[Marxism] Native American tribal colleges [some very interesting personal experiences at Navajo]

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Mon Feb 16 07:22:08 MST 2004

The attached news story from Lawrence, Kansas focuses heavily on Haskell
Indian Nations University, a BIA sponsored and funded college --  based at
Lawrence.  [It could be viewed as a descendant of the old Carlisle
[Pennsylvania] government Indian School which flourished in the latter 19th
century and early 20th.]  Carlisle promoted, almost always very
unsuccessfully [fortunately], assimilation of young Natives.

The first of the  tribally-controlled Indian colleges is Navajo Community
College [now Dine' College] which was launched at the end of the '60s,
primarily by my father's art protégé and a very close family friend, Ned A.
Hatathli.  I can well remember Ned -- at our Flagstaff home countless
times -- talking about his dream as early as the late '40s: a free and
democratic bi-cultural Navajo college -- controlled by the grassroots.  He,
far more than anyone else, brought that to fruition.  Another fine Dine'
student of Dad's, Rebecca Dotson, had a similar dream relating to a
community controlled Navajo elementary school -- and she subsequently played
a major role in the development of the Rough Rock school which followed NCC.

Under heavy pressure from the increasingly corrupt administration of Navajo
chairman, Peter MacDonald [who succeeded Raymond Nakai, another old friend
of our family] and from the BIA as well [which put up, directly and
indirectly much of NCC's funding], Ned committed suicide in 1972 soon after
the campus was moved from Many Farms to relatively remote Tsaile [Say Lee --
Place by the Lake.]   The College then went through a series of difficult
internal convulsions -- but was able to continue and to launch the branch
campus at Shiprock. [The College now has several branches].  The noted
Marxist, Phil Reno, a fine friend of Ned's and of mine, taught Econ at

We came to NCC for a several year stint in 1978 -- I to teach in Educational
and Social Sciences and to do several other things. [Eldri wound up teaching
in the almost all-Navajo Tsaile Elementary school.]  The president who hired
me had been forced out by the time we actually got there [there were also
two competing deans at that point] and the new president was a BIA-oriented
person who also was an ally of Chairman MacDonald.  Within a few months that
president was gone.

Part of my contribution to that departure was speaking  for two hours on Ned
and his dream at a very large grassroots Navajo meeting at the Lukachukai
chapter house.  As I spoke, a portrait of former tribal chairman Raymond
Nakai -- our old friend -- looked at me from the opposite wall.  A new and
much better NCC president was soon hired.  I became chair of Educational and
Social Sciences, chair of the Academic Standards Committee, chair of the
Curriculum Committee -- and, for a year, Chair of Physical Education as well
[something of which I really knew nothing -- but PE's factional problems
were pretty heavy though they were all good friends of mine.]  I was also
Chair of the Grievance Committee which consistently and fortunately, no
matter how long our deliberations, always found unanimously for the worker
[faculty and staff] and I was among those who set up a Student Court
system -- very friendly to the  students, of course -- to keep Chairman
MacDonald's tribal police off our campuses.  We were successful on that.

In time, the NCC regents took me and another faculty person [Ursula Wilson,
Navajo] to Washington, DC on a significant lobbying mission.  When some
legislators expressed concern about the College's internal situation, we
were able to reassure them -- and I could speak, from some knowledge of
history, of the ups and downs that many colleges and universities had
[including Harvard] during their founding years.

One of the major challenges facing the College, and one handled successfully
by a good number of us, was to ensure that the universities of Arizona, New
Mexico, Utah, and Colorado especially accepted NCC courses on a full credit
basis.  I had solid personal connections at ASU and NAU -- and a few at UA.
Other colleagues had the same ties with other regional schools.  Anyway,
things leveled off and settled at the College, which like the Dine' people
[now 250,000 with a Res bigger than West Virginia], has survived and grown
nicely. It presently has a total of about 2,000 students, most of them

We also fought the uranium companies and "all their wicked works."

Chairman Peter MacDonald eventually went to jail.  He is now out, pardoned
by Clinton early in 2001, but is pretty much just history.

NCC/Dine' College has always had its own basic funding legislation [the
Navajo Community College Act] -- the other tribal colleges, now close to 35
or so -- are on another arrangement.  This has disturbed a few of the other
colleges [not all, by any means] -- but I am always with the Navajo on all
these things.  Another unique feature in the NCC/Dine' College situation is
that its budget always provides for special protective ceremonies by
medicine men -- something of which I and everyone else certainly approve.

I give all the tribally-controlled colleges high marks.  North Dakota has
four -- at Standing Rock, Fort Totten, Turtle Mountain and Fort Berthold.
Transfer students from those schools have generally done quite well at UND
and other universities.

And quite rightly, the basic leadership of all of these tribal colleges is
always Native -- and representative of the respective tribal nations they

Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear] [formerly John R Salter, Jr]  Micmac/St Francis
Abenaki/St Regis Mohawk

Tribal colleges blossom in U.S.
Haskell no longer in league of its own
By Dave Ranney, Journal-World

Sunday, February 15, 2004

For much of its 120-year history, Haskell Indian Nations University has been
one of only a handful of schools that gave Native American students a shot
at higher education.

Not anymore. Today, more than 30 tribes have tribal colleges in 12 states.

"It's not peaked yet," said Gerald Gipp, executive director at the American
Indian Higher Education Consortium in Alexandria, Va.

The dozens of tribal colleges "include Haskell and Red Crow Community
College in Alberta, Canada," said Gipp, who was president of Haskell in the
1980s. "That number could be 40 in the next few years. I wouldn't be

All but four of the colleges are on reservations. Most offer two-year
associate degrees, but eight have four-year, baccalaureate degree programs.

Haskell has four four-year degree programs: business, environmental science,
elementary education and American Indian studies.

Others have more. Oglala Lakota College in Kyle, S.D., offers 11 four-year
degrees as well as master's degrees in tribal management and school
"Our enrollment is at an all-time high right now; we have 1,500 students,"
said Billi Hornbeck, registrar at Oglala Lakota College, which is spread
across almost a dozen sites on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Oglala Lakota College is one of the nation's largest tribal colleges.
"We're growing. We're very aggressive," said Kim Winkelman, the college's
vice president of instruction and academic affairs. "We'll be at 2,000
before too long."

Haskell at capacity

Haskell's enrollment isn't growing. The university's $9 million budget --
all of it from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs -- limits it to about 1,000

"We're at 1,001 right now," Haskell registrar Manny King said last week.
"This is where we're comfortable, at around a thousand. If we take many more
than that, we get short on textbooks and we run out of dorm space ... things
like that."

 But the tribal colleges' growth isn't expected to mean fewer students for
Haskell, said Lori Tapahonso, spokeswoman for the Haskell president's

"Every semester we have a waiting list of some 400 students who couldn't get
in," Tapahonso said. "What this means, I think, is that all across Indian
Country, people are recognizing the value and the need for higher

Much of Haskell's niche in the education marketplace is defined by its being
one of only two American Indian colleges -- the other being Southwestern
Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, N.M. -- that does not charge

"As long as you are a member of a federally recognized tribe, Haskell is
tuition-free," Tapahonso said. "But the other side of that is that we don't
get any money from the tribes. We are funded by the BIA, which limits us."

At the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Gipp said most tribal
colleges' beginnings were rooted in leaders' frustrations over seeing their
young people fail in off-reservation schools.
"Indian students were getting lost and failing miserably in mainstream
schools," Gipp said. "That is an historical fact."

Gipp and others argue that much of that failure is rooted in core values and
curricula that denigrated Indians and their cultures.

"Starting in about the fourth grade, if you're Indian, you have to choose
between being Indian and being a student," said Marjane Ambler, editor of
Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education.

"Choosing to be a student in a non-Indian setting means assimilation," she
said. "Your education will be presented in a way that discounts,
marginalizes and undervalues who you are; you'll be told your ancestors were
barriers to civilization and that they have no intellectual history. You are
Tribal colleges reverse that trend.

"The first thing you're going to learn is that you, in fact, have a very
rich intellectual history," Ambler said. She added, "If you go back and look
at the histories of all (the) tribal colleges, you'll see that just about
every one of them was started by local people who could not stand to keep
watching their students come back as failures -- students they knew weren't
lacking in intelligence."
'On the rez'
But for some students, the greatest strength of tribal colleges -- proximity
to home, family and culture -- can be a drawback.
"When you go to a tribal college, a lot of times you're still on the rez;
your mom still cooks for you, your dad looks out for you, you've got your
car and your TV," said Reida Whiteshield, a Haskell senior.
"Everything is right there for you," she said. "And that's good, but it
makes it harder to stick it out, to make it. It's too easy to say, 'I'm not
going to school today, I'm going to stay home today and watch TV."

Whiteshield, 29, earned a two-year degree in medical record keeping at
Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont., before enrolling in Haskell's
American Indian studies program.

"I really liked it there (Salish Kootenai College)," Whiteshield said. "But
almost everybody there was local. Haskell has a lot more diversity."

Cassandra Saldivar, 23, spent two semesters at Little Big Horn College in
Crow Agency, Mont., before coming to Haskell.

"I don't have anything bad to say about tribal colleges. They have a lot to
offer," Saldivar said. "But for me, I went for a year and I was still at
home. I hadn't gone anywhere; I was still on the reservation.
"I'd been to boarding school for high school, so I was ready to be away from
home," she said. "I wanted to be more independent, so I came to Haskell."

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