This fall marks the final year of the initiative; reflection on the accomplishments of the four tribal college grantees spurs new hope and healing amongst the grantee institutions and their respective project partners. Engaging in collective inquiry to impact and change systems within and among tribal communities is complex work.  When grantee teams spend time in classrooms at the earliest levels of education, it becomes crystal clear why tribal colleges and universities should focus on impacting early learning opportunities with children and their families. At each grantee site, Native children and their families are exposed to the importance of engaging in community-based programming and advocacy, accessing higher education, and developing life-long connections to strengthen Native communities collectively. Tribal colleges and universities can spur change locally, and inform national and tribal nation movements to strengthen early learning opportunities for all Native children.  Tribal colleges and universities are contributing to higher education knowledge, as they study and improve their colleges’ teacher education programs to meet the unique needs of tribal communities. The American Indian College Fund is committed to supporting movements like the early childhood education initiative because tribal college faculty and their early childhood college students are able to participate in shaping Native early childhood education in powerful ways.  Together their work and commitment results in the following:

Native teachers are better prepared and trained to work in their respective Native communities;

Native families and parents are purposefully engaged in their role as their child’s first teacher;

Native language, culture, and history are central areas of knowledge programs draw upon to deepen connections across institutions, communities, and families;

Native children are experiencing learning opportunities that draw upon the richness of their Indigenous culture(s) and are also experiencing learning opportunities that prepare them for K-3 schooling;

Early learning centers and program partners are working with families by preparing young Native children for successful transition from pre-K to K-3 education.































Systemic change requires documentation of historical and institutional knowledge development and outcomes.  The tribal college grantee teams are conducting on-going collective inquiry projects which document their funded project impacts at their respective institutions and with their project partners. Get the latest news on the Wakanyeja webpage

Join the American Indian College Fund in celebrating the accomplishments of the Wakanyeja ECE grantees! To follow the Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” Early Childhood Education Initiative and to learn more from the unique innovations of each project site, visit the Wakanyeja ECE website at  Direct links to the individual funded projects are easily accessible from this main site.

The American Indian College Fund’s Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” Early Childhood Education Initiative (Wakanyeja ECE Initiative) supports tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) in strengthening early childhood learning opportunities from birth to age 8.  Since 2011, four tribal colleges – Ilisagvik College, College of Menominee Nation, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute and Northwest Indian College – have planned, designed, and implemented funded projects to address five domains of program development and capacity building with tribal nation partners and early learning centers.