TCUs Leading Efforts to Restore the Circle

Nov 1st, 2013 | By | Category: 25-2: Tribal and Behavioral Health
By Carrie Billy, J.D.
Carrie Billy (Diné), J.D.

Carrie Billy (Diné), J.D.

As American Indians, we have a lot to be proud of: our unique and enduring cultures and traditions, our tremendous resiliency in the face of oppression, our ability to maintain and revitalize our languages, and so much more. But as we know, all is not good with our people. The fact is that American Indian women and teenage girls living on reservations suffer from some of the highest domestic violence and physical assault rates in the country. Native women are more than twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as women in the U.S. in general, and more than one in three will be raped during her lifetime. Another survey revealed that 31% of Native students reported being threatened with violence related to alcohol or drug abuse, while 16% said they actually experienced it.

Are our children sacred little ones? Do we truly honor our mothers and cherish our daughters? Can we heal our families, reverse these extremely troubling statistics, and restore the circle?

The answer is yes. The challenges we face are significant, but I am proud to say that in many of our communities, tribal college students are leading the way to healing and strength. Last year, at our students’ urging, AIHEC launched the Restoring the Circle initiative to end violence and abuse on TCU campuses. Our goal is to help ensure that all young American Indian students can pursue their education free from violence.

As the articles in this and every edition of Tribal College Journal demonstrate, TCUs are catalysts for positive change and healing in our tribal communities. TCUs are leading efforts to preserve and revitalize our Native languages, develop innovative economic opportunities, improve community health, and protect our land. It is only natural TCUs would take the lead in Restoring the Circle to help ensure that all tribal communities can once more be safe and nurturing places in which to live and thrive.

We can shift the paradigm of violence and abuse—our communities’ greatest threat from within. All of us—students, faculty, and staff—can take what we learn and do at tribal colleges back to our homes, families, and friends. Our children will see and experience the change that we are living. They will take it with them to their schools, teachers, and friends. The freedom from threat of harm that we should all be able to take for granted will spread, take root, and grow.

We are a movement. We are strong when we come together. We can complete the circle. We will restore the circle.

Ahe’hee!

Carrie Billy, J.D.
President and CEO, American Indian Higher Education Consortium

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