During a strategic planning session at the AIHEC (www.aihec.org)board meeting, president Lionel Bordeaux of Sinte Gleska University discussed the words and vision of one of the founders of SGU, Stanley Red Bird, Sr., that tribal colleges would provide the leadership to redefine and restructure Indian education, that we would create new structures and approaches to education that are based on our spirituality, cultural values and customs. Stanley said we have the land and we are smart, we are people of intellect, strength and courage. He also spoke to the need to use this knowledge to also look at the form of our tribal governments and to go back to our traditional leadership practices.
We are challenged as Native people to live in our traditional ways in a contemporary environment. At this time of tremendous political turmoil in the national government, our tribal governments deserve our best efforts as tribal educators in support of sovereignty and tribal nationhood. We can be the researchers, teachers, program and assessment designers and community service providers who reinforce our traditional teachings, reach out to all tribal people’s regardless of residency and citizenship status and who build community knowledge of civic engagement.
Be informed about tribal issues, be active in your families and communities and encourage the practices that our ancestors used to live healthy and full lives.
Too bad we don’t have more people like Stanley Red Bird, Sr. to help us today.
Pathways to restoring sovereignty can be as varied as the number of tribes that have survived, however in the meantime by improving the terms of self governance and government to government consultations we can redifine what it means to merely self administrate someone else’s
policies…also, by understanding that American democracy was a work of plagiarism , the founding fathers used the “freedoms of the noble savage” in crafting the American dream, we can and do a much better job of government then the feds do….
Wouldn’t it be a great experiment if tribal colleges could create their own educational structures, without the confines of western educational priorities, beliefs, outcomes, assessments, and teaching methods. If only tribal college accreditation could be created from scratch and based on the traditions of Native Peoples and indigenous ways of knowing and teaching. Rather than forcing traditional knowledge into a box based on Socratic reasoning and Western values, they could create a learning environment that nourishes traditional values and beliefs without the discord between the two ways of thinking and knowing. Then the tribal colleges would be truly tribal. I suspect that the structure of the educational institutions and what that education would look like in practice would be unrecognizable to a Western expectation of “education,” but it would no doubt be at least as effective, and I suspect, far more effective than the traditional European methods of “educating” a person. I dream of seeing what a truly Native “education” would look like. I believe that I would much prefer to be part of that kind of educational system.
I think our visions of a Native education that teaches us our language, values, traditions, and culture is just what is needed to breath new life and energy back to our people. I also want to see our children out of the western propaganda machine. We need more of our people who want this change and to know it is a doable thing.