For the last two hundred years, higher education for American Indians has been
an Anglo institution involving compulsory Western methods of learning, reoccurring
attempts to eradicate tribal culture, and high departure rates for American Indian students
at mainstream institutions. In direct response to this history, American Indian leaders
drew upon the philosophical framework of the “self-determination” movement of the
1960s to rethink the role of higher education. These leaders recognized the importance of
post-secondary education and fostered among themselves the awareness that American
Indian colleges could strengthen reservation economies and tribal culture without forcing
the students to accept acculturation. In 1968, the Navajo Nation created the first tribally
controlled community college - now called Dine’ College in Tsaile, Arizona. The
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching reported in 1997, “[w]ithout
question, the most significant development in American Indian communities, since World
War II, is the creation of tribally controlled colleges.”
The purpose of this study was to develop an Indigenous theory on educational
persistence for American Indian students. This indigenous theory emerged from the
stories of tribal college students, faculty, and staff. This qualitative study is twopronged:
(1) what constitutes educational persistence in a tribal college setting and (2)
how students believe they came to “persist” in the tribal college.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. April 2009. Major: Social Work. Advisor: Dr. Ronald H. Rooney. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 174 pages, appendices A-F. Ill; map (col.)
Miracle Survivors (Pisatsikamotaan): an indigenous theory on educational persistence grounded in the stories of Tribal College Students..
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