Tribal Colleges Demonstrate Winning Strategies for Prosperity in Indian Country

Jul 30, 2013 | Blog


Tribal Colleges Demonstrate Winning Strategies for Prosperity in Indian Country

July 30, 2013
Northwest Area Foundation LogoThe American Indian College Fund has selected five tribal colleges as the winners of the Tribal College Leaders in Community Innovation Award, a program that recognizes innovative approaches for fighting poverty and building thriving Native economies. The awards shine a light on grassroots college programs that serve children and families; health and wellness; financial literacy and entrepreneurship; and citizenship to sustain the well-being of Native people and communities. Each winner will receive funding and resources to share their work to encourage replication and philanthropic investment. The five winners are:

Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, North Dakota, Native Community Development Program, Fort Yates, N.D. The program focuses on economic development and poverty reduction in Native communities. It addresses leadership, cohesion, and capacity from a unique Native perspective while addressing seven commonalities in Native communities that operate to keep Native communities from reaching their full potential. The program focuses on gathering resources through asset mapping, capital development, and empowering community members, with a holistic approach with the Native understanding of inter-connectedness while moving Native communities from dependency to development. Award: $175,000.

Stone Child College Rural Health Initiative, Box Elder, Montana. The program provides culturally competent, innovative health education to Chippewa-Cree tribal community members on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation in rural Montana. The program provides seminars on the region’s top health issues; presentations to local education institutions, workplaces, and community centers and gatherings; mass media campaigns; and program and volunteer staffing to address problems impacting the community. The initiative addresses diabetes, obesity, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, influenza, pneumonia, cancer, suicide, mental health issues, and substance abuse. Award: $175,000.

Leech Lake Tribal College Wellness Center, Cass Lake, Minnesota. The college provides educational programs and activities to the campus and community, including parenting skills, free child care during study group sessions, free one-on-one counseling sessions with licensed mental health professionals, talking circles led by community elders, family planning education and supplies, free infant and child supplies, nutrition and healthy cooking classes, drug abuse prevention education, a lactation and infant feeding room, a fitness room, a mile-long walking and running path that was cleared by the community and campus volunteers, a “Dress for Success” clothing program which provides clothing for job interviews, laptops provided for students who attend at least six Wellness Center Programs and maintained a high GPA, and a plan to make the campus smoke-free by fall of 2014. Award: $125,000.

Oglala Lakota College’s Oyate Kici Kaga Building for the People Program, Kyle, South Dakota, is designed as an educational and public service partnership between the college, the K-12 schools, and the Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Housing Authority. Construction trades students help build safe houses on the reservation for children displaced by abuse, neglect, violence, substance abuse, or other family issues as an educational apprenticeship, while the Housing Authority transports and sites safe houses, providing other amenities such as basement, sewer and water utilities. The K-12 schools operate the facilities. Students in the program also renovated the Senior Center in the Porcupine Community which was closed due to health and safety measures in May 2012. The college partnered with the South Dakota School of Mines, Thunder Valley Community Development Group, and the University of Colorado, Boulder on the Native American Housing Initiative to build four energy-efficient and easily maintained demonstration homes. Construction trades students are doing the majority of the work on these homes, with the first due this summer. Award: $125,000

Northwest Indian College Traditional Plants and Foods Program, Bellingham, Washington, is a long-term wellness program that recognizes the therapeutic value of traditional foods, medicines, and lifestyles. The program serves Native people by teaching Native foods nutrition, culinary arts, gardening, herbal medicine, and more. The program also implements community-based participatory research and identifies barriers that keep people from re-adopting healthy food behaviors and help them embrace a healthier, traditional lifestyle. The program also assesses community food assets and accessibility to improve food security and tribal food sovereignty. Train-the-trainer workshops, quarterly gatherings highlighting knowledge and resources, harvesting activities, and workshops on diabetes prevention through traditional plants, creating a pea patch garden, herbal medicine-making, and more are offered through the program. Award: $125,000.

Dr. Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, “We are excited to work with the tribal colleges who have developed these innovative programs to help effect change in their communities. Through the financial support of the Northwest Area Foundation, we look forward to taking these programs to the next level, encouraging philanthropic investment in these programs that can benefit Indian Country and communities beyond.”

“Tribal colleges hold great promise not just as educational institutions, but as wellsprings of innovation,” said Kevin Walker, President and CEO of the Northwest Area Foundation. “We are honored to support these five colleges in empowering their students and communities to shape a healthy, prosperous future. The insights we gain from these relationships will inform our funding approach in Indian Country and beyond.”

About the Northwest Area Foundation
The Northwest Area Foundation is dedicated to supporting efforts by people, organizations and communities to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable prosperity. The Foundation’s service region includes the eight states of Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

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