Our Stories-Land and Place

Land and Place

AIHEC 2016 Resolution in Solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

In October 2016, the nation’s tribal college presidents passed a resolution of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in opposing construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. AIHEC calls on President Obama, federal regulators, and the Army Corps of Engineers to reverse the approval of the pipeline and to justly collaborate with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as it exercises its sovereign right to protect its resources, Treaty rights, waterways, traditional homelands, and sacred sites. AIHEC 2016 Resolution in Solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

EPA Tribal ecoAmbassadors

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeks to strengthen partnerships with local communities to implement innovative solutions to today’s most pressing environmental issues. Recognizing AIHEC’s unique relationship and commitment to the 36 Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and the important role TCUs play within their communities, EPA has partnered with AIHEC to pilot the Tribal ecoAmbassador Program. The Tribal ecoAmbassador Program supports research in partnership with TCUs. One or more TCU professors are selected to serve as project ecoAmbassador, leading project staff and students in the use of funding and technical support from EPA to solve environmental problems most important to their tribal governments and communities. Together AIHEC and EPA aim to provide ongoing project support, promote environmental education, and find solutions to environmental problems in tribal communities.

Environmental research projects for the 5th cohort of the Tribal ecoAmbassador program selected six new Tribal ecoAmbassadors:

  • HINU—Haskell Sustainability Program: Food Waste Reduction and Landscaping & Habitat Restoration Initiatives

    The HINU Tribal ecoAmbassador project will focus on food waste reduction in the campus cafeteria, as well as, a campus-wide effort to landscape the campus with a focus on planting traditional polyculture vegetable gardens, native Kansas prairie grasses, wild flowers, shrubs and fruit bearing trees. This effort will place special attention to pollinator habitat restoration, particularly for butterflies. Existing classes will use these eco-smart food waste reduction and landscaping initiatives as project based learning activities.

  • IAIA—Stories of Change: Creativity and Climate Resilience at the Institute of American Indian Arts

    The IAIA Tribal ecoAmbassador project will use art and permaculture to enhance public spaces and to create restoration and passive water harvesting systems and bio-retention rain gardens. This project will also remediate and detoxify run-off pollutants, decrease heat island effect, increase wildlife habitat and pollinator plants, and support campus beautification efforts.

  • KBOCC—Monitoring of Water Temperature Trends in Focal Coldwater Fish Habitats of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community

    The KBOCC Tribal ecoAmbassador project will continue and expand water temperature profiling efforts in habitats of local fish management species as part of the implementation of best-management practices for fisheries of the Lake Superior region. In light of ongoing environmental changes related to climate change (and other sources of negative habitat impacts), and considering the cultural and economic importance of brook trout and lake sturgeon, the KBOCC project will support student assistants to implement a new fish habitat monitoring program.

  • NWIC—Rooted Relationships: Peoples and Plants Together in Wellness

    The NWIC Tribal ecoAmbassador project, Rooted Relationships, builds upon previous efforts at Northwest Indian College to expand and enhance facilities, materials and instruction concerning the interrelation of people, plants and wellness. This project will incorporate the cooperation of several departments to further the development of native plant landscaping, and the development of informational and instructional materials.

  • SKC—Arsenic on Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Land

    Based on previous studies at SKC, elevated levels of arsenic were detected in wells on Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) land. The SKC Tribal ecoAmbassador project will locate and quantify arsenic concentrations in well water on CSKT land and inform community members if wells are found with elevated arsenic levels and how to access safe drinking water.

  • TMCC—Water Quality and Abnormal Leech Present in Water bodies Located on the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians Reservation

    The TMCC Tribal ecoAmbassador project will research recreational activities in Tribal lakes to determine if such activities lead to water contamination resulting in a hazardous environment for invertebrate organisms, specifically leech. The TMCC project will also initiate a partnership with Turtle Mountain bait leechers who deplete Tribal waters of leech populations, thus affecting the environmental habitat of the water bodies, the organisms associated with the water body and the economic future of bait leeching in Tribal waters.


Tribal ecoAmbassador videos below highlight the four environmental research projects in the third cohort of TCUs (CMN, LBHC, NWIC and TOCC):

The EPA Tribal ecoAmbassador project is supporting four new environmental research projects at Tribal Colleges and Universities, involving TCU professors working with EPA scientists to investigate environmental issues that are impacting tribal communities. The fourth cohort of TCU projects include:

  • Fond du Lac Tribal Community College: Assessing Dragonflies as a Sentinel Species for Mercury in the St. Louis River Watershed;
  • Institute of American Indian Arts: Mapping stories of change—Indigenous ecological knowledge and sustainable technologies for student-led campus climate adaptation and mitigation projects;
  • Northwest Indian College: Foodscaping a Tribal College; and
  • Salish Kootenai College: Informing Camas Restoration on the Flathead Indian Reservation—adapting to climate change and invasive species.

First Americans Land-grant College Organization and Network (FALCON)

FALCON, established to ensure the wellbeing of America’s Indigenous peoples by fostering communication, cooperation and professionalism among Tribal College Land Grant educators by:

  1. Promoting and preserving American Indian culture and language in all its professional activities
  2. Supporting member colleges in maintaining the unique identity of Tribal Colleges and Universities
  3. Fostering collaborative relationships among all Tribal College Land Grant educators
  4. Fostering equitable partnerships within the U.S. Land Grant system
  5. Providing a unified and collective voice that represents the common interests of its Land Grand professionals and enhances the image of the Tribal College Land Grant system
  6. Facilitating and support the professional development of its membership

More information is on the FALCON Portal.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)

… Leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today—especially in science, technology, engineering and math.”

  • —President Barack Obama, September 16, 2010

Living Science—Strengthening and Sharing Native Knowledge at TCUs

Living Science coverThe scientific community has much to learn from the educational and research models employed by tribal colleges, which view diversity as a cornerstone of the institution—not as a problem to be solved. TCUs engage the entire community in the knowledge-building process and recognize the importance of culture in shaping lived experience. Although the numbers of American Indian students pursuing degrees in STEM fields at mainstream universities have been low, at TCUs, STEM student bodies are growing.

“At some tribal colleges, STEM majors represent a quarter of all students enrolled. There are no other institutions that represent that success.”

  • —Dr. Jody Chase, National Science Foundation program director for the TCUs Program, 2011 STEM Leaders Forum, Arlington, VA.

In recent years, Navajo Technical College (NTC, Crownpoint, NM) has experience a more than 700 percent increase in STEM students. For more than a decade, AIHEC has been a key component of this success.

REPORT: Living Science

Protecting Our Home—Native Leaders, Tribal Colleges, Western Scientists Collaborate

Protecting Our Home cover“Our Mother Earth has a fever,” a heart-felt appeal spoken by Arvol Looking Horse, Lakota elder and spiritual leader at the Native Peoples Native Homelands Workshop as Looking Horse addressed the nearly 400 attendees who gathered at Prior Lake, MN, November 2009. His words are also a potent description of the mission of the workshop convened by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in partnership with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and the nation’s 36 Tribal Colleges and Universities.

We must work together to make her well. In 1998, Nancy Maynard, currently NASA Tribal College and University Project Manager, realized that Native peoples had been left out of the United States National Climate Change Assessment process. To make sure Native peoples would be included in that U.S. assessment, she put together the first Native Peoples Native Homelands Climate Change Workshop.

REPORT: Protecting Our Home