Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

TCUs Preserve Heritage, Educate American Indians

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

TCUs Preserve Heritage, Educate American Indians

Article excerpt

Each November, our nation engages in important discourse about the substantive contribution of American Indian people to the diversity of our society and the pluralistic values embedded that are the foundation of American democracy. November is National American Indian Heritage Month, as declared by U.S. presidents through executive orders since 1986.

The first peoples of what is now the United States of America are each unique, with their own languages, philosophies and governance. They have distinct familial and social relationships and place-based understanding of creation and relationship to the land.

Tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) are higher education institutions that perpetuate and preserve the uniqueness of American Indian tribes. Primarily located on Indian reservations, by their very existence, TCUs celebrate native thought, philosophy, literature, science, health and art. Established through the sovereign authority of tribal nations, TCUs represent the inherent right of Indian tribes to educate and socialize their own tribal citizens.

TCUs prepare our nations' current and future leaders, educators, entrepreneurs and social change agents. They do so from the context of tribal knowledge gained from observation, from oral tradition, from spiritual practice and in formal settings.

Tribal languages are the foundation of cultures, providing the necessary tools and framework for understanding our world, describing our relations and practicing our religious ways. The land of origin of each people provides the framework from which to interpret the world. Even when people lose access to their native languages and homelands, the environment in which those languages and teachings existed persist as tribal people continue to practice traditional life ways.

Educational approaches at tribal colleges bring out important cultural teachings that emerge from the experiences and environments of tribal people. For example:

1) The words in native languages are containers. They hold all of the teachings of the unique tribal cultures they represent. Languages come from the creator. Tribal people invent new words to describe new experiences, technologies and relationships but will always have the old words to describe our place in the universe.

2) The creator and the spiritual world are the source of our being. Our teachings about socialization of our children; interpersonal relationships with other people; the plant and animal nations; and the water, prairies, desert and forests are all described in our origin stories. We learn how to conduct ourselves and govern our families and communities from our original teachings, which are unique to each of our cultures and are closely linked to the place of our emergence into the human world. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.