Although 39 federally recognized American Indian tribes are headquartered in the state of Oklahoma, it comes as some surprise that there were no tribal colleges in the state until this century. During the past eight years, however, tribal colleges have been cropping up throughout the state, including the Comanche Nation College, the College of the Muscogee Nation, the Pawnee Nation College and most recently the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College.
The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College (CATC) is located on the campus of the Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU) in the city of Weatherford. Like the other tribal colleges in Oklahoma, CATC has an academic relationship with its sponsoring college as it pursues independent accreditation. CATC opened its doors in 2006 with fewer than 20 students in the "old" science building on the SWOSU campus. The tribal college's students are dually enrolled at SWOSU and subject to its rules and requirements.
The tiny college, which Cheyenne and Arapaho chief Lawrence Hart admits has a lot of "ifs" associated with its survival, has a definite edge. That edge comes in the form of Dr. Henrietta Mann, newly inaugurated college president. Mann, of the Cheyenne tribe, is a well-known powerhouse in Indian education circles. A native of Hammon, Okla., Mann earned a bachelor's at SWOSU. Mann also holds the first endowed chair in Native American studies at Montana State University. She is also the author of Cheyenne-Arapaho Education, 1871-1982.
Mann began serving on the board of CATC regents at its inception in 2003 before agreeing to serve as interim president when the college opened. This past April she was formally inaugurated as the college's first president.
CATC, she says, will teach Cheyenne and Arapaho history through the voices of its people. She maintains that this will help give Indian students a strong sense of who they are as they gain an understanding of Cheyenne and Arapaho culture, values and language.
"Our culture has sustained us for a long time; that's why it's so important for Indian people to know who they are," she says. "It's been my self-appointed task to help ensure that American Indian young people learn these lessons."
A Unique Experience
The emergence of tribal colleges reflects a growing movement towards self-determination and sovereignty by tribes says Carrie Billy, Navajo, deputy director of the American Indians in Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). …