From the Past, Into the Future

Aug 15th, 2009 | By | Category: 21-1: Celebrating Tribal College Journal's 20th Anniversary, Features
By Patty Talahongva

Journeying Through 20 Years of Tribal College Journal

From the very start each issue of the Tribal College Journal (TCJ) was (and remains) a result of weeks of planning, thinking up themes, brainstorming story ideas, and tracking the progress at the various tribal colleges, and then putting it all into a single quarterly issue. In the past 20 years there have been 80 issues dedicated to the Tribal College Movement. This retrospective gives just a taste of what each set of four issues featured on its yearly menu. It’s fine dining (reading) at its best from a unique indigenous establishment.

1989: Vol. 1, No. 1: From the Past, the Future: The Idea of Tribally-Controlled Colleges Tribal colleges had existed for more than 20 years when Paul Boyer started the Tribal College Journal in 1989 with a 24-page, black-and-white issue. He optimistically offered one-year subscriptions for a mere $12. The inaugural issue that summer noted that Navajo Community College (now Diné College) was the first to be established in 1968, but the first known documentation of such an idea was in 1911. August Breuninger (Menominee) wrote to Dr. Carlos Montezuma (Yavapai) and said in order to preserve their Indianness, tribes must have an “Indian University.” In the Fall issue, TCJ looked at how colleges impact the economic development of their communities.

1990: Recalling the American Indian Higher Education Consortium’s (AIHEC) birth in 1973, the journal said the organization was created to unite the fledgling tribal colleges and stave off anyone who would use tribal differences to create havoc within this unique movement. David Gipp, one of the founders, recalls being told by a congressman that Indians don’t need colleges because, “You’re good with your hands; you should build chicken farms.” Even the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) testified against the Tribally Controlled Community College Act of 1978. In the Summer issue on How to Run a Tribal College, TCJ focused on administration, budgeting, and accounting.

1991: Agreements were being made with state schools to offer graduate degree programs to staff at tribal colleges. TCJ explored Indigenous education from Australia to the Arctic and on the campus of all tribal colleges. The article on Indigenous management argued that tribal communities didn’t need a written budget, recorded minutes of planning meetings, or a public relations strategy to take care of their communities. Behind the scenes, Paul Boyer moved TCJ from Sacramento, CA, to Chestertown, MD. The “On Campus” section was created to showcase the latest news on each campus.

1992: TCJ covered substance abuse and domestic violence among students in its Summer issue. The story of Alkali Lake in Canada showed that change is possible when the community decides to sober up. National tribal organizations took the lead and banned alcohol at their conferences. Sobriety programs were offered at tribal colleges. At the same time tribal colleges were helping get small businesses started on the reservations through business classes and loan programs. Of the 28 tribal colleges, 11 boasted female presidents, a rate higher than mainstream colleges. Careers in the health fields and the environment were encouraged along with keeping an eye on ethics and spirituality in education.

1993: Indian art courses at the Institute of American Indian Arts and Northwest Indian College included the spiritual aspects of art and discussed how to balance culture and make money. In TCJ’s first issue on Native research, Vine Deloria, Jr., warned about traditional knowledge being exploited by non- Native scholars who interview elders and then reap the benefits. The idea of granting Ph.D.s to elders was raised since they hold so much knowledge. TCJ’s first reference to tribal casinos looked at its pros and cons. In the issue on tribal languages, a Navajo speaker suggested restricting English in “social spaces,” saying otherwise English will take over like a weed.

1994: An issue on media discussed the issue of a free press in Indian Country. Some colleges use their own television stations to broadcast council meetings and interviews with elected tribal leaders. Veteran Native journalists warned the college media to be watchdogs, not lapdogs, in covering tribal governments. Tribal college presidents noted the lack of coverage and the stereotypes in mainstream media. The spirituality issue reported that the Pope apologized to Indigenous people for past mistreatment and the issue also discussed traditional healing practices. Tribal educators looked at the value of an education – What do students learn? How much do they learn?

1995: An issue on philanthropy said some Indian people traditionally gave away all their wealth. When tribal casinos’ wealth made headlines, it created the idea that tribes and tribal colleges don’t need donations. Arguing for a new look at Indian history in the Spring issue, Native scholars chided mainstream educators for respecting written records more than Native oral history. Tribal agricultural practices were saluted by noting how planting corn, beans, and squash goes way beyond the pilgrims’ version of Squanto putting a dead fish in the ground. Paul Boyer left TCJ and thanked everyone for allowing him to be a part of the Tribal College Movement. Marjane Ambler took over as editor and moved the magazine headquarters to Mancos, CO.

1996: Following the money means knowing how to navigate Wall Street and invest. TCJ noted that some European values are built on selfishness, not just keeping up with the Joneses but passing them. This idea conflicts with Indigenous values. Nevertheless, the Summer issue said, tribal colleges need to raise money and be accountable. The Fall issue examined cultural property rights as tribes develop their own research policies and impose limitations. Some tribal colleges helped establish heritage policy statements for tribes and tribal museums. In the ceremony issue, an article delved into the origins of the Grand Entry at powwows.

1997: In the Summer issue, TCJ once again addressed Native research, saying Native and non-Native scholars can conduct research together if they address questions such as, “Whose needs will be met by this research? What is the methodology?” One tribal college’s Cultural Leadership Program replicated traditional methods of education. The journal included student creative writing in the quarterly magazine for the first time rather than in a separate publication. TCJ reported on the first survey of tribal college students. For the first time the journal featured color on some inside pages.

1998: The Spirit Lake Sioux established one of the first Early Head Start programs in the nation. On the Fort Peck Reservation, the language was combined with Montessori methods. Teaching math and science got easier with a technology grant of $12 million from the National Science Foundation. One leader joked they had no technology problems in the past because they had no technology! Now they are on the cutting edge. The Winter issue on assessment included Turtle Mountain Community College’s model assessment tool. Assessment and accreditation are needed for students to graduate and transfer credits to a state university.

1999: In the issue on Distance Education, tribal elders discussed what was appropriate to teach via computers. Vine Deloria, Jr., pondered the next millennium, giving kudos to tribal colleges for continuing to advocate for respecting tribal knowledge. The journal celebrated its 10th Anniversary by making a CD with all 40 past issues to sell. A virus took down the magazine’s computers for 10 days making staff vow to update virus software monthly, not just quarterly! The Student Edition included a father who decides to quit smoking pot when his daughter catches him in the act and a sad poem on rez dogs.

2000: Native languages take the spotlight at the Learning Lodge Institute in Montana where the motto is, “No English allowed.” Some language instructors condemned European emphasis on grammar and told students to just speak. Many say Native languages are sacred. Special Education programs at tribal colleges emphasized Early Childhood Education and helped aides earn associate degrees. The Winter issue covered ecology classes. When students gathered plants, tobacco offerings were made. Even making a canoe required extensive knowledge of ecology. The people had to know the best time to harvest the tree.

2001: In the Spring issue, “How to Build a Dream,” the journal looked at the tribal colleges’ early years. Some presidents recalled “dumpster diving” at the BIA to find office equipment. Others were happy to inherit run-down trailers for classrooms, and some brought their own firewood to warm classes! In the Summer issue on community service, Fort Peck Community College’s program got families involved and helped student parents stay in school. Some tribal colleges reached out to prisons so tribal members could turn their lives around. In the Student Edition, tribal languages and French were used for subjects from sobriety to suicide. In the aftermath of 9/11, the Lakota concept of Mitaku Oyasin (we are all related) swelled with emotion.

2002: TCJ commemorated AIHEC’s 30th anniversary with a special issue. Founding Editor Paul Boyer wrote the tribute to the 30-year collaborative effort. Highlights included growth from six colleges to 33 colleges and universities, establishment of the American Indian College Fund, passage of the Tribally Controlled Community College Act, and gaining land grant status. Still, tribal colleges are the most under-funded institutions of higher education in America, said Gerald Gipp, Ph.D., the AIHEC executive director. College presidents urged working with their boards and councils to stay strong. Oprah, Utne Reader, and Adjunct Advocate all publicized work of tribal colleges.

2003: As the nation prepared to “commemorate” the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery journey, TCJ published an issue called, “Your Heroes are not Our Heroes.” United Tribes Technical College partnered with five other tribal colleges to participate, saying it was their chance to finally tell their side of the story and educate people. History comes alive by just looking over the names of the tribal colleges. Who were these leaders? The Winter issue on Native health questioned the future of Indian communities and focused on AIDS, including speaking to kids in front of their parents about safe sex.

2004: When the English Only debate heated up, Native leaders found it ironic. Some said that using Native languages in the classroom increased school performance and attendance. TCJ offered reduced rate subscriptions for active-duty Native warriors to inspire them to continue their education. The Fall issue on “Sovereignty in Indian Country” showed how tribal colleges played a big role in self-sufficiency. In the Winter issue on research, the Havasupai Tribe sued Arizona State University for abusing a diabetes research project by focusing on schizophrenia, inbreeding, and the Bering Strait theory! Tribal colleges urged tribes to create Institutional Review Boards and monitor any research projects.

2005: The Spring issue on “Indigenizing Education” looked at what the original founders wanted in tribal colleges – a cultural connection. Have tribal colleges and universities developed their own philosophy of education? Does the college structure reflect the tribal community structure? The Summer issue featured Indigenous education around the globe, from Peru to New Zealand. The “Future is Green” issue showcased Turtle Mountain Community College, which expected to become the first tribal college campus totally powered by renewable energy. Mayans came to see the Menominee Nation’s forestry program. Inspired by “forest gardening,” they sought collaborative research projects and assistance.

2006: The Spring issue addressed historical trauma and its aftereffects, including alcoholism, suicide, mental health issues, and broken families. The Takini Network treated such problems. (Takini in Lakota means “to come back to life.”) In the Summer issue, the Rural Systemic Initiative encouraged communities to craft their own approaches to school reform to counter the No Child Left Behind Act. The Fall issue announced changes: Ambler retired after 11 years as editor. Rachael Marchbanks was promoted from marketing manager to publisher. Tina Deschenie was named editor, the first American Indian to hold that position. This edition featured full color for the first time and introduced the Storymakers page with short biographies on all the writers.

2007: “Building Prosperity” looked at the fiscal impact of community colleges on communities; many tribal colleges are among the top employers in the area. The Summer issue on health featured Fort Peck Community College’s Wellness Center. If students are sick, they won’t come to class. Utne Reader cited TCJ’s health issue. In the Fall issue, a college president said he didn’t want to work in a tractor shed and beg for money so he went to college. Yet, as president, his office is a renovated tractor shed, and he has to raise funds! TCJ reaped awards: Second in general excellence from the Native American Journalists Association. The Society of National Association Publications (SNAP) gave its gold award to Richard B. Williams for his column on Indian genius and honored Nakota Designs for a cover illustration.

2008: The Spring issue explored identity, including the names of tribal colleges. At intertribal colleges such as Haskell Indian Nations University, they strive to represent a multitude of cultures. In the Summer issue, assessment was compared with the Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. The media issue included Oglala Lakota College, which produces traditional stories in the Lakota language, following the Sesame Street model. White Earth Tribal and Community College stresses a person’s relationship to the Earth; it’s easier to take care of something you love. For a second year, TCJ won national accolades: SNAP presented a gold award to Michael Thompson for his feature article and a bronze award to Tina Deschenie in the editorial category.

2009: 20th Anniversary Year While sports programs have long existed at tribal colleges, the Spring issue was the first to look at the various team sports being offered. Even without big scholarships tribal college athletes proved their love for their game. None lost sight of the ultimate win: a college degree. Diné College’s cross-country team brought home national collegiate titles, attracting runners from as far away as Kenya. At Navajo Technical College, a rodeo team member turned professional. In the Summer issue, eight of the 37 tribal college presidents discussed leadership. Carrie Billy, AIHEC president and CEO, said, “Helping to change Indian Country in a good way – to strengthen it and strengthen tribal nations – that is the whole vision of AIHEC.”

Patty Talahongva, Hopi/Tewa, is an award-winning freelance writer based in Arizona. Her career has included TV newscast producing, documentaries, radio newswriting and print reporting for both newspapers and magazines. She has been on both sides of the camera as well as the microphone.

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