A Brief History of a Young Journal: Tribal college celebrates five years of publication

Feb 15th, 1994 | By | Category: 5-4: Education, Editor's Essay
By Paul Boyer

The first issue of Tribal College magazine published in the summer of 1989

Six years ago, while preparing to write a report on tribally controlled colleges, I spent several days at Salish Kootenai College in western Montana. At the time, the college was beginning to broadcast programs over their own television station. I visited their efficient little studio, filled with new equipment, and watched on a monitor as Sesame Street was picked up from a satellite and sent out across the reservation.

A few weeks later, I was on a similar fact-finding trip to Navajo Community College hundreds of miles to the south. They, too, want­ed a television station, although their project was still being planned.  Pins marked a wall map indicating possible transmitter sites.

As a visitor, I assumed that both institutions were helping each other develop their stations. I was surprised to hear that they were not. The reason was simple and distressing: neither knew about the other’s work.

I quickly learned that the tribal colleges had common interests but few opportunities for common dis­course. Aside from meetings of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, there was no forum for college staff, faculty, administrators and students to discuss their needs, successes and evolving missions.

From this simple observation, a magazine was created, beginning its life in the summer of 1989.

It was primitive by any stan­dard. Twenty-four pages, designed on an early Macintosh computer and with a print run of only 1,000, the first issue of Tribal College was not going to win any awards. But it clearly met an urgent need. When demand from the colleges exceed­ed our supply and a second print­ing was ordered, the journal was fully born.

With this issue, we now complete five full years of publication. It is an appropriate time to take note of our accomplishments.

First, the journal has survived. Publications, like trendy restaurants, live on the edge of failure. Their perceived value must be proven anew with each issue and funding is rarely secure. Yet the journal has been consistently supported and its usefulness affirmed by the sponsor­ing colleges.

In addition, the journal has grown, both in size and scope. Originally conceived as an “in-house” publication for the tribal college community, it now reaches a broad range of readers. More than a journal for consortium members, it examines the larger universe of American Indian society. In this way, its content has been both broadened and deepened.

These changes are not unique to the journal. Instead, our growth is only a mirror of the changes taking place within the tribal colleges. Over the past five years, they, too, have grown and matured. Enrollments climb significantly every year and four new institu­tions have joined the consortium. They now collaborate on a wide range of projects, from the training of new leaders to telecommunica­tions (a major project described in this issue).

Much work remains. Each issue must be a little better than the last and its mission continues to evolve. But as editor, I am delighted that Tribal College has become more than a publication; it has, after five years, become part of the education land­scape.

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