may result in a cradle to grave education codes on each of the three reservations. “We need to be contemporary warriors and to take education into our own hands,” Fiscus says.

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