Traditional Native Arts Forms Building Capacity at TCUs

Feb 13, 2015 | Blog, Native American Heritage Month, Our Programs

The American Indian College Fund has created a re-granting opportunity for Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) to enhance the capacity of traditional Native arts forms and knowledge for the thirteen (TCUs) in the upper-Midwest states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. The goal of the project is for TCUs to enhance and build the capacity of traditional Native art forms and knowledge through the development of NEW academic classes and community extension activities involving traditional Native arts.

The first quarterly grant awards were awarded in July 2014 and awarded grantees developed and implemented academic courses and community extension activities. The following schools were awarded for the July to September 2014 grant period.

Cankdeska Cikana Community College

Cankdeska Cikana Community College has a strong desire to strengthen their Dakota Studies Programs by expanding the Fine Arts and Graphic Design curriculum to include more emphasis and expertise in preserving traditional Native arts. To create and preserve new traditional Native art forms, they hosted two-day summer camps for over 40 students (kindergarten through third grade). Students had the opportunity to learn about the history, knowledge and skills of parfleche. Parfleche is a type of container made from buffalo rawhide that Plains people fashioned into containers and decorated with brightly colored geometrical designs.


College of Menominee Nation

College of Menominee Nation has created a new traditional Native arts community extension and community activity through the recruitment of a traditional Menominee artisan. In the workshop, College of Menominee Nation students and community members learned the process of black ash basket making. A local artisan was chosen to conduct the workshop, a Menominee Tribal member, who is one of the two remaining tribal members that know the traditional way to create black ash baskets from identifying the three to weaving the basket. Through this project many generations (ages 11 to 65) were able to learn the history and skills of black ash basketry.

Fort Berthold Community College

Fort Berthold Community College has created a traditional Native arts workshop, based on the traditional arts of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) people. Fort Berthold Community College’s Native American studies worked with the science department to host a summer science/culture camp and during that time students were taught the traditional Native art of moccasin making. Students learned the difference between baby moccasins and adult moccasins. In addition, they were taught how to bead moccasins. Due to the popular nature of the course, additional workshops were held so community members could participate, participants came from all six districts of the reservation. The chosen master artist explained why each traditional craft is important and enraged participants to share what they have learned from their families and friends.

Sisseton Wahpeton College

Sisseton Wahpeton College has begun implementing their Traditional Dakota Arts Workshop series that is open to students and community members. For their first workshop they conducted a traditional Dakota pottery workshop that was held over a course of a weekend. It was free and open to the public and Sisseton Wahpeton College students who participated had the opportunity to gain college credit.

A cultural expert was incorporated into helping lead the program and she provided both cultural guidance on the planning and implementation of the workshop, as well as incorporating Dakota language and culture into the workshop. Erin Griffin, Dakota Studies Instructor and Project Coordinator, says that, “Having the support and advising of cultural and language experts is key when trying to restore Traditional Native Arts in a tribal community. It is important that we recognize that we have lost traditional knowledge and that we ask for help in re-incorporate that back into our activities.”


Sitting Bull College

Sitting Bull College surveyed eight district communities on the Sitting Bull reservation to determine the wants and needs of the people. In addition, master artists were sought to instruct the traditional arts workshops for the July to September 2014 grant period. Through the outcome of the survey it helped to determine which workshops would be held. How to Bead, How to Quill and Tribal Herbal Preparation-Foods and Medicines were hosted and led by three different master artists. Each workshop had a range of ages represented and this helped each participant because they learned from one another and the participants were willing to help one another learn the skills.


The Restoration and Preservation of Traditional Native Art Forms and Knowledge grant is a three-year grant project. Applications for the quarterly grant program are accepted and reviewed every quarter of each year. Applications for the April to June 2015 quarterly grant period will be available February 23, 2015 and TCUs in the upper-Midwest are encouraged to apply.

 For further information on the Restoration and Preservation of Traditional Native Art Forms and Knowledge grant please contact Bridget Skenadore, Native Arts Coordinator, at or (720)214-2552.



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