Tribal Colleges Promote Ancestral Language, History: Cultural Mission Sparks Pride, Preserves Heritage

By Manzo, Kathleen Kennedy | Black Issues in Higher Education, February 1, 1994 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Tribal Colleges Promote Ancestral Language, History: Cultural Mission Sparks Pride, Preserves Heritage


Manzo, Kathleen Kennedy, Black Issues in Higher Education


Tribal Colleges Promote Ancestral Language, History: Cultural Mission. Sparks Pride, Preserves Heritage

by Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

For Tanya Shendo, the Pueblo lifestyle has been a source of strength and pride, but she has always felt that half of her heritage was missing.

Although she grew up surrounded by the rich traditions of her father's Pueblo culture in New Mexico, and learned to speak the native Jemez language, she longed to know her mother's history. Shendo's family was distanced from that culture decades ago when her mother moved from the Rocky Boy (MT) Indian Reservation and her Chipewa Cre tribe.

"I always told my mother I wish I, could dance and participate in powwows," said Shendo. "I think I missed out...on the costumes and the dancing and the symbols."

Shendo returned to the reservation in Box Elder, MT to attend Stone Child College (SCC), the tribe's 10-year-old community college. As she begins her last semester, she has been able to find a part of herself.

"I was always interested in...how they do the sundance and the powwows and the purpose of them. I wanted to learn what the colors on the costumes represent and the directions of the dances," Shendo said. "It has given me a greater sense of pride and makes me feel more Native American to understand where I came from."

The main mission of the 31 member institutions of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), is to "promote and encourage the development of language, culture and traditions of the American Indian, Eskimo and Alaskan Natives," according to the consortium literature. Most of the colleges offer significant coursework in a curriculum designed to fulfill that mission within their own tribes.

Tribal Revitalization

For many of the tribes, the community colleges are revitalizing or maintaining the languages, arts, music and ancestral life force that has long been in danger of being forgotten, ignored or neglected.

At Little Big Horn College (LBH), run by the Crow tribe of Plains Indians in Crow Agency, MT, most of the nearly 300 students and about 25 percent of the faculty speak the native language, a relatively high rate of proficiency compared to other tribal colleges, according to President Janine Pease-Windy Boy.

To promote and reinforce the importance of the language and in keeping with tradition, all administrators, staff, faculty and students who are fluent speak the language when conducting school business or addressing each other. Tribal studies are built into the general education curriculum and courses in Crow literature, language, art and music are core requirements.

Such courses as "Oral Literature of the Crow," "Social Issues of the American Indian" and "History of the Chiefs and Economics in Indian Country" are all part of one mechanism for sustaining the tribe's cherished way of life, Pease Windy-Boy said.

Crucial Time

"We are at a crucial time in our tribal history where fluency is diminishing rapidly," she said. "There are many mechanisms in the community that promote the culture...a lot of education and strong [emphasis on] language."

Native American Studies courses at Oglala Lakota College (OLC) are developed under the direction of a Sioux elder council, which also certifies teachers of the Lakota disciplines. A bachelor's degree in Lakota Studies, which prepares many teachers interested in working on the reservation, requires courses in the Lakota language (an oral dialect with no written form), oral literature, a history of the culture, family structure, music and art, sociology, philosophy and aspects of the tribe's major ceremonies.

Although the tribe's medicine and holy men, along with singers and dancers, have been the main source for cultural education, in a community where Lakota is spoken in only about half of the homes, the 23-year-old college is playing an increasingly significant role in getting students excited about the legacy of their ancestors.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Tribal Colleges Promote Ancestral Language, History: Cultural Mission Sparks Pride, Preserves Heritage
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?