The National Day of Racial Healing in January helps citizens acknowledge how racism has harmed people and communities to enable collective healing in order to build a more equitable nation.
Here at the American Indian College Fund, we believe one key aspect of racial healing is creating greater visibility and representation of Native people.
Visibility does not shine a light solely on past injustices or ongoing systemic racism in the United States, but instead it rightfully acknowledges the contributions of Indigenous peoples throughout the history of our country and the voices of contemporary Native leaders.
Raising the visibility of Native peoples requires non-Native individuals, educational institutions, and government agencies to make conscious, continued efforts towards that goal. It is also the responsibility of Native peoples and organizations to make our voices heard even in spheres where we have historically been excluded or silenced.
One of the best ways to ensure this increased visibility is through education.
The College Fund believes education is the answer to creating healthy Native families and sustainable Native communities, and education is no less important when we are discussing racial healing. Our work also works towards creating educational equity through reforming the education system from early childhood through college and adult learning by creating spaces where Native students are welcomed and their voices heard, where finances are not a barrier to an education, and by supporting culturally focused curriculum for Native people. Through educational equity for all we believe we could eliminate not just racism but all societal disparities.
Educational equity and curriculum reform would allow every student to learn the histories and achievements of the Native peoples of whose land they inhabit alongside the many issues facing Native communities today, such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous People, challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act, and threats to the environment on tribal lands. It would require institutions of higher learning to not only acknowledge that often the lands granted for public colleges and universities were those taken from Native peoples, but also to enact policies that support Native students in enrolling and succeeding in college to close the education gap.
For tribal colleges and universities, Native students in higher education, and the College Fund, education is a tool of self-determination, a means to better life outcomes for graduates and their families, and a step in raising strong leaders for Native communities. The goal of tribally controlled education carried out by TCUs relies on the intelligence, resolve, cultural teachings, and resilience of tribal communities to fight for a better future with education as the weapon. The College Fund and other Native scholarship providers give not just financial support to Native students in higher education but also programming that assists their leadership development, such as the Indigenous Visionaries program. The Native students that TCUs and the College Fund serve are focused on community, stewardship of land, and intellectual and spiritual growth for future generations. They are poised to become the next generation of leaders in our communities working on healing generational trauma and restorative economic, social, and spiritual practices.
Our students, their histories, and their current stories inspire campaigns like #IndigenousEveryday. On this National Day of Racial Healing we encourage you to read our students’ stories, learn about the Native tribes in your area, and contact your local boards of education, state education officials, and boards of regents at public colleges and universities to request that Native history and culture be taught in all public schools.
Together with your support of the American College Fund and Native students, we can increase the visibility of our mission and the beauty and importance of Indigenous cultures and Native peoples’ contributions to our nation.