The Birth of TCJ: Father’s curiosity launched Paul Boyer on his journey into Indian Country

Aug 15th, 2009 | By | Category: Features, Profiles, Tribal College News

“Here’s this 22-year-old white kid from California who works for a foundation from New Jersey and never heard of Minot (ND) until two weeks ago, but I said, ‘Well, maybe I could do something for you.’”

One Whirlwind Year

Boyer had little professional experience: He had been editor of his college newspaper and completed several newspaper internships. He says, “My knowledge of Indians and Indian issues was not deep either.” Nevertheless, he met with the tribal college presidents and proposed creating a 24-page, black and white “sample” magazine called Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education. Friends and tribal college presidents helped with the first issue (Bordeaux wrote a lead essay on economic development and the tribal colleges), but Boyer wrote most of the articles himself.

At the same time, his father and the Carnegie Foundation decided to publish a policy report on the tribal colleges to be authored by Paul. When the Carnegie Foundation released the report (Tribal Colleges: Shaping the Future of Native America), it garnered national attention. “It was the first report to give visibility and credibility to the movement,” he says. “So it got major stories in the New York Times, the Washington Post. It was used by congressmen, and federal funding (for tribal colleges) actually went up for a couple of years.”

Shortly after that, in the summer of 1989, the first issue of the TCJ appeared. “It all happened in one whirlwind year,” Boyer says.

American Indian College Fund Provides a Boost

With a budget of $1,000 that he bankrolled himself, Boyer published the scrappy but ambitious magazine. Immediately, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) board voted to support the magazine and take it under its wing. Scant funding for the first year of publishing came from AIHEC, private foundations, advertising, and a handful of subscribers. However, it wasn’t until Barbara Bratone, executive director of the American Indian College Fund, met with Boyer the following year that the TCJ took another big step in its evolution.

The American Indian College Fund was just being started at the time. Bratone suggested that the journal be sent to all the donors of the college fund. “In essence the journal would be like a premium that donors would get for giving money to the College Fund. Instead of the College Fund starting their own publication, they just asked the journal to do it,” Boyer says.

The College Fund provided funds to produce the magazine and mail it to their donors. Literally overnight, the TCJ grew from 1,000 issues per quarter to 8,000 to 10,000 issues. The increase in volume meant that the cost of producing the magazine decreased while advertising rates could be increased. “That triggered growth in income,” Boyer says.

Boyer left the TCJ in 1995 to begin the next stage of his career as a writer and educational consultant and to enter a doctoral studies program. He authored Smart Parents Guide to College (Petersons Press, 1996) and in 1997 wrote a second Carnegie Foundation report titled Native American Colleges: Progress and Prospects. In 2001 he received a Ph.D. in Educational Theory and Policy from Pennsylvania State University.

Boyer is most appreciative of the confidence that the AIHEC board members showed him. Despite his brief journalistic résumé at the time, “they patiently let me go about the work of the journal, letting it grow as my skills grew,” he says. “Sometimes we need to patient and let ideas and projects mature. That group of presidents at that time and that era was very willing to do that. It was a special group and a special time in the history of the tribal colleges.”

Juan Avila Hernandez (Yoeme/Yoi) teaches Native American History and Media at Saint Mary’s College in the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California and reports on current topics of importance to the Native American community. He can be reached at

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