TCJ Records Progress, Struggles, and the Power of Education

Aug 14th, 2014 | By | Category: 26-1: Celebrating 25 Years
By Carrie L. Billy

For 25 years, Tribal College Journal has been our storyteller, celebrating our cultures and ways of being, recounting challenges, honoring founders, and exploring the link between higher education and nation building —in short, sharing the resiliency, hope, and transformative power of TRIBAL higher education with the world.

Tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) have also transformed, while always staying focused on our mission as place-based institutions. Family, community, culture, language, spirituality, sovereignty, and land: these were the foundation of tribal colleges when Paul Boyer brought us the first issue of the journal in the summer of 1989, and they remain the core of our institutions today. We’re proud of our ability to stay focused on our mission, particularly given the changes in education that have occurred in the past 25 years. And we are fortunate that as TCUs have grown, Tribal College Journal has gathered our stories—stories that connect the future of Native America with our cultures, our languages, and our past.

Connecting the past and the future through tribal colleges was the theme of Tribal College Journal’s first issue. Recently, I re-read it (you can do the same: go to for the complete TCJ archives). In 1989, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium had 24 members; 10 were fully accredited, and two offered four-year degrees. Today, 38 TCUs operate more than 75 sites throughout Indian Country. Thirteen offer four-year degree programs and five have master’s programs. In 1989, no tribal college offered a four-year teaching or nursing degree. Today, TCUs lead the nation in graduating American Indian nurses, social workers, and teachers.

In 1989, TCU facilities were makeshift or, as in the case of Salish Kootenai College, newly built entirely by faculty and students. Little Big Horn College had just converted an old basketball court into a library. Today, LBHC has a beautiful modern campus, including the largest Platinum LEED-certified building in Indian Country, and a new health and wellness center.

But nothing is easy for TCUs. LBHC has struggled with the Bureau of Indian Affairs for two years to build a parking lot for its wellness center. And a few years ago, the U.S. president and Congress eliminated the modest HUD program that provided the seed money LBHC leveraged to construct the center. HUD-TCUP was a $5 million program, which TCUs leveraged 10 to 1 to build community wellness centers, computer labs, Head Start centers, and libraries.

TCUs have made remarkable progress in making higher education accessible, strengthening communities, preserving our cultures and lands, and revitalizing our languages. More must be accomplished to achieve our vision of sovereign tribes through excellence in TRIBAL higher education. And Tribal College Journal will share it all.


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