Capacity-Building Programs

Tribal College Leaders in Community Innovation

The Tribal College Leaders in Community Innovation Project, funded by a two-year, $1 million grant from the St. Paul, Minnesota-based Northwest Area Foundation, supported and marketed the innovative work that tribal colleges do that impacts the students and communities they serve.

Five tribal colleges located in Northwest Area Foundation’s service area were awarded grants based on established innovative programs they developed and implemented in response to identified community needs. These community outreach programs targeted four key areas including:

  • children and families
  • health and wellness
  • financial literacy and entrepreneurship
  • citizenship


Five tribal colleges received financial resources and assistance to continue their community outreach programs and created marketing and development plans with goals and objectives that also identified potential funding sources. Awardees include:

Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, North Dakota

Sitting Bull College’s Native Community Development Program focuses on economic development and poverty reduction in Native communities through leadership, cohesion, and capacity from a unique Native perspective, along with the seven commonalities in Native communities that keep Native communities from reaching their full potential. The program looks at gathering resources through asset mapping, working towards capital development; and empowering community members with a holistic approach and the Native understanding of inter-connectedness, while moving Native communities from dependency to development.

Stone Child College, Box Elder, Montana

stone child college logoStone Child College’s Rural Health Initiative provides culturally competent, innovative health education to Chippewa-Cree tribal community members on the remote 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.

Leech Lake Tribal College, Cass Lake, Minnesota

Leech Lake Tribal College’s Wellness Center 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 volunteers, a “Dress for Success” clothing program for job interviews, laptops for students who attend at least six Wellness Center Programs and maintain a high GPA, and a smoke-free campus.

Oglala Lakota College, Oyate Kici Kaga Building for the People Program, Kyle, South Dakota

Oglala Lakota College’s Oyate Kici Kaga Building for the People Program is an educational and public service partnership between the college and the Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Housing Authority. As part of their educational apprenticeship, construction trades students build safe houses on the reservation for children displaced from their homes by abuse, neglect, violence, substance abuse, or other family issues, while the Housing Authority transports and sites the safe houses, providing other amenities such as basement, sewer and water utilities. Students renovated the Senior Center in the Porcupine Community, which was closed due to health and safety measures. 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 easy-to-maintain demonstration homes. Construction trades students are doing the majority of the building on these homes.

Northwest Indian College, Traditional Plants and Foods Program, Bellingham, Washington

NWIC traditional plants logoStudies show a traditional diet can help Native Americans improve health and reduce incidents of diabetes. This long-term wellness program that recognizes the therapeutic value of traditional foods, medicines, and lifestyles. The program served Native people by teaching 1,500 community members and students about Native foods nutrition, culinary arts, gardening, herbal medicine, and more.

The program also implemented community-based participatory research and identifies barriers keeping people from re-adopting healthy food behaviors and helping them embrace a healthier, traditional lifestyle. Community food assets and accessibility to improve food security and tribal food sovereignty were assessed under the program. 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, and herbal medicine-making were offered to the community.