The Meeting Place

Aug 14th, 2014 | By | Category: 26-1: Celebrating 25 Years, Online features, Web Exclusive
By Ryan Winn

THE MEETING PLACEThe first email came from Texas. The next one came from Michigan, and then another from Arizona. The emails were from theater graduate students seeking job placement advice after reading my article, “Stories for the Stage,” in the fall 2012 issue of Tribal College Journal (TCJ). That piece explained how the College of Menominee Nation hired me to teach an American Indian theater course in 2005, and how my students encouraged me to create courses in theater production and playwriting. It also cited a line from the “Credo for American Indian Theatre,” written in 1969 by the Institute of American Indian Arts’ Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee). New posited that theater is the “mirror of the age for each generation of men” and that “Indian people today desperately need such a mirror.” Those words are invaluable and timeless, and I consider their weight in every production I direct. Thanks to TCJ,those graduate students who emailed me went into their employment search with the benefit of New’s wisdom.

Those graduate students also join a long list of people who’ve benefited from the wealth of knowledge captured by TCJ since 1989. In the 25 years since its inception, the journal has become an invaluable forum for tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) to share information and exchange ideas. The last five years alone prove that TCJis a meeting place for educators, students, and advocates, both speaking and listening to the ideas that affirm TCUs’ commitment to providing exemplary educational opportunities to American Indians.

TCUs offer programs that fulfill the educational needs of the tribal nations they serve, and TCJ is where we celebrate these endeavors. The fall 2011 issue celebrated United Tribes Technical College’s approval to offer its baccalaureate degree in elementary education. The winter 2012 issue discussed how Navajo Technical College created a culinary arts program, and that Sitting Bull College trained workers for careers drilling for oil in North Dakota. The summer 2013 issue spoke of how Fort Berthold Community College trained students for energy-related occupations. And the summer 2014 issue highlighted the College of the Muscogee Nation’s journey towards full accreditation and the development of Sitting Bull College’s new master’s program in environmental science.

American Indian students thrive at TCUs and that is self-evident in the pages and web pages of TCJ. The fall 2012 edition announced the successes of two Leech Lake Tribal College students: Lee Robinson was selected as a summer intern at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, and Lucas Bratvold earned a Udall Foundation scholarship. The fall 2013 issue extolled Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute student Wendi Cole as a New Century Scholar. And of course every fall issue of TCJ Student showcases the talented winners of the annual student writing competition.

Although I’ve brought numerous samples from TCJ Student into my classroom, the piece I most often quote was written by Navajo Technical College student Zachary Long. His essay, called “Never Give Up,” is a straightforward discussion of his homosexuality and the pressures he faced as a consequence, which elicited both cathartic relief about what he overcame and empathy in my classroom. Long’s motivation for writing the essay says it all: I’m writing about this topic because the suicides in our nation have got to stop. Those kids were probably feeling the same way I was: scared, worried what others may think of them, and just not worthy of this earth. They have to know that they are not alone.”

TCJ is a forum to both honor TCUs’ accomplishments and encourage their cultural evolution. Michael Price’s (Anishinaabe) article in the spring 2013 edition discusses how White Earth Tribal and Community College students are working to ensure that wild rice will be around for future generations. “It is the job of the Anishinaabe scientist to discover the pathway of sacredness and sustainability within their tribal lands,” Price writes. In the fall 2013 issue, artist Donna R. Charging of the Wind River reservation encourages future Native artists, stating “It’s so important that young people have a chance to explore the relationship with the world through hands-on experiences of artistic materials.” In the spring 2014 issue, Rhonda LeValdo-Gayton (Acoma Pueblo) notes that both Little Priest Tribal College and Wind River Tribal College offer students “a curriculum rooted in cultural tradition,” and underscores how TCUs are “integrating cultural knowledge lessons into general education courses.”

A sentiment that’s echoed in TCJ is that working at a TCU means being part of something bigger than yourself. Cheryl Crazy Bull (Sicangu Lakota) highlights this in the winter 2012 issue by quoting Severt Young Bear (Oglala Lakota), who said “the Lakota word for education, woonspe, means, ‘something that is a burden to carry.’” She continued, “Education is a responsibility that we as tribal educators and leaders must take very seriously.” In that same issue, the longest-serving tribal college president, Lionel Bordeaux (Sicangu Lakota) of Sinte Gleska University, notes that “tribal colleges and tribal universities will shape the future of Indian country” and that they “will strengthen [Indian] sovereignty and the cultural foundation of who we are and what we represent.” In the summer 2014 issue, Paul Willeto (Diné) writes of his desire for a Tribal Higher Education Commission to accredit TCUs. I’ve heard his sentiments echoed by others in American Indian higher education.

Each TCU serves a different community, but the commonality that links us all is our passion to help strengthen Native nations by delivering a 21st century education to our students. When one of us wins, we all win. This mantra is highlighted throughout the pages of TCJ. American Indian students are using TCUs as a springboard to achieve their aspirations, while still remaining grounded in their traditions and culture. Their individual successes are exciting to read, humbling to be a part of, and limitless in potential. All 38 TCUs have passionate, nation-changing students on their campuses, and the heights they’ve reached have been documented in the pages of TCJ for the past 25 years. Tribal College Journal will continue to be an invaluable archive for generations to come, but it is first and foremost a meeting place to discuss the ideas that TCUs need to share.

Ryan Winn teaches English, Theater, and Communications at College of Menominee Nation, where he serves as the Humanities Department Chair.


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Bates, D.H. (2013). SIPI Student Named New Century Scholar. Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education, 25 (1), 54–55.

Bordeaux, L. (2012). The Call to Lead. Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education, 24 (2), 26–29.

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HLC Approves New Master’s Program at SBC. (2014).Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education, 25 (4), 40–41.

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Pinazzi, A. (2000). The Theater of Hanay Geiogamah. In Geiogamah, H. & J.T. Darby (Eds.), American Indian Theater in Performance: A Reader (pp. 175–194). Los Angeles, California: UCLA American Indian Studies Center.

Price, M. (2013). Wild Rice and the Anishinaabe Scientist. Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education, 24 (3), 50–51.

Randall, M.L. (2014). CMN’s Journey Shows Long Road to Accreditation. Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education, 25 (4), 39–40.

Sorensen, B.E. (2013). Beyond Tradition. Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education, 25 (1), 17–20.

Vandever, D. (2012). NTC Culinary Program Accredited. Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education, 24 (2), 52.

Walters, R. (2012). SBC Trains Workers for ND Oil Patch. Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education, 24 (2), 46.

Willeto, P. (2014). A Tribal Higher Education Commission for the 21st Century. Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education, 25 (4), 52–53.

Winn, R. (2012). Stories for the Stage. Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education, 24 (1), 22–23.

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