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Another Step: Accreditation as an Indigenous Process

On the 16th day of December, a working group of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) took a leap forward in the development of our own independent accrediting agency. In the U.S. higher education institutions generally participate with what is known as regional accreditation, with agencies that are federally recognized and which are comprised of member institutions. While the tribal colleges and universities (TCU) have enjoyed good working relationships with their accrediting bodies, there has always been a disconnect between our tribal missions and how our communities view success and effectiveness and the accreditation process. Having it’s own accreditation body has been a goal of AIHEC since it was established in the 1970s.
We agreed that we want an accreditation process that arises out of our tribal knowledge. While a substantial amount of research and design has occurred, the connection to our place-based knowledge needs to be strengthened. AIHEC used a process of community input and analysis in the design of the Indigneous Evaluation Framework so we decided on a similar process. Members of the working group will be reaching out through focus groups and community gatherings into our tribal constituencies.
As a person who has always sought ways to bring our traditional knowledge into our contemporary environments, I am thankful that we remembered that we are taking this journey with our tribal people instead of for them. It is a fulfillment of the vision of the TCU founders and a step in support of sovereignty and self-determination. We can make the contemporary experience of formal accreditation as a process of public accountability meaningful as an indigenous experience. We have already proved that we can be accredited through the existing system, now we can prove that we can create a system that honors who we are as tribal nations.

1 comment to Another Step: Accreditation as an Indigenous Process

  • Wayne Johnson

    I appreciate your remarks regarding an indigenous accreditation process.I am very interested in accreditation, because Haskell is facing an intstitutional review (HLC)in the near future, and two of the schools (education/business)I am Dean for are working on accreditation concerns. While our tribal colleges and universities are under the arm of the HLC, would the indigenous accreditation be in addition to membership of the HLC? Also, would the indigenous accreditation process be providing specialty accreditation of degree programs?

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