Tribal College Journal: A question of identity

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Mar 30 14:53:12 UTC 2005

>>From the Chronicle of Higher Education,

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Tribal College Journal: A question of identity

Tribal colleges, now well-established, are better able to contemplate
their role than they were when the first such institutions opened 37 years
ago, says Paul Boyer, a former editor of the journal.

"In the early years," he writes, "administrators were more concerned with
simple survival and often felt tremendous pressure from both inside and
outside their reservations to prove they were 'legitimate' institutions of
higher learning." That pressure often produced curricula closely modeled
on those of mainstream colleges, he says. But now many tribal colleges are
trying to "become a new kind of college," he writes, one that is "more
like the community they hope to serve."

In addition to teaching tribal languages, history, and philosophy, many
tribal colleges are trying to create a learning atmosphere that reflects
American Indian values and learning styles, he says. For instance, he
writes, "recognizing that Indian students prefer cooperation over
competition, a math teacher might encourage her students to work in

Tribal colleges have won respect and acceptance among American Indians and
within academe, Mr. Boyer says, but with that success comes added
responsibility. "Precisely because tribal colleges have helped to restore
a foundation of pride among tribal members," he writes, "expectations are

The article, "To Be, or Not to Be?: TCUs Probe Identity Questions as They
'Indigenize' Their Institutions," is not online. Information about the
journal is available at

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