In 1968, the first tribal college was founded in Tsaile, Arizona, originally known as Navajo Community College, and then later Diné College. The creation of this college was significant for the Diné Nation, and for all American Indians interested in higher education.
Since then, 36 other tribal colleges have been established around the United States with notable success rates for their students, according to the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.
Aiding in the postsecondary education of American Indians with the monetary aid of AIHEC is the quarterly magazine, Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Education.
Originally established in Mancos and now based in the M.M. Mayer Building on East Second Avenue in Durango with only two full-time staff members, Tribal College Journal covers the happenings of the 37 tribal colleges in the U.S., which include the Oglala Lakota College in Kyle, South Dakota; College of the Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wisconsin; and Ilisaġvik College in the United States’ northernmost town of Utqiagvik, Alaska.
“We’re a national publication, with subscribers all over North America and even the world. But despite our extended reach, we’re a relatively small operation,” said Bradley Shreve, editor of 10 years. “There’s Marvene (Tom) and I, plus we have someone at the main office at AIHEC who does some marketing work for us and then there’s our designer, Walt Pourier, who we’ve been working with for about 20 years.”
Tribal College Journal vision statement
“Tribal College Journal is showing the world how tribal colleges are changing the face of Indian Country through the voice of educators, students, and the tribal community.”
Founder Paul Boyer foresaw Tribal College Journal, established in 1989, as a way for “(tribal) college staff, faculty, administrators, and students to discuss their needs, successes, and evolving missions,” according to its website.
For many American Indians, attending college in distant locations can be overwhelming, which is one of the appeals of tribal colleges, all located on or near reservations.
“American Indian college students are more comfortable going to a school near their home, where they can still be with their family,” said Tom, the magazine’s subscriptions and advertising manager. “Before access to these tribal colleges, American Indians would get homesick and drop out of college early.”
Shreve said: “Native students who attend tribal colleges have a much higher success rate than those who attend mainstream institutions. ... They are places that embrace students’ cultural roots and know the challenges they face. A much higher percentage of tribal college students are older and have families.”
Culture and heritage are as important to American tribal colleges as the degrees they offer, which include everything from computer technology to criminal justice to political science. The professors at the colleges contribute stories of their students’ success and samples of their work in these fields to the magazine, which allows staff members and students at other tribal colleges to read about the goings-on with their contemporaries and potentially establish lifelong connections and friendships.
Regarded as the most important issue of the magazine, the fall edition features a section highlighting the writers and artists of the various tribal colleges. The pieces in the student section are categorized into Best Fiction, Best Non-Fiction, Best Poetry and Best of the Arts, many of which are entries in the student writing contest Tribal College Journal runs every March.
“The students are so talented,” Tom said. “The work they produce is wonderful.”
Along with student work, contributors to the magazine include a variety of essayists and correspondents from various backgrounds and expertise, and Tribal College Journal is always on the lookout for more writers to share their work.
“The journal publishes both scholarly articles, as well as more journalistic pieces. ... And we now have our own academic press called Tribal College Press, which publishes about one book per year,” Shreve said.
Over the decades, Tribal College Journal’s subscribership has extended beyond the U.S. all the way to countries in Scandinavia and beyond, as the popularity of its reflective cultural, global and socio-political content continues to grow. It is a magazine that emphasizes the value of higher education and the necessity of demonstrating the multitude of paths American Indians can take toward their academic goals.
“Working at TCJ is busy with lots to do, but rewarding in that what we do, who we serve, is meaningful and critically important given the history of American Indian education,” Shreve said. “We are actively working to strengthen the sovereignty and self-determination of Native nations.”