Instructors Get High In the Bolivian Andes

Nov 15th, 2006 | By | Category: 18-2: Traditional Wisdom Our Strength, Tribal College News

While earning their doctorates, several students visited Bolivia for 10 days last year. The graduate students represented the following tribal colleges: Sisseton Wahpeton College, Nebraska Indian Community College, Oglala Lakota College, and United Tribes Technical College. The Prairie Ph.D. Program of South Dakota State University (SDSU) made the trip possible for the participants.

Wanda Agnew, one of the students, shared highlights from the exciting multi-cultural international learning trip high into the mountains of South America. In the Andes, at elevations over 15,000 feet, the group visited a private college, Unidad Academica Campesina-Carman Pompa (UAC-CP).

There they found indigenous people justifiably proud of their educational facility, which provides training for teachers, nurses, and office workers, as well as agriculture and environmental science professionals. The people spoke Spanish and their native languages: Quechuan and Aymaran.

Agnew was particularly excited to see huge gardens maintained by the university community, where research is conducted on traditional plants, and produce is shared with community members. The college is in the process of building a coffee bean roasting facility and a meat processing plant.

Because many cultural traditions associated with living in the rain forest and mountains have been lost, the university is working to re-establish indigenous knowledge and life ways, particularly those relating to wellness and healthy diet using traditional, locally grown plants.

The visiting students attended a festival that commemorated a significant event in the country’s self-determination. In 1952, Native people in Bolivia regained their land after years of Spanish colonization and Hacienda slavery.

Agnew says it was humbling and enriching to learn how an educational mission, based in learning from the land like the tribal college Land Grant Programs, can revitalize community life.

Dawn Frank (Oglala Sioux), director and chair of graduate studies at Oglala Lakota College, also a program participant, says, “The diversity within our cohort group and the learning we share and acquire together are what makes the program exceptional.”

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