2 + 2 + 2: Collaborating to Enhance Educational Opportunities for Native Americans

Article excerpt

Abstract: A collaborative 2 + 2 + 2 agreement between South Dakota's reservation high schools, tribal colleges, and South Dakota State University's College of Family and Consumer Sciences and Agriculture and Biological Sciences will increase the number of Native Americans who are able to graduate with baccalaureate degrees. Program completers will be prepared to work toward solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing tribal people today: land and resource management, economic development, and family and community well-being. Articulation agreements, faculty immersion, curriculum review and revision, and development of student support systems and experiential learning programs are integral components of the project.

Despite almost 500 years of decimation, the American Indian population is growing in both power and numbers (Davis, 1996). The 1990 census reported 1.8 million Indians resided in the United States (Davis). Recent statistics indicate the birth rate for American Indians eligible for Indian Health Service benefits was 30.3 per 1,000, nearly double the 1987 birth rate for the U.S. "all races" population (Stuart, 1987; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1991).

South Dakota:

Native Americans in Context

South Dakota, where nearly 10% of the state's population is Native American, is acutely aware of these demographic trends. The state is home to nine reservations, which constitute almost 20% of the state's land mass. In 1995, approximately 12% of the nation's Native American children resided in South Dakota (Kids Count, 1997). On several South Dakota reservations nearly one-half of the population is under the age of 18 (Baer, Arwood, & Spencer, 1994).

Close to 80% of Indian children in South Dakota are born and will be raised on a reservation (Baer et al., 1994). The picture is sobering-instances of poverty, unemployment, and fetal alcohol syndrome are among the nation's highest on Indian reservations in South Dakota. On Pine Ridge Reservation, located in Southwestern South Dakota, unemployment reaches 60% or higher (Boyer, 1997).

South Dakota welfare data support these grim statistics. Currently, 67% of the state's welfare families are Native American (M. Vogel, personal communication, July 15,1997). The educational realities are also harsh; many young Native Americans drop out of school, and enrollment in post-secondary education is less than 1% (Boyer).

Despite these odds, a sense of hope and renewal is emerging within South Dakota Indian communities. Native Americans believe education is the key to social renewal. Since 1972, five tribal colleges have been formed in South Dakota. With missions to offer a culturally relevant education for tribal people, these institutions are governed by the respective tribes and are offering native people access to higher education (Boyer, 1997). In 1994, by congressional act, the nation's 27 tribal colleges gained land grant status. With land grant status came an expanded mission of research and outreach to meet the needs of respective reservations. A recent Carnegie Foundation report called on state land grant universities to support the work of tribal colleges. The report urges institutions to develop strong, mutually beneficial relationships (Boyer).

Recent and ongoing conversations with tribal leaders in South Dakota indicate that among the greatest educational needs are those of health and nutrition, food safety and food service, early childhood education, economic development, housing, family well-being, and community viability. Despite the congruence between these needs and the mission of the Family and Consumer Sciences profession, few native people are choosing to focus their education in these areas. In the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at South Dakota State University (SDSU), of nearly 600 undergraduate majors, four are Native American. Similarly, of the 14,200 members of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, 230 are Native Americanonly 1. …