Wakanyeja – Early Childhood Education Initiative

Creating Systems of Care and Learning for Native Children


Project Description:


Learn how your institution can work with your community to prepare young children for academic and social success at a foundational age by creating and providing a place-based, culturally appropriate education. Download our free landmark report detailing our work that has inspired an international movement: Tribal College and University Childhood Education Initiatives: Strengthening Systems of Care and Learning with Native Communities from Birth to Career.

The American Indian College Fund, through the Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” – Tribal College Readiness and Success by Third Grade, is working to bring together tribal colleges, communities, educators, and families to address early learning disparities in Native communities. The initiative addresses the following five domains:

  1. Improve cognitive and non-cognitive skill acquisition among American Indian children
  2. Improve early childhood teacher education quality in Native communities by partnering with post-secondary teacher education programs at tribal colleges
  3. Bridge early childhood education Pre-K transition to K-3 schooling
  4. Integrate Native language(s) and culture(s) into curriculum development and instruction for teacher preparation programming, early childhood education centers, and K-3 settings
  5. Empower families and communities to act as agents of change in education for their children


In 2011, four tribal colleges were selected through a competitive process to participate in the Wakanyeja ECE Initiative and received up to $935,000 over four years to develop and strengthen early childhood education programs at tribal colleges. The Wakanyeja ECE Initiative grantees are: Ilisagvik College (Barrow, AK), College of Menominee Nation (Keshena, WI), Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (Albuquerque, NM), and Northwest Indian College (Bellingham, WA).

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