U.N. Promotes Tribal Colleges

Aug 15th, 1995 | By | Category: 7-2: Agriculture, Tribal College News

On December 23, 1994, the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly voted to extend the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People (1993) into an International Decade (1995-2004). This mandate included a specific endorsement of tribal colleges around the world. Other U.N. plans may result in research dollars for tribal colleges in the United States.

U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has said that, while indigenous peoples are mostly poor in material terms, they are rich in useful knowledge. This knowledge is the key to the future development of indigenous peoples, he observed, as well as the future survival and development of all countries. Consequently, the General Assembly’s mandate for the International Decade recognizes “the importance of strengthening the human and institutional capacity of indigenous people.” It recommends that the “United Nations University consider sponsoring, in each region, one or more institutions of higher education.” This would make the indigenous peoples’ educational institutions parts of a worldwide network under official U.N. sponsorship.

The United Nations Development Programme, in collaboration with the World Bank, plans an initiative to fund community-level research involving traditional medical and ecological knowledge while protecting intellectual property rights. U.N. policy limits direct financial aid to projects in developing countries. However, North American Indian institutions can be funded as “implementing agencies” if they provide expertise to an indigenous partner organization in Asia or Latin America. For example, Colombian and Canadian Indians could form a partnership on forestry.

Tribal colleges could be major beneficiaries of these programs because they focus on purchasing technical expertise and research from indigenous peoples, for the benefit of other indigenous peoples.

U.N. officials estimate there are as many as 300 million indigenous people today living in at least 40 countries. Further information on United Nations programs and activities can be obtained by writing to Russel L. Barsh at: Department of Native American Studies, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta T1H OT6 Canada; or by fax (403) 329-2085; or e-mail <barsh@hg.uleth.ca>.

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