Giving Compass' Take:
- Cheryl Crazy Bull (Sicangu Lakota), president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, discusses the importance of tribal colleges and universities to increase Native student sovereignty and visibility.
- How can other higher education institutions play more of a role in supporting Indigenous students? What barriers exist for them?
- Read about the challenges for tribal colleges and universities in rural areas.
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Fall is back-to-school time for college students all over Indian Country. It is a time when I pause and think about how important tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) are and how critical it is for mainstream institutions to have support readily available for Native students.
In June, I shared thoughts about the meaning of tribal sovereignty as symbolized by our tribal flags and by the flags of tribal colleges. Now as the fall semester has started across schools nationwide, I have been thinking about how TCUs represent sovereignty and enact sovereign rights.
From their very existence and through the ways they serve students and communities, TCUs are models of tribal sovereignty. Sovereignty is a legal term that emerged to frame the rights and responsibilities of Tribal Nations. I think of sovereignty as reflecting our inherent rights as people – our right to speak our languages, inhabit and have access to our homelands, and to retain our Indigenous ways of living. Because the missions of TCUs are grounded in providing access to traditional knowledge, practices, and values, their programs strengthen sovereignty.
We can also think of sovereignty in terms of self-determination, providing Native people with access to choices, visibility, and control over our own decisions and resources. Tribally chartered institutions, like most TCUs, are established under the authority of tribes to establish their own education systems as acts of self-determination.
Both students who attend TCUs and the communities these students serve benefit in both symbolic and practical ways from their institutions’ commitment to sovereignty and self-determination. Nearly all TCUs are place-based and are located on or near tribal homelands. Our very locations reclaim lands. The education TCUs provide is restorative, helping Native students to overcome the troubling, often harmful educational effects of boarding schools. Our commitment to revitalizing cultures and languages, fostering extended family relationships, and building economies means Tribal Nations can be healthier and more prosperous. I have always appreciated that one of the most valuable characteristics of TCUs is the community they serve – comprised of the people and the land as a primary source of knowledge.
Read the full article about tribal colleges and universities by Cheryl Crazy Bull at Independent Sector.